NBA at 75: From MJ to LBJ, Jamison saw ‘greatness’ in 2000s

Mar 22, 2022, 11:43 PM | Updated: 11:57 pm

FILE - Cleveland Cavaliers' Antawn Jamison participates (4) in an NBA basketball game against the P...

FILE - Cleveland Cavaliers' Antawn Jamison participates (4) in an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Dec. 7, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Antawn Jamison played basketball in college at North Carolina, was a first-round pick in the 1998 NBA draft and spent 16 seasons in the league with the Warriors, Mavericks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Lakers and Clippers. He was the 2004 Sixth Man of the Year and a two-time All-Star who scored more than 20,000 points, averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds over his career. He had 37 points and 10 rebounds as Golden State beat Michael Jordan’s Washington team in 2003, was on the Lakers with Kobe Bryant and the Mavericks with Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, and took on LeBron James’ Cavaliers in three consecutive postseasons before joining him and Shaquille O’Neal in Cleveland. As part of an Associated Press series on the NBA at 75, Jamison describes what it was like to share a court and a locker room with some of the central figures in the transitional decade of the 2000s.)

When I think about the guys I played against, and I played with, you can’t go wrong with saying the 2000s was probably the best generation of basketball players you could ever come across. When you’re going through it, and you’re on the court with them night in and night out, you don’t get the opportunity to reflect. Now that it’s been a while since I retired, I can.

Michael Jordan was the reason a lot of guys in my generation played the game of basketball. I had an early introduction to Mike at the University of North Carolina. He came a couple of times in the offseason, spent some time with Coach (Dean) Smith, played a little golf and played some pickup games with us. I would pretend I was Scottie Pippen. Shammand Williams would “be” Craig Hodges. It was the best feeling in the world.

Michael is a guy we looked up to: He’s on everybody’s Mount Rushmore; he’s the best player to ever play the game of basketball.

When I played against him in the NBA — sold-out crowd, electrifying — I had a pretty good game, so I was yelling and getting hype. And what really stood out was, Michael being Michael, he told me: “Young fella, just calm down. Hey, Tar Heel, calm down.” I made sure I kept my mouth closed and just played.

I was with Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley in Dallas. That was where I saw you could have so many talented guys on one team. And we all had one thing in common, which was try to win, and once I experienced that, I was like “OK, this is what it’s all about.”

I was a teammate of Shaquille O’Neal. A teammate of LeBron James. I had a locker next to Kobe Bryant and saw how he prepared, night in and night out. Some people used to give him a bad rap as far as what type of teammate he was, but if you cared about the game of basketball and you wanted to be great, he was the best teammate ever. He just wanted to win and he wanted to do things the right way. And also a guy I called a friend.

In Washington, I played with Gilbert Arenas, who was an up-and-coming young guard who was giving people fits before his knee injury. I went up against Tim Duncan — dealt with him in college for a year; just one of the toughest competitors out there, even though he demonstrated it differently than Kevin Garnett, another great I had to deal with in the NBA. Paul Pierce, too.

You always hear this talk about “Who is the torch going to be passed to?”

In the middle of my career, along came LeBron, this young kid from Akron, Ohio, who in my eyes is the second-greatest player to ever play the game of basketball, behind Mike.

To deal with the pressures of being the savior of Cleveland, being the next guy to “be like Mike,” and the way he has done it — with class, the way you would love anybody to represent the league. We had a young, up-and-coming Wizards team that had some great pieces and we came close to getting past him, but we couldn’t do it. I saw ‘Bron transform and be able to put a city, put a state, put a team on his back and accomplish something they had never accomplished before.

And let’s not forget that skinny kid from Davidson who stays in Charlotte and ended up being my offseason workout buddy the last five, six years of my career. We’ve seen Steph Curry take that next step to be arguably the best shooter to ever lace up a pair of shoes.

When you say “greatness,” I definitely have been blessed to be around it. I’ve definitely been able to see it.

And ‘Bron is still going, Steph is still going.


Antawn Jamison is Senior Director of Pro Personnel for the Washington Wizards and a member of the National College Basketball Hall of Fame.


More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Follow the AP’s coverage of the NBA’s 75th anniversary season: https://apnews.com/hub/nba-at-75

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

19 hours ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

21 hours ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

2 days ago

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

4 days ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

4 days ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

NBA at 75: From MJ to LBJ, Jamison saw ‘greatness’ in 2000s