The X-Man, Xavier McDaniel
Xavier McDaniel, who was also known as the X-Man was a physical juggernaut in the early 90’s. A gifted scorer from mid-range and the post, McDaniel’s game resembled that of a hockey enforcer, known for getting into scuffles with NBA icons like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Johnson, Charles Oakley and a hitter’s row of others. McDaniel did not look like a guy that you’d wanna mess with, unless you’re the type of crazy individual who enjoys getting into scuffles with 6’7” dudes who allegedly shave their head and eyebrows to look more intimidating. It’s gonna be a no for me, dog.
Xavier was drafted 4th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the same draft that Patrick Ewing went 1st overall. In his Senior year at Wichita State (Go, Shockers!) McDaniel was historically dominant becoming the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring (27.2 ppg) and rebounds (14.8 rpg) and finished his rookie campaign in the NBA by finishing 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting behind Ewing.
McDaniel didn’t have the best handles in the world, but he still was capable of bringing the ball up court off a rebound or in a fast break. He lacked a smooth first step, but he was so athletic that he could still beat his man off the dribble. He was unconscious from mid-range and would absolutely toast dudes with a turn-around jumper from the post if he got hot.
Amongst a sea of physical and dogged players who created the outline for that era’s hallmarks of style, X-Man stood out like an evolved state of a Pokemon. You could see how McDaniel’s looked like his peers, but stories like Gary Payton thanking Xavier for choking him out his rookie year speak volumes to how impactful McDaniel was to the fabric of the League that was.
Xavier was before his time. At a time where the League still focused heavily on physicality McDaniel also brought a skillset that we see amplified in the NBA today. McDaniel had all the energy, tenacity, and range of today’s stretch 4’s. Although he didn’t shoot a lot of them, Xavier had several seasons where he shot around 30% from 3. X played 12 seasons for 5 total franchises, was an All-Star in ’87, and was inducted into the Kansas and College Basketball Hall of Fame’s.