Classic card of the week
*Special Friday edition
LaPhonso Ellis, 1996-97 Stadium Club
Clifford Robinson always seemed to be on the wrong end of big NBA moments. In Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan scored 35 points in the first half, including six three-pointers, which culminated in the famous Jordan shrug to the sidelines, as if to imply that he could not understand what was happening, although what was happening was that Clifford Robinson was guarding him. “My headband was too tight,” is what Robinson would say in the post-game press conference, to which Jordan replied, “Headbands are for teenage girls and 55 year-old white dudes who play racquetball on the weekends. Clifford Robinson is a bitch.” Four years later, it was déjà vu for Cliff, as he was caught in the crosshairs of yet another watershed NBA moment – the day LaPhonso Ellis made his first jumpshot. Ellis had been in the league since 1993, and after a stellar rookie campaign that included 312 uncontested lay-ups, he would go on to miss almost the entire next two seasons after both of his kneecaps fell off during an offseason water-skiing accident. Ellis, who refused to wear a headband because they gave him acne and restricted his “brain movement,” made his return to the powerhouse Nuggets midway through the 1995-96 season. At first, he came off the bench to replace Dikembe Mutombo, who often needed a rest because he sucked so bad at basketball, but during a home game against the Portland Trailblazers in early January, LaPhonso Ellis got the nod. Amazingly, Ellis had yet to record an NBA field goal longer than 2.6 feet, but midway through the first quarter, he received the ball at the top of the key, and was supposed to swing it to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for a three. But as he was about to pass it, he caught a glimpse of the defender in front of him - a disinterested Clifford Robinson, who had his hands on his hips and who was staring blankly into the upper deck section of the Denver crowd. Ellis, infuriated by the goading of Robinson, unleashed a ridiculous two-handed set shot that banked off the backboard and went in. As you can see, Ellis’ reaction while running back down court was slightly less nonchalant than MJ’s, but was certainly warranted. Besides it being his first converted perimeter field goal in over four years, the basket also put the Nuggets up 17-13. And, although they would go on to lose the game 115-87, Ellis constructed an image that would last for ages – that of a crazed, psycho serial killer who wants to eat your dog with a spoon.
Did you know?
The headband made a comeback at the turn of the century, but Clifford Robinson was still not cool.