Issue 127: Doin’ the Texas Triangle

One thing I like to think about from time to time is who each state’s favorite NBA player should be. Certain places are hotbeds for basketball talent; for example, I grew up in the Chicago area, and Illinois has produced all kinds of good ballers, like Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Anthony Davis, and Mr. Four-Pointer himself, Antoine Walker.

Now, I live in Texas, so occasionally I think things like hmm, who is the Lone Star State’s favorite player?

It’s a tough decision, because, as you may know, Texas is a big ol’ state. And it’s home to THREE professional teams: the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, and the San Antonio Spurs. We could go the route of someone born in Texas, but in the spirit of equality, I’d rather do the Texas Triangle/Texas Triple instead. That’s a player who was on all three of those teams.

Avery Johnson fits the bill nicely. He was on the Spurs in 1991, then the Rockets in 1992, then went back to the Spurs from 1994 to 2001, and then played for the Mavericks during the 2002-03 season. For good measure, he later coached the Mavericks, serving as an assistant from 2004 to 2005 and becoming head coach for four years starting in 2005.

He had a few other stops along the way, but for the purposes of this issue, we don’t need to know about them.

Johnson’s career was fine—8.4 points and 5.5 assists. He also shot incredibly poorly from the three-point line, hitting just 14.5 percent for his career. That’s…atrociously bad for a guard, even back when Johnson played and the three-pointer wasn’t as highly valued as it is now.

But we can overlook all of that because of this fact: Johnson’s nickname was “Little General,” which is very cute and fitting because he was teammates in San Antonio with David Robinson, who was nicknamed “The Admiral.” Robinson was about a foot taller than Johnson (and I suppose still is), so the nickname really stood out when they stood next to each other. That’s a real cute combo nickname.

Meanwhile, Johnson hit what proved to be the championship winner during Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals, another solid claim to fame.

One other solid claim to fame (besides the nickname and championship winner) is that Johnson was the subject of an SNL audition. Kevin Hart shared on CONAN on TBS that he did an Avery Johnson impression when he tried out for the show.

You may be familiar with SNL casts of years past—Kevin Hart was never a member of those casts (though he has hosted the show multiple times), and I wonder if his impression was what ultimately caused his undoing.

In total, Johnson carved out an impressive 16-year career in the league, which he did without being drafted. Undrafted players usually don’t play more than a season or two in the NBA, if they make it at all.

To last more than a decade and a half in the league is perseverance at its finest, and I think we can all get behind that.