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Six Degrees of Cedric Ceballos

It is my firm belief that you can connect everyone in the NBA, through coaching, playing as a teammate, or via transactions to a Suns player: Cedric Ceballos.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Jon Soohoo/NBAE via Getty Images

Have you ever played “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? On long convoy rides whilst serving with the United States Army, it’s all we did. Soldiers, especially when stationed overseas, watch movies. A lot of movies. We would memorize and recite quotes, act out Scarface scenes with our M203’s, and recall the casting lineups from our favorite flicks with ease. You needed to keep your mind sharp on those long rides, and playing Six Degrees did just that.

The idea is that everyone in Hollywood is within six steps (or six degrees of separation) of Kevin Bacon, by way of co-starring in a movie, producing a project he was in, maybe being in a relationship with him, etc.

It is my belief that Cedric Ceballos is the NBA equivalent to Kevin Bacon. I have done countless hours of research for the Suns JAM Session podcast, and the more I do, the more I come across the 21st pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. I find time and again different players who are somehow linked to the former Suns hype man.

I’m sure our readers will find someone who can’t be linked in six steps. Nerd out. Clearly I did. It’s a silly game (trust me, I know. But with COVID isolation going on, games are all I have) and I’m sure you could do it with any number of players. I chose Ced because I like the alliteration.

Typical of all games, there are some ground rules:

Rule 1: Teammates. You can only count players that played together. Example: Yuta Tubuse played in 4 career NBA games, all for the Suns. I can use any Suns player he played with in those games, but I cannot use any of his opponents.

Rule 2: Transactions. Any player can be linked to another player via a transaction they shared. Example: Gani Lawal, who appeared in just 2 NBA minutes, was the future 2010 draft pick that was a part of the Jared Dudley and Jason Richardson for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary trade. Therefore he is linked to those players.

Rule 3: Coaches Count. If a guy coach coached a player, it counts. But he had to be the head coach. Example: Cotton Fitzsimmons coached Winston Crite in 1987.

Rule 3a: Coaches Playing Careers Count. If a coach is a former NBA player, his playing days are permitted. Example: Paul Westphal. He coached in the NBA from 1992 to 2012. He played in the NBA from 1972 to 1984. And I’ll need him later.

Rule 4: You have six moves. That’s the name of the game. Six moves or less is a win. Do it in seven and don’t talk to me.

To test my theory, I randomly asked the different Bright Side podcasters to provide me with any player in the NBA history:

Using their answers, I would attempt to link the player they provided to Cedric Ceballos. Would I be able to?

Well, not without Basketball-Reference of course! I know, it’s cheating. When we played in the Army, you couldn’t use any assistance from mobile devices (not that they would’ve helped much back in 2004). It had to be from memory. If I could recite the following from memory, I’d be working for ESPN doing my version of ‘Stump the Schwab’. It’ll be called ‘Voita’s a Dork’.

Nevertheless, let’s see if my blind test proved my point:

Vincenzo Esposito to Cedric Ceballos

Good start, and a good one to show how the game is played. Thank you, @Espo for choosing an obscure player who shares your last name. You’re lucky...there are no Voita’s in the NBA, nor in the near future. And by ‘near future’ I mean at least three generations.

Esposito, who played a mere 30 games in the NBA in the 1996 season for Toronto, was the first ever free agent signing for the upstart Raptors.

Step 1: Esposito to Oliver Miller. The starting center for the new franchise was none other than The Big O. On November 15, 1995, Esposito received his first NBA minutes. Oliver Miller played in that game. They combined for 0-3 from downtown.

Step 2: Miller to Ceballos. Miller was drafted with the 22nd pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. He would play his first game with Ceballos on November 10, 1992. They both had 10 points. Bump, set, spike!

Zabian Dowdell to Cedric Ceballos

Our illustrious Bright Side leader, @DaveKingNBA, has also chosen to go with the obscure. What isn’t obscure are his efforts to assist businesses affected by COVID-19, so please nominate small businesses or individuals who need assistance, or donate!

Dowdell, a 6’3” PG from Virginia Tech, played in a mere 24 games for Phoenix in the ’10-’11 season.

Step 1: Dowdell to Vince Carter. Ah yes, Vince, the holy grail of this game. Carter has played in 22 seasons and 4 decades. If you can get to him, you can get to anyone. Good ‘old Zabian played his first game on January 11, 2011. The starting shooting guard that day? Vinsanity.

Step 2: Carter to Alonzo Mourning. On December 17, 2004, the Raptors traded Vince to the New Jersey Nets (which their fans still can’t believe). In return, Toronto received Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, a couple of first round picks, and a 34-year-old Zo.

Step 3: Alonzo Mourning to Cedric Ceballos. Ced’s last season in the NBA was the ’00-’01 season. He began the season playing with Detroit, but after averaging 5.8 ppg and 2.0 rpg, he was traded to the Miami Heat. Both players would play together, coming off the bench, on March 27, 2001. Against Vince Carter and the Raptors.

Khris Middleton to Cedric Ceballos

My podcasting cohort in crime, @MatthewLissy, chose to go with someone more modern. I dig it. I’m sure I could get Middleton to Vince somehow, but I’ve already exhausted that route. So let’s try a different route.

Step 1: Middleton to Jason Kidd. Jason Kidd took over the coaching duties for the Milwaukee Bucks on July 1, 2014. His first game coaching for the Bucks, on October 29, 2014, was a loss to the Charottle Hornets. His starting lineup consisted of former Suns Brandon Knight and Jared Dudley, Jabari Parker, Larry Sanders, and Khris Middleton.

