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The NBA lockout is still in full effect but so is the Hoop Diary Jersey Countdown. We’ve covered off the 50’s and now it’s time to delve into the history books to determine the greatest ABA/NBA player to ever wear the number 49. The list is short, so tune in to see who takes the title.
Presenting, our greatest ABA/NBA #49
Saying the list is short is actually an understatement as only two players in ABA/NBA history have wore the number 49. The first is a player named Mel McCants whose career spanned only 13 NBA games for the Los Angeles Lakers. Averaging only five minutes of action and accumulating only 1.7 points per game almost qualified McCants for the Jersey Countdown but alas, he was to finish second behind the following 10 year veteran.
Shandon Anderson was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 54th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. Landing on a solid veteran Jazz team featuring future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton as well as fellow journeymen Jeff Hornacek and Antoine Carr, one could see how Anderson could struggle for minutes. The Utah Jazz were fresh off a seventh game defeat to Seattle in the Western Conference Finals and had their eyes firmly set on the Chicago Bulls’ re-captured NBA title.
Being 6’6″ and able to play both shooting guard and small forward positions hindered Anderson rather than helped him. Instead of honing in on one spot in the rotation and making it his own, he doubled his number of competition for minutes. Hornacek started every game at the shooting guard position while Bryon Russell had a similar stranglehold on the small forward spot. Bench minutes were what was on offer and the competition there was even more intense. On opening day Anderson had a number of veterans in front of him on the depth chart including Chris Morris, Adam Keefe and Howard Eisley. Then if Head Coach Jerry Sloan wanted to play big, he would send in Antoine Carr or Jeff Foster ahead of Anderson.
Shandon worked his way into the rotation by slashing, working off holes guys like Karl Malone created in opposing defenses and spotting up for open threes delivered by one of the best in John Stockton. By the end of his rookie season, Anderson had worked his way into eighth in minutes played for the Jazz, while producing a stat line that read 5.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, .462 from the field and .511 from the arc in 16.4 minutes per game.
The Jazz made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 1997 and while they fell in six games, they certainly had a great year winning 64 games. Anderson, while seeming a little out of his depth during the Finals did provide a few sparks for the Jazz and when it was all over had maintained his contribution level throughout his 18 Playoff appearances.
Shandon played another two seasons with the Jazz, including another NBA Finals appearance in 1998 accompanied by a lockout shortened 1999 season. Throughout both campaigns, he increased his statistical output and didn’t miss a single game. The Jazz had again fallen to the Chicago Bulls in the ’98 Finals and then succumbed to the Portland Trailblazers in the Conference Semis during the 1999 Playoffs. Changes were to be made and Anderson signed with the Houston Rockets for the upcoming season.
The lineup in Houston for the 2000 season was interesting and included aging stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. Accompanying the two future Hall of Famers were names such as Cuttino Mobley, Walt Williams, Moochie Norris and rookie Steve Francis. Anderson played a large role for Houston that year and enjoyed his best statistical season of his career producing 12.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 2.9 apg in 32.9 minutes per game. Only Steve Francis played more minutes for Houston that season. Unfortunately the Rockets were terrible and missed the Playoffs entirely.
With the emergence of the Mobley/Francis love-fest in Houston and the subsequent minute reduction, Anderson was traded to the New York Knicks in August 2001. This is where he first wore the jersey number 49.
Anderson played for the New York Knicks from 2001-2004 before being waived in November 2004, just one game into the regular season. Considering the events of September 11 and the Knicks front office incompetence at the time, New York was no place to be over this period. Shandon made the best of a bad situation however and provided what he could in the way of veteran leadership. Teaming up with guys like Stephon Marbury, Latrell Sprewell, Vin Baker, Fellton Spencer and Othella Harrington wouldn’t have made that easy though I suspect.
Once waived by the Knicks, Anderson was quickly signed by the Miami Heat. After three seasons with the Heat and 10 overall he finally saw team success as part of Miami’s 2006 Championship team. While not playing a large role for the Heat, Anderson put the number 49 into the history books as an NBA Champion and completed his career with the ultimate reward, an NBA Championship ring.
Career NBA stats: 7.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and .457 from the field in 22.2 minutes per game.