It's pretty hard to imagine one of those iconic late 1980s Supersonics teams without the X-man. Isn't it?
At collegian level, Xavier Maurice McDaniel would star for the Wichita State Shockers teaming up with the future NBA forwards Cliff Levingstone and Antoine Carr. As a senior in 1984-85, he would become the first NCAA player ever to lead the nation both in scoring (27.4) and rebounding (14.8 boards per game).
Seattle Supersonics would select bold 6'7'' forward with a charismatic look with the 4th overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft. As a rookie he would start as many as 80 games at the small forward spot and would not disappoint any of the spectators in The Kingdome, averaging 17.1 points and 8.0 boards per game.
He would not back down from anyone and would talk trash to anyone, including Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird, who, on one late-night occasion in Seattle directly confronted rookie McDaniel after the final time-out and told him that in the final sequence of the game he will hit the game-winner right in his face! And he did just that.
After being voted to the 1985-86 NBA All-Rookie 1st team alongside Joe Dumars, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and Charles Oakley, for the next five seasons the X-man would supply the Supersonics with his steady scoring punch and intimidating presence on the boards while starring alongside All-Stars Tom Chambers (the MVP of the 1987 NBA ASG) and Dale Ellis (the best scorer of 1989 ASG).
That team would reach it's the climax with 1987 Western Conference finals appearance, eliminating along the way the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets, before losing to eventual NBA Champions L.A. Lakers in four games.
On February 7th, 1988, 24-year old McDaniel would crown his NBA career with his only NBA All-Star appearance. While everyone in the Chicago Stadium had their sight fixed Michael Jordan who would win the MVP award, McDaniel would enter the game for the West and score two points to go along with two boards in 13 minutes of action.
During his last full season with the Supersonics, he would average 21.3 points and 6.5 boards but would also serve as a mentor to the young future superstar Shawn Kemp during his rookie campaign.
Kemp and his mentor would split up after just 15 games into 1990-91 - X-man would exchange places with the Suns sharp-shooter Eddie Johnson, travel south to sunny Arizona, and rejoin forces with his old buddy Tom Chambers!
After not quite fitting into Cotton Fitzsimmons system in the summer of 1991 X-man would be traded to the rising Eastern powerhouse, the New York Knicks, becoming their starting forward for 1991-92.
In the 1992 postseason, he would become the trash-talking enforcing nightmare for the teams Knicks would face - 1989 and 1990 NBA Champions Detroit Pistons whom they eliminated in five games.
The Knicks then took on the defending Champions Chicago Bulls right down to the Game 7 of the long and exhausting series, during which McDaniel played a very tough defense on Scootie Pippen but also took the main role in the ongoing trash-talking confrontation with His Airness, Michael Jordan.
That postseason, not only that he talked, but he also scored plenty, pumping up his regular-season numbers to 18.8 points and 7.2 boards (3.6 offensive) per game while playing 38.2 minutes per game.
After New York McDaniel would spend his next season with rebuilding Boston Celtics providing veteran leadership from the bench before leaving overseas to play for Iraklis BC in Greece for 1995-96 season.
He would return to the NBA in the summer of 1996 and spent his last two seasons with the Nets.
Happy Birthday, Xavier McDaniel!
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.