Step 2: Kidd to Cedric Ceballos. ’96-’97 was a season full of big name moves as the Suns tried to figure out how to navigate the post-Barkley era. GM Bryan Colangelo took pieces received from dealing Barkey to Houston (The towel tosser Robery Horry and Sam Cassel) and turned them into guys who actually wanted to be here. He dished Cassel to Dallas in a trade that involved Jason Kidd, and sent Horry to the Lakers, bringing Cedric Ceballos back to Phoenix (remember the days of big name deals? Ah, those were great).

On Valentine's Day 1997, both Cedric and Jason shared the court.

Oscar Robertson to Cedric Ceballos

All right! One of the greatest players ever, a name we all know, and a tough one! I knew I could count on Fanning the Flames co-host @DervishOfWhirl for a good one.

Mr. Triple Double played in the NBA from 1960 to 1974, was a 12 time All-Star, won the ’63-’64 MVP, and won a championship in the ’70-’71 in his first season with the Bucks. So can we get him to Ceballos? Well...

Step 1: Robertson to Lew Alcindor. When Bob Cousy took over the Cincinnati Royals in 1969, there was friction. He and perennial All-Star guard Oscar Robertson did see eye to eye, and Cousy tried to trade him. Eventually he would be traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, and joined forces with Lew Alcindor for the ’70-’71 season (playing their first game together on October 17, 1970). They would march to a championship, and the day after winning it all, Alcindor would officially change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Step 2: Abdul-Jabbar to Maurice Lucas. Kareem played a long, historic career. In his 20 year career his missed the All-Star Game once. He had 123 different teammates in his career (Vince has had 261...thus why he is the holy grail of this game). I’m sure I can find someone for a quick line, but I want to weave some Suns history, so I chose Maurice Mo Lucas.

Lucas, who was a part of the improbable Suns ’83-’84 team that marched to the Western Conference Finals, was Abdul-Jabbar’s teammate for the ’85-’86 season. Lucas dropped 16 and 10 off of the bench on October 26, 1985, their first game together.

Step 3: Lucas to Tom Chambers. Lucas would eventually be waived by the Lakers, and found himself claimed by the Seattle SuperSonics prior to the ’86-’87 season. It is here he would meet up with 6th year forward Tom Chambers. Chambers, who would start the 1987 All-Star Game and win MVP, scored 27 points on Halloween night, 1986. Lucas added 19 off the bench.

Step 4: Chambers to Cedric Ceballos. I told you I’d use the Suns to get here! By the time the rookie Ceballos played with TC, Chambers was a bonafide NBA stud. He had the mullet, he had 4ASG’s, and he had the signature dunk.

Ceballos scored 2 points in his NBA debut on November 2, 1990. Chambers had 38 points and 10 boards.

Zeke Zawoluk to Cedric Ceballos

There’s always one in the crowd. He’s the guy who challenges the limits of the game, who tests the fences like a velociraptor, who wants to see the world burn. In this case, it’s @SoSaysJ, the other half of Bright Side’s Fanning the Flames podcast.

Justin, I’d expect no less and accept your challenge.

Who on God’s green earth is Zeke Zawoluk? Check out his Wikipedia page; it’s fascinating. Let’s give it a shot!

Step 1: Zawoluk to Walt Davis. Zeke was the 6th leading scorer on the ’54-’55 Philadelphia Warriors team. Remember them? Yeah, me neither. It was on that team that he was teammates with Walt Davis (no relation to Walter Davis). They both went 0-1 from the field on November 13, 1954 against the New York Knicks.

Step 2: Davis to Bob Pettit. Walt Davis, as his career light was burning out, was traded in January of 1958 to the St. Louis Hawks. It is here that on January 25, 1958 he first played with Bob Pettit. Pettit, who would end up being a two-time league MVP, 10 time All-NBA first teamer, and 1971 Hall of Fame inductee, scored 16 that night in a loss at Detroit.

Step 3: Pettit to Paul Silas. “Big Blue” was still around in 1964 when the St. Louis Hawks drafted Paul Silas 10th overall out of Creighton. Silas, who would one day call an infamous shadow timeout, played his first game with Pettit on October 17, 1964, scoring 9 points and grabbing 13 boards in a victory over Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals.

Step 4: Silas to Paul Westphal. Silas’ career would see him be a part of the team’s transition from St. Louis to Atlanta in 1968, he would play 3 seasons in Phoenix (averaging 12.1 rpg in his time in the desert) and eventually land in Boston. It is hear that he played with a rookie from USC, Paul Westphal.

The two would play a total of 262 games together in their careers, winning 73% of those games. The pair would win a championship together in 1974. Their first game on the court was October 11, 1972 in Detroit. A win.

Step 5: Westphal to Cedric Ceballos. I’ve been saving Westy just in case I needed him. And I needed him! Westphal would play 12 seasons as a player, hanging it up after the 1984 season. He found himself back in Phoenix as an assistant coach in 1988, and soon he would hold the reigns as head coach at the beginning of the famous ’92-’93 season.

Ceballos, as we all know, was on that team, and he first played under Westphal on November 7, 1992.

And there you have it.

Five different examples spanning 66 years of NBA history. What have I learned? That given enough time, you can find a link from anyone to anyone. And I have the time clearly.

Every road leads somewhere. And in the NBA, they all lead to Cedric Ceballos.

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