Way before LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, there was a Cleveland Cavaliers team that finished 47-35 in the 1997-98 season.
Coached by ‘The Czar,’ Mike Fratello, that Cavs team was led by Wesley Person, Cedric Henderson, Derek Anderson, Bob Sura, Shawn Kemp, Vitaly Potapenko and Brevin Knight.
They were a young team that was on the rise! That team also had the illest black, blue and white jerseys.
Brevin Knight was a lightning rod on that team. A pesky defender, he was a league leader in steals his rookie year in the NBA.The 16th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers the 5’10” guard was a joy to have on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
After playing under legendary coach Bob Farrell at Seton Hall Prep High School in West Orange, NJ in 1994, Knight was not heavily recruited by many major universities. He ended up getting a scholarship at Stanford University where he was the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year. During his career at Stanford, he was named a Consensus second-team All-American in 1997 and was also a three-time, first-team all-Pac-10 member.
Not bad for a guy who was the fourth ranked point guard coming of the Essex County, NJ high school hoops scene.
Among a range of topics, Knight discussed that 1997-98 team. Essentially, the team broke up after the 1998-99 lockout shortened season. How well would they have done had they stayed?
“We would of put ourselves in a great position to contend for a championship,” Brevin Knight told me on Scoop B Radio.
“And I say that because Fratello had us playing well on the defensive side and we had a guy to go to on the offensive side, with a shooter like Wesley Person out on the floor and a dynamic player like Bob Sura and Derek Anderson.”
“Then we had guys like myself and Cedric Henderson, Z was coming into his own as a center who shot it from deep but also could play inside I think our versatility would have given us an opportunity to really be something to mess with as the years went along. The lockout, management issues didn’t allow it to go that way but I thought we had an opportunity to be a team who could contend in the east every year and then ultimately win the Eastern Conference Finals and then move on to the big show.”
“And when we first got there was still on top of his game and even there when the lockout happened which I think really was the demise of our entire team having the lockout the next season he still came back and was a 20 and 10 guy and he just did it in a different way but the building was electric, the fans, and I think because of the youth of the team people were really able to get behind us.”
Many people know Dan Gilbert as the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Long before Gilbert, there was Gordon Gund, a successful entrepreneur. The guy has a pretty diverse portfolio, too. An artist and sculptor, former co-owner of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, Gund is the co-founder of Foundation Fighting Blindness. Gund who is blind himself, lost his sight to retinis pigmentosa himself.
There was always a mystery to Gund. What was he like? “He was cool, he never imposed himself on us,” said Knight.
“But he was always available. He would listen to the games from up top and then when games were over we would see him, we would say hello to him. But I thought he did a good job. He was present when he needed to be but was always there when you had an issue.”
Knight expanded further on Gund:
“He was quiet, he was reserved who loved the Cleveland Cavaliers but due to the blindness give him all the credit in the world that despite that he was able to run a great organization and get guys going the right way I think he just stayed out of the lime light he allowed the players to be the show he allowed the general manager and coaches and guys who worked in the front office to do their jobs but he was a guy who was passionate about the team and passionate about winning. He would do whatever it took to win which is a reason why they paid the $90 million to get Shawn Kemp at that time was a lot of money, guys were not making that kind of money and he made the decision to go down that road because he wanted to give this team the best chance to win and he thought that would be it. I thank his greatly because if it was not for him and everyone in that front office I don’t know where I would have started.”
During his 12-year career Knight suited up for nine different teams. His career included two stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, the then-Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. Knight averaged close to 8 PPG and 6.1 APG. Knight retired in 2009 and is now the Memphis Grizzlies’ color commentator on FOX Sports Southeast.