During Wednesday night's game between the Celtics and Bobcats, you may have heard Tommy and Mike talking about how being tall can add an extra 5 years onto your playing career, in regards to Theo Ratliff.  This definitely holds true when thinking of Alton Lister, a far from spectacular 7 footer who played 16 seasons.

Lister, who attended Arizona State, was drafted by the Bucks in the first round of the 1981 draft with the 21st pick. He put up solid numbers his first 5 years with Milwaukee, averaging around 8.1 ppg, 7 rpg and 1.8 bpg while only playing 24 minutes a night.  After the 1986 season he was dealt to Seattle for Jack Sikma.  The 1987 campaign saw Lister put up his highest career ppg (11.6).  But after just 2 seasons with the Sonics, he was traded straight up to the Warriors for their first round pick (who turned out to be Gary Payton; do you think Golden State would've liked to have kept that pick in hindsight?).

Lister would go on to play another 4 years with Golden State.  After being remarkably durable in his first 8 seasons, he would only play sparingly in the 4 seasons with the Warriors.  This was likely due to injuries and Don Nelson's unusual coaching ways.  He was waived by the Warriors in March of 1993 and went on to sign with Milwaukee.  After one more season with the Bucks he finally made his way to our beloved Celtics, mostly as a throw-in with the Todd Day for Sherman Douglas trade.  At the time, Lister was 37, but looked more like 57.  He actually stuck around in Boston for  2 hapless seasons, the 1996 campaign and the 1997 campaign which was a full-blown tank job.  He pocketed $800K for his trouble in Boston (don't tell Otis Birdsong please) while averaging an uninspiring 1.9 ppg.  He ended his career with Portland the final season, playing 7 games.

Three interesting things on Lister.  While he was on Golden State he was part of the Run TMC team of Hardaway, Richmond and Chris Mullin.  One game the Warriors had the group Run DMC announce their starters.  Obviously TMC got most of the love but when they announced Lister, one of the guys from Run DMC yelled "yeah big guy!"

Secondly, Lister, who wore #53 for his entire career, is second all-time in games played for anyone wearing #53, behind Artis Gilmore.

Lastly, is the most amazing of nuances I discovered while researching Alton.  In the 1982-83 season, he actually garnered 5 points in the NBA MVP voting.   Take a look at that!  Ahead of Bernard King and Isiah Thomas.  How is that possible?  Was it a joke?  He only averaged 8 and 7 and started in 37 games.  Did Alton Lister have a family relative on the board that year who was like "watch this I'm gonna vote for Alton Lister!"  And he has 5 points to his credit.  Does that mean he received multiple votes?  Anyone able to supply Celticslife with more information on this irregularity will be compensated financially.

Unfortunately for Lister the play he's most remembered for was the "Lister Blister" when Shawn Kemp viciously threw one down on him.  Sorry Alton, but we have to show it here:

In today's pansified NBA, the Reign Man would've likely been giving a technical for taunting.  But the way he cradles the ball on his way to the hoop, and the fact it was a playoff game, makes it sensational nonetheless.

The most recent news on Lister was that he was hired as the skills coach for the San Miguel Beermen of the Philippine Basketball Association.  Here's a January 2010 article on him talking about who he thinks will make the Finals of the Philippine League.  Definitely read it; it's amusing hearing teams called "Beer," "Purefoods," and "Rain or Shine" being talked about as winning it all.  I wonder if he teaches any of his inferior players that the best way to get on a poster is having someone throw one down really hard on your head.

Bottom line on Lister: he was easily overlooked as being a good player during his time because of all the great centers.  With that said, he easily would be a top big men in today's height-challenged NBA.  He had decent athleticism and decent mobility.  He's also awesome as the starting center for the 1985 Bucks in NBA 2K14.  Him and Cummings up front are a menace.

For a complete list of the "What the Hell Happened To" Series please click here.

tb727 3/05/2010 12:01:00 AM Edit
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15 Responses so far.

