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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
Today’s spotlight in obscurity falls upon the chosen few players in NBA history whose first and last names begin with the same letter. As a Celtics fan, the first and obvious name rendered from my memory is Rajon Rondo, neither obscure nor mediocre. But then, among the NBA’s active players, you have Alexis Ajinca, Brandon Bass, Jared Jefferies, Mike Miller, Patrick Patterson, Samardo Samuels, Tyrus Thomas, James Johnson, and Joe Johnson, a veritable who’s-who of the “All Alliterative NBA Team.” Thanks to NBA.com’s active player list, I was able to come up with these ten or so players with relative ease.
Pondering players from the bygone era was a bit more difficult, and I could only come up with a little less than a handful. The two I could think of off the top of my head, being on the Rockets kick that I am, are Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid, mediocre all. Lewis and Reid played on the same Rockets squad together during the 1985-86 season and, after a freak Ralph Sampson tip in at the buzzer of game five of the Western Conference Finals that deprived the basketball nation of yet another Celtics-Lakers match-up, were handily beaten by the Celtics in six games. This was largely due to continual defensive lapses by every member of the Rockets with the exception of Hakeem Olajuwon, who altered the basketball skyline during those six games by blocking shots left and right, including tying Bill Walton for an NBA Finals record 8 blocks in game 4.
Coincidentally, Olajuwon would spend some time guarding Walton, who was coming off the bench as the Celtic’s 6th man supreme as well as a Sixth Man of the Year Award. Unfortunately Olajuwon’s individual brilliance was overshadowed by unending offensive and defensive missteps by the other Rockets starters. Let’s engage in some statistical analysis that highlights the obvious mediocrity of both Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid, two players whose only redeeming factor is the fact that their names are alliterative and easy to remember if one is ever called upon to exhibit their knowledge of the mid 80’s Houston Rockets.
Lewis Lloyd was drafted early in the fourth round (7th pick, 76th overall) directly out of Overbrook High School in Philidelphia, which primed him for an undistinguished career highlighted by that brief Finals run. Perhaps most the most notable event in Lewis’s career happened late in 1986 when he, alongside Rockets teammate Mitchell Wiggins, tested positive for cocaine and was suspended immediately from the league for 2 1/2 years. Despite playing most of his career with the Rockets, the organization felt the coke-addled Lloyd was no longer a good fit for their team, who were now wisely building around the talented center Hakeem Olajuwon.
Post suspension, Lloyd played a whopping two games for the Philadelphia 76ers, and finally another 30 for the Rockets, not starting a single game for either team in the 1989-1990 season. Lloyd, between 1981 and 1990, posted career averages of 13.2 points per game on a respectable 52% field goal percentage while grabbing 3.1 rerbounds and handing out 2.9 assists. He scored an underwhelming 5,130 career points, or approximately 33,000 less than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Lloyd made the playoffs only twice with the Rockets, though the appearances did come back to back, in the 84-85 and 85-86 season. Lloyd’s playoff averages are again underwhelming: 14.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, and 4.4 assists per game in 25 total playoff games in two years. Let’s talk now about Robert Reid, another giant of alliterative sports nomenclature.
Reid was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1977 in the second round (18th pick, 40th overall), and he would remain in a Rockets uniform for 10 years, reaching the finals twice in a five year span, being beaten both times by the aforementioned Celtics. In thirteen seasons Reid reached the playoffs nine times, but alas, his post season glory was cut short with the exception of the 80-81 and 85-86 seasons, the only playoff appearances in which he played twenty or more post season games. In fifteen seasons, Robert Reid scored 10,448 career points while shooting a modest 45% from the floor and 73% from the free throw line.
Despite his height and athleticism, he averaged just under five rebounds in 919 career games, of which he started only 284. Despite their statistical differences, both Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid hold a number of dubious mutual distinctions. Both have first and last names that start with the same letter, have both been beaten by Larry Bird (Robert Reid having been ousted twice from the Finals by Bird), have both been Houston Rockets, and have both washed down the cruel bitter pill of mediocre obscurity that has tainted their careers inexorably and prevented any kind of meteoric rise to NBA stardom. Robert and Lewis, though, can both rest easier knowing that in some far-flung microcosmic corner of the internet world, their obscurity is not only appreciated, but celebrated.