He was a bruising 6'9 forward that lasted about 12 seasons longer in the NBA than I thought he would've. His surname was respectable at the time since it preceded the guy we now all love to hate. You may remember Mark Bryant.
Just like Alaa Abdelnaby, Mark is from a town in New Jersey (Glen Ridge) that's also about 5 minutes from me. He attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ. Unlike Alaa who bolted for Duke, Mark stayed true to his roots and attended nearby Seton Hall, leading PJ Carlesimo and the Pirates to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history in 1988. He played all 4 years in college before being selected by the Blazers with the 21st overall pick of the 1988 draft. Mark Bryant will be remembered as an NBA journeyman, but it hardly started off that way. In fact his first 7 years in the league he only played for Portland. He entered the league with an NBA body, unlike today's players who develop into them. He actually started 32 games his rookie year, the season before they acquired Buck Williams. He was a key reserve on those potent Blazer teams, including the 1990 and 1992 teams that made the Finals. But after playing for just 1 team his first 7 seasons, Mark would, incredibly enough, go on to play for 9 teams in his final 8 seasons. That included the Rockets, Suns, Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Spurs, 76ers, Nuggets and Celtics. His 15th and final season in the NBA was 2003, and he was traded mid-season from the Nuggets with
Mark Blount for Shammond Williams. The significance of this can't be overlooked since this is why I'm able to write this article on him today! At age 37, he only played 2 games for the C's that year and wore number 11. Him and Grant Long sitting together on the bench was like looking at two relics. He actually did play in one playoff game that year as well (that was the bunch that upset Indiana in the first round as the 6th seed before being swept by the Nets in Round 2).
Mark actually was one of only 5 Celtics to never score a point for the team in his time with them. The other four were Don Eliason, Marcus Landry, Larry Sykes, and Darko Millic. For his career Mark finished with averages of 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, hardly eye-popping. But the longevity of his career must be a testament to how hard he worked and how much he loved the game. There have been a ton of guys with more talent than Mark Bryant but how many of them were able to have 15 year careers? It's truly an impressive feat.
While growing up I had the album by the music group Snap! that included the hit song "I Got the Power." The guy who rapped on the song, Turbo B, really resembled Mark Bryant. I couldn't find a better picture of him online than this one to the left, but trust me, the picture on the album looked like Bryant to the point where I secretly called Mark Bryant "Snap." [Tangent time: Is it only me, but do certain "names" resonate with people? For example for the longest time if I ever heard someone with the last name of Bryant, I'd automatically think Mark. That was before Bean. Now when I hear the name Bryant I think of the Flaker.] Today in the likeness of Alvin Williams, Keith Askins, Tyrone Hill and all other vaguely recognizable coaches who you see sitting one row behind the bench, Mark's an assistant coach on the Thunder. Wonder if that will ever change and we'll get a chance to see guys like Mark sit on the bench itself. For a list of all the "What the Hell Happened To" Series please click here.