By my count, there have been no fewer than eight
Next Michael Jordans: Grant Hill, Harold Miner, Jerry Stackhouse, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter.
There are a few things you might have noticed while scanning over this list. First, none of those players have even matched let alone surpassed Jordan. Kobe and LeBron have come the closest so far...but they're both still quite a ways off. Second, by and large, the Next Jordans have nonetheless achieved a fair level of professional success: MVPs (well, one anyway), championships, scoring titles, All-Star appearances, All-NBA recognition. However, third and finally, one of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.
He was the first and worst of the Next Jordans. A high school phenom whose mind-bending leaping ability and freaktastic dunksplosions earned him the nickname "Baby Jordan," Miner played three above-average seasons at USC (23.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 45 percent shooting) before bolting for the pros. He was selected 12th overall in the 1992 NBA Draft
by a Miami Heat squad
that already included Glen Rice, Rony Seikaly, and Steve Smith, as well as other serviceable players like Grant Long, Kevin Edwards, Bimbo Coles and Brian Shaw. Adding Miner was supposed to help transform Miami into one of the league's elite teams.
It didn't quite work out that way, though. He played three lackluster seasons for the Heat in which he never played more than 21 minutes per game and never averaged more than 10.5 points. He was a two-time Slam Dunk Champion
(in 1993 and 1995), but those titles only served to underscore Miner's basic weakness as a player: He was merely a fantastic dunker, nothing more and nothing less. He couldn't rebound, pass or play NBA defense. His supposed forte, offense, was suspect because of his poor outside shooting.
The Heat gave on Miner after the 1995 season and traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he averaged 3.2 points and 7.2 minutes in 19 games. His final NBA game came on February 20, 1996
. His line: Zero points (0-for-2), 2 assists, and 1 foul in five minutes of lack-tion. After that game, Miner was waived. He tried to make it onto the Toronto Raptors in the fall of 1996, but he was cut during the preseason. He then "retired."
Nobody really knows what happened to Miner after that. (At least nobody who's willing to talk about it.) There have been rumors, of course. Plenty of rumors
. Some say he's in witness-protection. Others claime he's hooping it up in Japan. He might also be living with his mom in L.A., running an insurance company in Florida, building homes in South Dakota, hooked on crack, writing for an online blogging competition, or dead. Miner's Wikipedia page
states that he "eventually settled near Las Vegas, Nevada and is reportedly an active real estate investor." But it's Wikipedia...so who knows.
George Raveling, Miner's head coach at USC, once said: "I always felt the worst thing to happen to Harold was the 'Baby Jordan' tag." And that's probably true. I'm not saying that the "Next Jordan Curse" ruined Miner, blew out Penny Hardaway's knee, destroyed Grant Hill's ankle, made Tracy McGrady psychologically incapable of making it out of the first round, caused Kobe to develop bipolar affective disorder, or turned Jerry Stackhouse into a flaming asshole
...but it sure as heck didn't help.Note:
Basketbawful reader Loren
asked "How about Len Bias?" Good question. There were indeed comparisons made between the two men while Bias was still in college, but I don't consider Bias a true member of the Next Jordan Club. This is because, at the time Bias was drafted by the Celtics, Michael Jordan was not yet Michael Jordan
. Jordan had been in the NBA for only two seasons and, due to a broken foot suffered during the 1985-86 campaign, he had played in only 100 career games. Moreoever, he had played in only three playoff games to that point, losing all of them. Yes, he had that 63-point game, but one historic scoring explosion does not a Legend make.
The Jordan Legend wasn't truly solidified until he won that first title in 1991 (although it certaily wasn't complete by that time, either). That puts Miner on the outer fringe of the Next Jordan Spectrum. Bias falls outside of it. However, if he was included in the Nex Jordans group, he would have qualified as the worst ever...since his irresponsible use of cocaine resulted in his death before he could play a single game.
Labels: Harold Miner, Next Jordans, Worst Evers