Whether it’s in a desperate come-from-behind win or a devastating blowout loss, Tebow-mania has officially swept over the nation. Perhaps no athlete with such miniscule professional experience has ever been as celebrated as much as the Mile High Messiah. Certainly not in basketball. J.J. Redick enjoyed some time as college’s nice guy as well as being a top player in the early-to-mid 2000s. Unfortunately for Redick, most fans weren’t too fond of him as Duke became equally as hated as the Miami Heat.
Tim Tebow is the whole package mentally, both on the field and off. Leading up to draft day, people were questioning his mechanics and ability to play at a high level. Instead of sulking or whining about it, Tebow got to work. Using the media’s criticisms as motivation, he switched up the same mechanics that earned him a college scholarship and two national championships.
As hard of a worker as he is on the field, Tebow works equally hard to keep a clean image off of it. For example, ESPN’s Matthew Berry recently shared a story where a friend gave him an opportunity to meet the former college star at a party. Berry, a fantasy football analyst, got about what he expected. After sharing with Tebow what he did for a living along with some other small talk, they went their separate ways. Nothing out of the ordinary for someone who regularly meets NFL stars. That was until they passed by each other on Berry’s way out. Assuming Tebow most likely forgot or never really cared about their conversation, Berry expected a head nod or quick “goodbye.” Instead Berry received a gracious, “Hey Matthew. It was really great to meet you. Good luck with the podcast this year!”
It’s the little things like this that got Tebow to where he is today. Not only is he humble and down-to-earth, but he’s also a flat-out winner and one of the hardest workers you will find. These types of personalities are not easy to come by. Even though he isn’t a superstar in terms of production, Tebow was the idea behind this search for the NBA’s nicest, most humble and well-liked superstars that still have a winning drive.
Not only do they share a first name, but Tebow and Duncan also share qualities that should be found in every champion. Boasting four rings, you’ve never once heard Duncan claim that he’s going to win, “not one, not two, not three.” Off the court, he keeps a low profile as well. Staying away from the limelight – although it might not be the hardest thing to do in San Antonio – Duncan has become an active philanthropist. He originated The Tim Duncan Foundation to raise general health awareness and fund education and youth sports in places all around the United States. He has also taken less than maximum contracts so the Spurs organization can afford hefty raises for his teammates and friends, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Duncan is an unrestricted free agent this year and we’ll likely see more of the same. The definition of a team player, he will one day retire as a multiple championship winner and one of the most humble guys to every play the game.
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Although he doesn’t have any titles in college or pro ball, Durant is as humble a superstar as you will find. The four-year veteran has already brought the Oklahoma City Thunder from the basement to the Western Conference Finals and his ceiling is sky high. Known as one of the NBA’s nicest guys, Durant is constantly giving his time and money to the less fortunate. Anybody can attend or donate to a charity event, but Durant also brings the kindness home with him. Who else plays in a college flag football game on a whim? And then stays there afterwards signing autographs for all the shocked students? Kids who live in the neighborhood often ring the doorbell just to see if he can chat for a while and Durant is never hesitant to answer, even during playoff time. Back in his Texas days, Durant was scheduled to be on the cover of Dime. Rather than be on the cover alone, he refused to pose unless all of his starting teammates could join him. Durant’s also owed a lot of credit for his dedication to a smaller market team. While superstars were changing uniforms ad nauseum last summer, Durant remained committed to Oklahoma City, inking a five-year $86 million extension to stay in the league’s 25th-ranked market.
Since Allen entered the league in 1996, he’s been one of the league’s top players. With a silky smooth J and an incredible basketball IQ, Allen has all the accolades a player could ever want to accomplish in his career. In 2008, the 10-time All-Star’s success culminated with a championship victory. With all of the fortune that he’s had, he never once let it get to his head. Starting the Ray of Hope Foundation in 1997, every year Allen assists with sports related and community-based programs and provides opportunity through which youth can hope to realize their full potential. Like most freshman in college, Allen was offered his first drink while at a bar near the University of Connecticut. Growing up in a strict, military household, Allen recalled everything he had seen that went unaccomplished because of alcohol. He refused the drink and to this day has never consumed an alcoholic beverage. Having steered clear of all trouble throughout his 15-year career, you know when you see Ray’s name in the headlines that it’s never negative publicity.
Allen is also one of the few superstars who makes it a point to talk to the media before almost every game (which is something we obviously love). When you head into the Boston locker room during pre-game, it’s predictable to see pretty much every New England beat writer huddled up around Jesus. They know he’ll give them what they need.
Derrick Rose’s rise to NBA stardom is a testament to all of his hard work. Entering the 2010-11 season, Rose was making well under a half of a three per game and shooting treys at a horrendous 24 percent. After a summer of tireless work, Rose was able to increase his range, making 1.6 treys on 33 percent shooting. Rose improved his game in almost every single statistical category, earning himself the title of the NBA’s youngest ever MVP. But Rose is just as much of an MVP off the court as he is on it. The media’s main complaint with Rose is that he’s too boring. In front of the microphones, he is soft spoken and never gives writers any headline material that would cause controversy. Maybe Rose will come out of his shell a bit as he gets used to his superstardom, but let’s not criticize him for being quieter than most. The 23-year-old has plenty of time to back up his game with a little trash talk. Will his attitude ever allow it to happen? Only time will tell.
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Steve Nash is one of the most unselfish people you’ll meet both on the court and off. As he climbs his way up the all-time assist list, he’s also leaving behind a path that all youngsters should aspire to follow. He’ll never endorse a product unless he actually uses it himself and the company that makes it is socially responsible. Having a true passion for the game, Nash spends a lot of his offseason playing in pick-up games with average Joes in his community. These past few seasons have been tough for Nash and the Suns, and it would have been rather easy for him to request for a trade to a contender or bigger market. In 2009, he signed a two-year extension despite the failure of the Shawn Marion-for-Shaq trade and an uncertain future of his famed pick-n-roll partner, Amar’e Stoudemire. Aside from all of this, Nash is also one of the more charitable players in the league. Besides playing in countless soccer and basketball charity games, he also founded the Steve Nash Foundation, which provides the needy with access to health and educational resources. Although his time in the league is dwindling, Nash will forever be remembered for his leadership on and off the court.
A blast from the past, but this guy was one of the nicest superstars you’ll ever come across. Forming his habits at the United States Naval Academy, Robinson went on to enjoy a 14-year career in the NBA. Earning 10 All-Star appearances and an MVP Award, Robinson finally won the first of his two championships in his tenth NBA season. Off the court, he truly believed he was a simple man, even sporting the same $60 watch as journalist Steve Aschburner in a locker room full of Rolexes. Former teammate Danny Ferry once said of Robinson, “Everyone will cheat a little bit here or there – it’s all in fun, we’re not playing for money or anything. But David won’t. So if his team wins, we don’t question it at all. ‘We’re like, Aw, David doesn’t cheat.’ They must have won.”
What do you think? Who are the NBA players who should be on this list?
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