The story about Terence Stansbury who decided to leave the NBA and play in Europe instead

In the US, Terence Stansbury was mostly known for his NBA All-Star slam dunk contest exploits such as the Statue of Liberty 360-degree dunk. Heck, he was the originator of that human flying carousel! But for the 6’5″ guard, who twice finished 3rd in the contest, the game was never about the dunking itself.

“The dunk contest actually caused a lot of problems because people forgot, when I was in (Temple) University, I was a thinking player, a jump-shooter, a guy who played on winning teams. Of course I had athletic ability, but I rarely dunked in games. My job was to run the team, hit the clutch baskets, play defense, and not throw the ball away for four years at Temple.” 

While still in college, Stansbury proved that he is not just a one-dimensional dunker, but also a great player at the guard position who can contribute to his team in many ways on both ends of the floor.

As a junior on the Temple University varsity team, Stansbury averaged 24.6 ppg. The following season, he led the Owls to a respectable 26-5 record. By hitting the game-winner, he led the Owls to a 65-63 victory over St. John’s, a team that featured the future NBA star Chris Mullin, in the first round of the 1984 NCAA Tournament. 

In the very next game of the tournament, Stansbury faced the GOAT himself – Michael Jordan. Even though the Temple Owls eventually lost the game to the North Carolina Tar Heels by 77-66, Stansbury left the college ranks, making a great impression by scoring 26 points in the direct match-up with Jordan. 

It was the Dallas Mavericks who selected Stansbury as the 15th overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft. The Indiana Pacers acquired him just before the start of his rookie season. He spent two years with the Pacers and posted an average of 6.9 ppg while appearing in a total of 148 games (he started 31 of those). After receiving just a bit of playing time with the Pacers (1984-86) and the Supersonics (1986/87), the guard made the courageous and bold decision not only to switch teams but to switch – continents! 

Eager to prove his actual basketball worth to everyone, one of the undoubtedly most spectacular US basketball imports to Europe during the 1980s began his European voyage in Den Bosch, Holland.

“I just decided to start a career in Europe. So many guys I had played against (in college) were in Europe and had good careers, so it was a nice alternative. If you wanted to play professional basketball outside of the United States at the time, Europe was a possibility, and you can have so many wonderful experiences when you’re young.” 

After the initial adaptation to the slower but more structured Euro style of ball, Stansbury got a real chance to brush up on his skills while running the point guard position for the French team Levallois Sporting Club.

“It wasn’t, of course, like being in the NBA. But it was 10 times better than the CBA – maybe 100 times better depending on the country and depending on the team.”

In Levallois, a town that lies 6km from the center of Paris in the north-central part of France, this true American Ambassador of the game was mentored by the US head coach Reed Monson. Stansbury quickly learned about the do’s and don’ts of the point guard position, to precisely run a more team-oriented style of ball. 

Of course, alongside his point guard skills, Stansbury also brushed up on his exceptional slam-dunking repertoire. While performing those, he amazed both his teammates and his opponents! While his US peers Jordan and Barkley toured the ‘Old Continent’ on the promotional tours organized by Nike, Stansbury began to shine for Levaillois. 

He stayed there for six seasons – from 1989 until 1995. Then he moved on to play in Israel and Greece before returning to France in 1998. While obtaining French nationality in the process, he also earned a distinguished honor – enshrinement into the French Basketball Hall of Fame. Overall, he appeared in 13 overseas seasons playing in five different European countries.

Basketball Network contributor Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is the 1980s and 1990s basketball specialist, proud author of the Amazon.com TOP 100 basketball biography ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’.


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