Photo: Richard Hamilton #32 of the Detroit Pistons looks on against the Milwaukee Bucks in a game on April 8, 2011 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Anyone here knows Richard “Rip” Hamilton?
If you’re one of the people who raised his hands, the player known for wearing a clear plastic mask who moves and shoots as relentless as the legendary Reggie Miller a decade ago, is in town. He was sent here by the NBA through its NBA Cares program. And with help from Globe, its new partner, Hamilton will hold clinics and give inspirational talks to less fortunate children in Mandaluyong City.
And we’re one of the few lucky individuals who got to talk to the guy.
The first thing he talked about was Jr. NBA alumnus Kobe Paras, the young, talented son of PBA rookie MVP Benjie who has made it to the UCLA Bruins roster.
“I’ve seen some highlights of him in the Internet,” he says. “I’m a fan of the game, I’m always watching new talent and watching new kids come up and at the time I’ve seen him play I didn’t know he was from the Philippines.”
“When I was in the car coming in, I asked our driver who is the best player to come out of the Philippines and he was saying that there is this 6-7 guard from UCLA named Kobe Paras and I say ‘hey, that’s the kid I’ve seen in YouTube.'”
I asked then asked Hamilton who among Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the rest of the NBA stars is the greatest. Here’s what he said:
“It’s not a tough question because I’m a Michael Jordan guy and I believe that Michael Jordan is the greatest player that ever played basketball. There are a couple of guys close, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Shaq (O’Neal), Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James but I just think Michael Jordan and everybody else.”
My only regret is that I never got to ask which between Kobe and LeBron is better. I’m guessing he’ll probably side with Kobe, having played against him and beat his mighty Lakers in the Pistons’ title run in 2004.
Photo: Richard Hamilton #32 of the Chicago Bulls controls the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons on January 4, 2012 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Of course, we all know that Rip got to play with His Airness himself during the latter’s Washington Wizards days, which was a dream come true for him.
“To be honest with you, Michael Jordan is pretty much my idol and I always dream of getting an opportunity to play with him that’s always my dream to compete against and let alone play with him,” he said.
That’s why when he was traded by Jordan and the Wizards in the late 90s, he was heartbroken.
“When he traded me away, I was hurt, might have shed a tear a little bit,” he said.
Years later, the trade ended up in Hamilton’s favor as he eventually won a championship with the Pistons.
“Years later he told me, ‘Rip, I did you a favor,’ and he’s right because I never would have won a championship if not for the trade.”
Winning an NBA title is another dream come true for Hamilton, a three-time All-Star who has also surpassed Isaiah Thomas as the Pistons’ all-time leading scorer in the playoffs.
“I won an NCAA title for UConn but it’s nothing compared to the NBA title we won in Detroit. There are so many great players who never won like Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone. I was lucky enough to win. And winning a title makes everything stop.”
Aside from MJ, Rip said he also learned a lot from Miller.
“Reggie Miller is a guy I stole a lot of tricks from and added it on my game. It didn’t pay no commission on it but he was one of the guys I really looked up to growing up,” he said.
The only thing he didn’t copy from Miller was the latter’s post-three-pointer kick, which he did a lot to draw a foul from opposing players.
“I kicked my leg out, but when I tried it, I shot an airball. After that, I left it alone.”
Of course, the customary, slam book questions followed, including who’s the toughest player he had guarded. Guess who again? Nope. It’s not Kobe. It’s former New York Knicks star Allan Houston.
“The toughest person I ever have to guard I have to say it’s Allan Houston. Everybody get surprised when I say that but he plays his pace the whole game. He never sped up his game and never get rattled whenever I put my hand on his face, so I have to say Allan Houston,” he said.
Like everyone else, we asked him what did he do right to make it that far. And just like a student of Miller Time, his answer is moving without the ball.
“It’s the one thing I will advice kids, to keep moving without the ball,” he said.
What are your thoughts?
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
Joey Villar is a columnist for NBA.com Philippines. His views do not reflect those of the NBA and its partners.