Leap Day Leapers

Rodman among best Pistons jumpers of all-time, but who’s No. 1?

Who are some of the best leapers to wear Pistons blue?
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Leap Day comes around once every four years. But great leapers – truly great leapers – happen upon a franchise with even less frequency. The Pistons might not boast one of the legendary leapers of the game – David Thompson, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and Dr. J would be a pretty good starting five for the Leapers Hall of Fame – but they’ve had their share of high flyers.

On Leap Day, here’s a snap shot of some of the best jumpers to wear Pistons Blue:

5. Orlando Woolridge – He was 10 years into his NBA career when Jack McCloskey traded for him and signing him to a lucrative extension that didn’t sit well with some holdovers from the Bad Boys glory days wasn’t one of Trader Jack’s best moves, but Woolridge was one of the NBA’s most intriguing athletes of his day – a greyhound at 6-foot-9 who developed one of the most chiseled physiques in the league. Curiously, it never translated into rebounding or shot-blocking proficiency, but Woolridge’s elbows always seemed to be well above the rim.

4. Cliff Levingston – A first-round pick by McCloskey in 1982, Levingston didn’t stay long in Detroit – just two seasons, before being packaged with his former Wichita State teammate, Antoine Carr, and shipped to Atlanta for Dan Roundfield. But Levingston was a powerful leaper, especially early in his career, who made up for his lack of shooting range and touch by jumping over people.

3. Grant Hill – He was more graceful than explosive, so the first impression of Hill that comes to mind isn’t his soaring ability. But before the lower-leg injuries that nearly cost Hill his career when he left the Pistons in free agency 12 years ago robbed him of his springs, he was a high-wire act. His lob dunk from Bobby Hurley in the 1991 Final Four against Kansas remains one of college basketball’s most memorable dunks.

2. Dennis Rodman – Rodman didn’t do a lot of dunking, but he could hang in the air forever around the rim. On fast breaks, Rodman would go from end to end in a few strides, then hang in the air when taking a pass on the wing, sometimes switching the ball from right hand to left and back before cupping it in his huge hand and flicking it through the rim so fast the ball would hit the court before he would. Rodman’s weak-side blocked shots were breathtaking, so much could would he cover and so fast would he leap to swat shots that seemed certain to yield two points into the expensive seats. There’s never been a better athlete to play NBA basketball.

1. Terry Tyler – Tyler still holds three of the top 10 shot-blocking seasons in Pistons history – and he played mostly small forward. Some guys can get up and put their palm above the top of the square, others can jump three times before most can get up twice. Tyler did both – an explosive leaper and a quick one, too. He and John Long were teammates for four years at the University of Detroit, recruited there by Dick Vitale and drafted to the Pistons by him in 1978. Tyler was traded away just before the Bad Boys came to be and rose to NBA prominence. One of the most gentlemanly to ever wear Pistons Blue, Tyler still would have been a great Bad Boy.