Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Something curious happened as we made the rounds in Phoenix, asking current and former players about the guy they'd least like to see defending them in a life-or-death possession. Three different retired NBA guards responded with the same answer: Alvin Robertson.
In his time, Robertson was regarded as the peskiest on-ball defender in the league. He led the league in steals three times, and averaged 3.7 steals/game in his second season -- 2.7 over his ten-year career. Stats aside, Robertson was known as a defensive hound who took it as a personal affront if you beat him off the dribble. A troika of former guards explains:
Alvin Robertson would make your life miserable. He was a hawkish defensive player. He's who I modeled my defense after. I was looking at the NBA through him. He's one of those guys who'll stay with you for 94 feet. If he was in front of me and it was my last day on earth, I wouldn't want him there. How do I beat him? I would just do what I did in the later part of my career. I started turning my back to him and go down, so he wouldn't get a beat on me or take the ball from me. I'd back him down real slow.
When I was a rookie and hand-checking was part of the game, I was 180 pounds. He was strong enough to hold me by my waist. I could be dribbling the ball and trying to make progress to the basket, and he could just control me with one hand. That's the kind of strength he had. You have to hope that one of your big guys comes over and sets a screen on him so you can get away from him.
Alvin and I are both from Ohio. I used to play with him in the summertime. He's a defensive player that slaps, grabs, and holds. He's intense all the time. He was a great defensive player. Not a good defensive player, but a great defensive player. He was a great athlete. You have to use your teammates to run screens. That was the only way to beat him.
(Alvin Robertson photo by Jon SooHoo/Getty Images)