Kendall Gill knows a thing or two about defense. Gill was the steals champion in the 1997-98 NBA season with the Nets, averaging an astounding 2.7 steals per game. Gill ended his 15-year NBA career with 1,519 steals, which is good for 43rd all-time in NBA history. Ever the man of the people, Gill took to Instagram to do a breakdown of the top 10 toughest players he had to guard over his NBA career.
Below are the last four players to make Gill’s list:
No. 4: Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller is unquestionably one of the greatest shooters of all-time, ranking second in NBA history in 3-point makes. His incredible endurance, combined with his shooting ability, made Miller one of the more frustrating guards for KG.
“He had the endurance of a pro boxer. He could run all day and not get tired..... he second aspect of why I found him difficult to guard — chasing him through what seemed like 3000 picks per game! It was pure hell! After those Indiana games, I would be physically beat up.”
Gill compares chasing Miller through Indiana’s screens to football, saying that Antonio and Dale Davis “sought you out like offensive linemen trying to find linebackers.”
During Miller’s tenure with Indiana, they were one of the more disciplined teams in the league. Miller specifically, would punish you if you weren’t diligent in getting back in transition defense. The numbers back up that KG usually did a decent job on Miller, but there is one interesting nugget historically. In one of the games that Gill did not play in--November 28, 1992--Miller went off for a career-high 57 points in 38 minutes of work. This was one of many games that showcased just how important Gill was to the Hornets defense.
See the official Reggie Miller entry on Instagram here.
No. 3: Grant Hill
Grant Hill is well regarded as one of the most underrated legends in NBA history. He made the Hall of Fame as part of the 2018 class after a great 19-year NBA career. Injuries derailed the beginning of his promising career, stealing away the prime years of his career. At the height of his powers, Hill combined an incredible ability to score, with a tight-handle and elite playmaking skills. For his career he averaged 25.8 points and 6.4 assists per 100 possessions.
Gill recounts one specific game from the 1997-98 season, in which he had the tough assignment of guarding Hill. The Nets needed to win that game--on the last day of the regular season--to make the postseason, and KG came up big against one of his toughest matchups. ‘
The Nets won the game 114-101, with Gill playing a stellar two-way game. KG scored 27 points, collected five steals and helped harass HIll into his career-high in turnovers (10). Hill was ahead of his time as a big primary initiator on offense. Gill describes Hill’s game below:
“For someone 6’8”, he was deceptively quick. He had the quickness of a 6’2” point guard. His post up game was legit. If he got the ball down in the post, he always got buckets. What most people don’t realize about Grant is that despite his clean cut look and the boy next door demeanor, he was a #*#*ing dog!
The hardest part of Grant’s game for me to guard was his crossover dribble. It was wicked! It took me about five seasons before I figured out how to slow his signature move down.”
See the official Grant Hill entry on Instagram here.
No. 2: Michael Jordan
Obviously, Michael Jordan, the one and only true GOAT was going to appear on Gill’s list at some point, it was just a matter of where in the top three would he finish. KG had the pleasure of guarding MJ--affectionately known as “The Black Cat” by NBA players according to Gill--after he added a great deal of strength following his baseball sabbatical. Guarding the stronger, wiser version of MJ is what makes KG laugh so hard when he hears people compare other players to “His Airness”.
“I laugh when people try to compare other guards and small forwards to him, I’ve played against all of them and he was flat out in a class of his own [in terms of strength]......Along with all of his obvious skills, he was especially difficult to guard because of the triangle offense and his first step. His was faster than any I’ve gone against.”
Make no mistake that Jordan is still the greatest player that Gill has ever had to face, despite coming in at No. 2 on his list.
“Michael Jordan was simply the best player I’ve ever played against.....I know I surprised a lot of you with my number two pick. However, my list is based on guarding a guy straight up.”
See the official Michael Jordan entry on Instagram here.
No. 1: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Definitely a surprise to many folks out there, coming in as the toughest assignment for Kendall Gill during his 15-season career is Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. The 6-foot-1 guard gave Gill fits at both the college and pro levels. KG was of course a crucial member of the 1989 “Flyin Illini” squad that faced off against Abdul-Rauf’s LSU squad, and he still remembers the LSU fans telling he and fellow backcourt mate Stephen Bardo that they were going to be “Tiger Bait” when they took the floor against Adbul-Rauf.
Abdul-Rauf shot 37.2 percent from the 3-point line in college and 35.4 percent from the 3-point line in his NBA career, and had the type of lightning quick release [on his jump shot] that allowed him to score before his opponent even realized it.
Always great with boxing comparisons, Gill likens Abdul-Rauf’s game to that of Manny Pacquiao.
In boxing, the great @mannypacquiao punches from many different angles. The punch you don’t see is the one that hurts you. That’s what it was like to guard Mahmoud. You didn’t see his offense until he was done slicing & dicing you up.”
See the official Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf entry on Instagram here.
Let us know what you think of Kendall’s list!