Born: April 17, 1950
Position: Point Guard
Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets (1972-’75; 1979-’83)
Detroit Pistons (1975-’77; 1978-’79)
New Jersey Nets (1977-’78)
Kevin Porter tossed in 30 points and dished off 17 assists yesterday to pace the New Jersey Nets to a surprisingly easy, 106-95 victory over the Washington Bulles in National basketball Association action.
Kevin Porter was one of the purest passers the NBA has ever seen. The purity of his assists were equally matched by the chaotic turns his career took due to injury and bewildering trades. The winding path conspired to obscure some of the truly masterful accomplishments of Porter. Normally, I like to narrate from start to finish a player’s career, but with Porter that’s simply not possible. Each theme must be teased and explained on its own. A simple, progressive Point A to Point B story just won’t do.
The No-Name Bullets: Disruptive to any sort of continuity is the lack of a stable name. Kevin Porter didn’t go about changing his name every day of the week, but it sure seemed the Bullets franchise was. Kevin spent five full seasons with them and they had 3 different locations: Baltimore, Capital and Washington. So, understandably, Washington Wizards fans of today may have a hard time identifying with Kevin Porter of the Capital Bullets even if he is the best pure point guard the franchise has ever had until John Wall showed up.
(Arguments for Rod Strickland will also be entertained).
On the move: Further obfuscating the Porter legacy is that he never stayed in one place too long. 8 full seasons and he never played for a singular location for more than two consecutive years. In his first three seasons, the Bullets did their Baltimore to Capital to Washington dance. Then for two seasons he was with Detroit. Then was traded to New Jersey for a year. New Jersey then traded him back to Detroit for a season. Finally Porter enjoyed free agency and returned to the Bullets. Even vagabonds don’t move around that often.
Hurt: You may have noticed that I mentioned Porter playing in eight full seasons. Two devastating injuries obliterated an entire season and cut two others much too short. A cartilage tear in his knee derailed his debut season with Detroit in 1975-76 after only 19 games. The following year, the Motor City used Porter for a spare 26 minutes a game instead of the 36 he received before the injury. Debilitating injury struck again during Bullets training camp in October 1981.Porter snapped his Achilles tendon and missed all of the 1981-82 season and appeared in just 11 games in 1982-83, effectively ending his career.
Dime Machine: Despite the tempest, Kevin Porter remained a top notch passer. Four times he led the league in assists per game. Furthermore, Porter was a stud in assist percentage, which is the estimated number of FGs a player assisted while on the court. Six different seasons (1975, 1977 – 1981) Porter led the league and his career average of 37.5% is 14th all-time. Porter is the only point guard near the top of the board who played in the 1970s. In 1978, his moonlight season with New Jersey, Porter decided to make the experience memorable by breaking the record for assists in a single game:
Porter dished out 29 assists… and most of those handouts went to John Williamson and Bernard King, who scored 39 and 35 points respectively to help New Jersey down the Houston Rockets 126 – 122.
“He was just magnificent,” said New Jersey coach Kevin Loughery. “I’ve never seen anyone do quite as well as he did tonight.”
Scott Skiles has since tallied 30 assists establishing a new high, but I doubt we’re sneezing at Porter’s display. Kevin’s offensive contributions were not merely relegated to dishing the ball, either. He maintained a remarkably high shooting percentage for a point guard (48%) and was known to explode in a timely fashion despite his career average of just 11.6ppg:
Little Kevin Porter went on a scoring binge in the final quarter Sunday to lead the Washington Bullets to a 98-92 victory over the Boston Celtics, clinching the Eastern Conference championship.
Porter, a 5-foot-11 playmaker, scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter… Porter also had 11 assists, nine of them in the first half when Washington went ahead, 55-40. “They were gambling quite a bit,” Porter said. “And when they do, you have to take it to the hoop. Hopefully, you draw a foul or they come after you and you can dish it off.”
Knowing when to dish it out, knowing when to take it to the rack to salvage victory for the team. These are the hallmarks of a great point guard. Kevin Porter is assuredly one of those being the first player to record 1000 assists in a single season and along with Bob Cousy is the only player to record a 25 point-25 assist game. Sadly, sometimes such talent doesn’t get the appropriate stage or setting to illustrate its greatness for all to see and remember.
4x Assists per Game Leader (1975, 1978-’79, 1981)
Regular Season: 659 Games
Playoffs: 33 Games