12 Deep … The Rookie Class of 96
Kobe. AI. Nash. Allen. Starbury. Big Ben. O’neal. Peja. Fisher. Shareef. Camby. Antoine Walker.
12 Deep. That’s how strong the 1996 NBA Draft was. It spawned an entire NBA roster filled with rookies who would go on to capture accolades that they are STILL accumulating more than 13 years later. From #1 overall pick Allen Iverson to 2nd round pick Peja Stojakovic and the undrafted Ben Wallace, they have amassed nearly every award the league doles out.
NBA Championships. MVPs. Scoring Titles. All-NBA Teams. All-NBA Defensive Teams. Rebound Leaders. Defensive Players of the Year. All Star MVPs. Three Point Championships. Dunk Contest Winner. Blocking Leaders. Steals Titles. Assist Titles. You name it – one of them has done it.
When SLAM magazine decided to put these guys on the cover of their 96 NBA Season Preview issue, they nearly forecasted 12 Deep. They somehow couldn’t get Iverson to join the photoshoot and (understandably) invited Lottery picks Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker and Walter McCarty. Ben Wallace was still an unheralded rook who was trying out for anyone who would take a 6′ 9″ dude on their summer league team and Peja Stojakovic was playing in Europe still 2 years away from stepping foot onto Arco Arena in Sacramento.
I often take a look back at this photo, imagining “what if?” SLAM had gotten Iverson, Fisher, Peja and Big Ben for this shot. That would have been incredible!!!
Below are my favorite autographed cards of these guys, pictured in their original teams they first suited up for. (Except Ben Wallace)