  1. Karl says:

    MVP voting was a joke back then too I guess! Great post TB.

  2. tb727 says:

    Addendum lol: http://listerblister.ytmnd.com/

  3. Bohemian says:

    Alton Lister! What can we say about him? Hmm, he was tall and...that's all :D It brings me memories of Birdsong in that NBA sega game that I mentioned before. Lister was the starting center for the Sonics and he always got subbed by a player called Schoene :P Who was that guy? Too bad he never played for the C's, because otherwise I would ask TB for a WTHH article! LOL!

    Great article TB, as usual :)

  4. Bohemian says:

    Schoene's jersey is worth 240$???? :D


  5. tb727 says:

    Wow Bohemian I never even heard of Russ Schoene. And as you know I'm pretty good at remembering the obscure players of the NBA lol

  6. Bohemian says:

    :D I just had that game and was addicted to it :) By the way, we had a bench with Mark Acres, Otis Birdsong and Joe Kleine, epic!

    TB, you are the master, don't worry! ;)

  7. tb727 says:

    Haha so that game must've been from like 1988-89 right? Was Birdsong good in it? I totally could've seen them making him better than he was, since he actually was good earlier in his career.

    Yeah I'm actually disappointed I don't remember Schoene whatsoever lol.

  8. Bohemian says:

    Exactly, it was from that season. Birdsong couldn't make a FT because I think had 0/2 that year :P The game wasn't good but it was all I could play back then LOL I just liked the fact that I could but Birdsong as SG and Bird as SF...it was kind of fun! Plus, we wore #12 which along with #7 are my fave jersey numbers!

    Imagine when I got to beat some team, the lineup would be:

    PG: Kelvin Upshaw (LOL)
    SG: Otis Birdsong
    SF: Kevin Gamble
    PF: Mark Acres
    C: Joe Kleine

    The only disappointment was the lack of Danny Ainge, I think he was trade that summer of 88, right? Also Brian Shaw was with the team :(

  9. tb727 says:

    Shaw may have been in the game. He played for them in 88-89, then left for Europe in 1990, and came back in 1990-91. Ainge was traded I want to say in Jan or Feb of 1989 for Kleine and Pinckney.

    That's hilarious Birdsong was a bad free throw shooter since he was 0-2 for the year lol.

  10. would love to have contact info on Alton for a reunion - please email www1928@gmail.com thanks.

  11. Lanie says:

    Just wondering how thorough your information and facts are researched? Anybody could get this super cool jam from the internet.... are you a journalist? Have you ever played in the league? Just wonderin'... a good journalist would include all the important facts in a story, like the fact that Lister holds the record for ALL-TIME BLOCKS for Milwaukee and is second all-time for Seattle... come on tb272... bring some excellence to what ever it is you call yourself doing here... i'm just sayin'

  12. tb727 says:

    Sorry to have offended you Lanie Lister. Alton was a pretty terrible pro but sometimes longevity has a way of making lousy guys look good.

    Did you know Mark Jackson is 3rd all time IN THE NBA in assists, ahead of Magic, the Big O and Steve Nash? Does that mean he's better than those guys?

  13. Anonymous says:

    thanks for indirectly bashing filipino basketball players with your term inferior, if we just had the height, maybe we could have been competitive

  14. tb727 says:

    That isn't meant to mean Filipino basketball players are inferior as a whole at all; it's alluding to whomever the inferior players are on that team. So as an analogy if Alton Lister was the coach for the 2008 Celtics I'd say he tells "Brian Scalabrine" what to do instead of "Kevin Garnett," seeing that Scalabrine is an obviously inferior player to Garnett.

    Everyone here gives much credit to Filipino basketball, myself included


  15. tb727 says:

    As the author of this article, I must come clean: growing up watching David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon and Ewing and Shaq and Brad Daugherty and Robert Parish and Kareem, it was easy to dismiss Lister as not being that good. But if he played in today's NBA, he'd probably be the 3rd best center behind Howard and Bynum.

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