Editor’s Note: As part of a new series for his podcast, “What’s Wright with Nick Wright,” FOX Sports commentator Nick Wright is ranking the 50 best NBA players of the last 50 years. The countdown continues today with player No. 37, Clyde Drexler.
Clyde Drexler’s career highlights:
- 10-time All-Star
- One-time first-team All-NBA, two-time second-team, two-time third team
- 1992 MVP runner-up
Clyde Drexler played the same position at the same time for the same amount of seasons as Michael Jordan. They’re also about the same size, which is why the Trail Blazers passed on drafting Jordan one year after selecting Drexler.
The commonalities led to countless comparisons between the two. And they’ve likely corrupted the general perception of how good Drexler really was.
“I think a couple moments of his career have been forgotten to history,” Wright said.
Clyde Drexler is Nick Wright’s 37th Greatest NBA Player of the Last 50 Years
Former Rockets and Trail Blazers star Clyde Drexler is No. 37 on Nick Wright’s Top 50 NBA Players of the Last 50 Years list. While Drexler only won one Finals, Nick emphasizes that “Clyde the Glide” carried other runner-up teams that lost to some of the greatest teams ever.
Let’s start with 1990, when “Clyde the Glide” led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals. It’s one year before Jordan got the Bulls over the conference finals hump. Drexler was more steady than spectacular in his first extended playoff run, though he saved his best for last. He averaged 26.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists with 54.3% shooting in a loss to the “Bad Boy” Pistons that was much closer than a five-game series would suggest.
The slashing guard had Portland back in the conference finals the following year while averaging 22-8-8.
In 1992, the Blazers stormed through the West before bowing out to Jordan and the Bulls. Drexler was outclassed by his better, more dynamic counterpart, but he was still the second-best player in the Finals and throughout the playoffs. He put up 25-8-5 against Chicago and 26-7-7 during the postseason.
Drexler was also the MVP runner-up (to Jordan) in the regular season. It marked the apex of his abilities but not the end of his prime.
In 1995, the perennial All-Star was traded midseason to a Rockets team that was coming off a title but sitting just a few games ahead of the Blazers in the standings. Drexler aligned perfectly with Hakeem Olajuwon and was instrumental in Houston repeating as champs.
Facing elimination in the first round, Drexler produced 41 points and nine rebounds and then 31 and 10 in consecutive games, as the Rockets narrowly advanced past the Jazz. Houston then rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to Phoenix in the semifinals, thanks in part to Drexler going for 29 and 8 in a one-point Game 7 win. In a Finals sweep against the Magic, he averaged 21.5, 9.5 and 6.8.
“Clyde didn’t have a ton of monster games in the postseason,” Wright said. “He was just incredibly consistent.”
That could be said about his entire career. Drexler is credited with the most assists for a shooting guard and the fifth-most rebounds for any guard. He ranks eighth overall in total steals, with only three players averaging more (2.0) while appearing in more games. He made the playoffs in each of his 15 seasons, producing a 20-7-6 line that’s slightly above his regular-season marks.
Winning a ring and being a member of the original Dream Team weren’t outlier achievements but rather vindication of Drexler’s value.
“He was incredibly important,” Wright said. “If he’s not on that Rockets team, they don’t win the title. He absolutely deserves credit for it.”
And a lot more.
Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.