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David Fleming
January 13, 1997
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January 13, 1997

Quickest First Step?

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Not too long ago this poll of one representative from each of the league's 29 teams would have been a waste of time. Only one player would have received votes: Chicago's Michael Jordan, of course. But while Jordan's reign as the NBA's most explosive player continues—he topped our list with 13 votes, nine more than Philadelphia rookie point guard Allen Iverson—the responses from coaches, players and general managers show that His Airness has lost his overwhelming edge. "On the dribble, it's Iverson," says San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. "From a rocker step, live ball, I guess it's still Michael."

At least for the moment. Perhaps because of MJ's age—he will turn 34 next month—and his admission last week that he tends to cheat a bit on his first step by lifting his foot off the floor before dribbling (technically a travel, but, hey, it's the NBA), 55% of our panel members chose other players, including Detroit forward Grant Hill (three votes), Los Angeles Lakers swingman Eddie Jones (two) and Golden State guard Latrell Sprewell (two). Dallas's Michael Finley, Phoenix's Kevin Johnson, Philadelphia's Jerry Stackhouse, Toronto's Damon Stoudamire and Golden State's Donald Royal received support from one team apiece.

Donald Royal more explosive than Michael Jordan? Some, like Jazz vice president of basketball operations Scott Layden, find that selection baffling. "I don't see anybody who's even within a half step of Jordan," says Layden. "You can't vote for anybody but him."