For a franchises that’s known for its coulda-shoulda-wouldas, Chris Morris is someone who often gets lost in the shuffle.
A former No. 4 overall draft pick in 1988, Morris was never a liability on the court, but his game never seemed to match his athletic gifts. You won’t hear many Nets fans bemoan Morris’ play all that much, since his disappointing play quickly became overshadowed by much bigger disappointments in Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson. But in case anyone had forgotten, Morris was as much of a malcontent as DC and Anderson. You got to love this classic video of Morris refusing to go into a game:
And let’s not forgot about the Morris writing “Trade Me” on his sneakers during his last season with the Nets in 94-95.
And yet, here’s Morris on a list of greatest Nets of all-time, and despite all of these strikes against him, I can’t quibble too much with his selection. He lasted 7 whole seasons in New Jersey, always averaged double digits in points, was an athletic freak who could dunk with the best of them, and would have fit in perfectly during the Jason Kidd era. Imagine him streaking downcourt on a fast-break and catching an alley-oop from the PG. In a different era, not dealing with Bill Fitch and a slew of disappointing Nets teams, Morris could’ve been a different player.
In fact, when Richard Jefferson came into his own in New Jersey, one of the players he often reminded me of was Morris. It just goes to show how an era in sports changes our perceptions. Given the rotating mess the Nets have had at the SF spot over the past few seasons, I think any Nets fan would sign up in a heartbeat for 10-15 points a game, with a few highlight-reel dunks, solid rebounding and a decent defensive play or two.
Does that mean we should celebrate Morris for more than what he actually was? Of course not. But Morris isn’t the first Nets player with character issues, and he won’t be the last. At least he could play.