There is something to be said with P.J. Tucker at No.7 on this list — in fact, there’s something to be said about him being on this list at all.
Tucker doesn’t exactly fulfill the traditional standards of being a fan favorite. For one, he just completed only his second season with the team. He wasn’t a late draft pick or picked up as an undrafted talent or even an unwanted one. He isn’t the hometown hero, wasn’t developed though the team’s system, and he didn’t retire with Houston, either — yet. And, most importantly, he’s still with the team.
What P.J., The Shoe King, the Pancake King, etc., Tucker is is what every list should have, or at least hope to have: The relevant fan favorite. He’s the guy you love to have right now. If this list was made in the summer of 2014, No.7 on this list would probably be about a then 26-year-old, second-year man of out Chicago who hadn’t seen a lick of playing time until he was 24, but quickly made a name for himself as the guy who never stopped, prided himself on defense, and made it a personal mission to get under the skin of every single All-Star talent he faced.
You know who I’m talking about, and you know that he’d be on this list even then.
Tucker is, somehow, both the coolest and most loveable guy on and off the court. He’s that obnoxious, overused cliche of old-world basketball. On a team that embodies the current state of basketball with analytics, three-point shots, and everything else old people love to hate, Tucker brings the grit and hard-nosed mentality that every team needs. Not only is he going to outwork you, but he’s going to guard you well and smart, always cool and calm under pressure. He’s the ultimate team player.
Off the court, he’s the Sneaker King, full of weird quirks and hobbies, like his undeniable love for pancakes and his determination to make himself a force in the world of fashion. He’s also completely bought into his team, never one to disparage him teammates, and also always ready to defend his club, even when his seat is the hottest.
Let us not mince any words here, I wrote a complete ode to the glory that was the second year of P.J. Tucker with the Rockets, and if you have any doubts, that should clear everything up.
Here is one thing that makes him a classic fan favorite, though. For five years after his rookie season, Tucker played basketball overseas, never sure if he’d make it back in the NBA. In 2012, he was given another shot with the Phoenix Suns, with whom he played 79 games the first year of his return, and he never looked back. Now, he’s a legit 82-game starter and complete difference-maker on a contending team.
How can you not love that?