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Ali Kasim
Monday, Sep 29, 2014

Sports

He played with basketball royalty

The New Paper | Ali Kasim | Monday, Sep 29, 2014

He was part of two of the greatest franchises in NBA history.

He was a teammate of Michael Jordan, regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, and also wore the same jersey as Kobe Bryant, who many consider the closest comparison to the Chicago Bulls guard.

Jordan won six NBA titles while Bryant has five.

Former NBA All-Star Horace Grant was part of three championship winning teams with Jordan from 1991 to 1993 and picked up one with Bryant at the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001.

He knows the two superstars well, and while he says there is no doubt Jordan was the greatest in the history of the game, he revealed yesterday that both players shared a drive and intensity that was similar.

In town to headline the NBA 3X festival at the Singapore Sports Hub, which kicked off yesterday and runs until tomorrow, Grant said Jordan's leadership - on and off the court - was unrivalled.

DRIVE

"When you talk about drive, I learnt that you can never count out Kobe, but I was a bit too old at the time to get a tongue lashing from him.

"With Mike, we're talking about one of the greatest leaders in sports, ever," Grant said, of Jordan.

"You would get to a point during the season where you're tired and strung out, but Mike would just find a way to motivate you.

"He didn't yell much; he just pushed us all a little more, to give that last bit we didn't even know we had in us.

"That's leadership. With Mike, I always had to be that power forward he wanted to me to be."

During his playing days, Grant was instantly identifiable with his wraparound protective eyeglasses.

In his heyday, the 2.08-metre forward formed a solid front-court partnership with Scottie Pippen in the all-conquering Bulls outfit.

"Playing for the Bulls was both easy and hard," the 49-year-old said.

"Practices were tough. (Coach) Phil (Jackson) used to put Mike in the second team - to get him competitive and boiling.

"And we had to really work during those sessions; give 100 per cent.

"But most of the games were easy though, because Mike would just take over."

Grant scored 12,996 points and averaged eight rebounds a game over a 17-year career with four franchises.

The Georgia native is an admirer of the latest generation of power forwards, who are as adept on the perimeter as they are in the paint.

"The NBA has evolved into a speed- and-quickness type of game, and that's how the fans wanted it," he said.

"They don't want to see two big dinosaurs battling it out in the middle; they want the alley oops and flying dunks - they want (players like) Blake Griffin and Kevin Love."

Grant considers LeBron James as the best and most complete player in the current game, and is tipping the Cleveland Cavaliers to contend for the 2015 NBA title.

The Cavs are tipped to dominate in the East as James returns to his hometown outfit to form a new "Big Three" with promising guard Kyrie Irving and star rebounder Love.

"You have to also look at the San Antonio Spurs, who are the reigning champions," Grant said.

"And I think, with the acquisition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls have a good shot.

"Out west, you have Oklahoma and Houston who are good. I love to call on my Lakers as a contender - but it's going to be a tough year for them."

Into its second edition, the NBA 3X event features a three-on-three competition, a three-point shoot-out and a slam-dunk contest, and will be held outdoors on the second level of the Kallang Wave Mall.

There will be hourly giveaways of limited NBA merchandise for fans, as well as meet-and-greet sessions with Horace Grant and the Minnesota Timberwolves dancers.

The 3x3 tournament features competition for boys under-18, under-16, under-13 and for under-18 girls. There is also an Open category for men and women.

Registration is ongoing until all slots are full.


This article was first published on September 27, 2014.
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