One thing there’s no shortage of nowadays is lists.
Everyone has a list.
But a credible list? Different story.
That’s why, when I had former ABA and NBA Coach of the Year Tom Nissalke on the phone this week, I wanted his opinion.
“Who’s the toughest guy you ever saw play in the NBA?” I said.
He talked about Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier being the toughest backcourt, then continued.
“Just absolutely the toughest guy? Ohhhh man. When I think of just guys that people were, let’s say were very leery of, let’s say Lonnie Shelton. He played for me.”
How tough was Shelton?
“Lonnie got held up in downtown Cleveland one time,” Nissalke said, “and he beat up the guy that put a gun on him. When the police came, Lonnie was standing with his foot on the guy’s head, quoting Bible verses to him.”
That’s not the only time Shelton delivered a peltin’.
“He got in a fight with Buck Williams and he knocked down Buck about five times. Buck could never get his equilibrium. Once he got hit the first time, he couldn’t get control of himself and Lonnie just decked him again.
“The toughest small guy, by far, was Calvin Murphy. Nobody in their right mind was going to mess with him. And then (Ron) Boone was also a guy that nobody was gonna mess with. He wasn’t in the same league with Lonnie Shelton, because Shelton was bigger, but Boone was another guy that was tough.”
Who is your vote for toughest NBA guy ever? Rick Mahorn? Bil Laimbeer? Karl Malone? Post a comment here.