For most Jazz fans David Benoit is/was/will always be remembered as a pariah. I grew up watching Jazz put out front lines of Malone and Bailey, and then Malone and Corbin . . . when Malone and Benoit came around I had seen plenty of Jazz sets that ran Stockton, Eaton, two inside scoring forwards and a shooting guard (e.g. Griffith, or Jeff Malone).
David Benoit was a hard dunking small forward who was long and athletic. Unfortunately for him, his game half translated to how the NBA game was changing. Back in the 80s and very early 90s you could get away with being a small forward with no outside shot. Things were changing in the mid 90s, where everyone from Pippen to Grant Hill to Dan Majerle became more proficient on the outside. Even the fabled Dominique Wilkins had to start making threes in those days. David Benoit was part of that dying breed of non-proficient outside shooting small forwards. Had he come into the league in the 70s he would have probably hung around for longer than he did in the 90s.It behooves me to recount his career arc, but according to the Unofficial David Benoit site, after being undrafted at the end of his collegiate career he went on to play in Malaga, Spain and won the ACB (the name of the league, Raul Lopez fans may be familiar with it) Rookie of the year. After that he signed with the Jazz and played hard.
He quickly impressed the Jazz brass and became our starting small forward.
|Benoit doin' that thing he do.||YouTube video "I Love This Game: Are You Ready to Fly (NBA commercial)" [0:30] uploaded by onceuponatimeinnba|
Benoit's best years playing for the Jazz included being part of the 1993 All-Star Weekend Dunk contest (which took play in Salt Lake City); finishing that 1992-1993 season strong by averaging 12.7 ppg and 6.5 rpg; and in 1994-1995 he had his best year leading the Jazz in 3 pointers made (in the playoffs) and averaging 10.4 ppg (48.7%/33.0%/84.1%) and 5.2 rpg. It's important to note that his three point shooting was particularly impressive for him (and up to that point, any Utah Jazz forward).
Unfortunately for him, the team, and the fans, his strong regular season outside shooting did not carry over to the post season. The Jazz were ousted in 5 games (back then the 1st round of the playoffs was best of 5, kids) by the eventual champions, the Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler led Houston Rockets. In the decisive 5th game the Rockets won 95 - 91 to on the Delta Center floor. Hakeem and Clyde, like they had for most of the series, did all the scoring for the Rockets. Hakeem had 33 and Clyde with 31, with no one else scoring more than 8. On the Jazz side Karl Malone had a mighty 35, Jeff Hornacek knocked down 4 threes on his way to 19 and Stockton chipped in with 12 points. What about David?
Well, David Benoit was a key element to this game. The Rockets were aware of his shaky shooting from deep, and left him open during a decisive sequence of the 2nd half when the Rockets were climbing back and eventually took the lead. David finished with 8 points, but shot quite poorly (3 for 9), and went 2 for 8 from deep. For a point of reference, Karl Malone went 1 for 2 from deep in that game. David shot the ball 6 more times from three than Karl did, and only made 1 more three than he did. It's easy to point to this as empirical evidence that Benoit *cost* the Jazz that game, and that series -- but there are always other factors at play. His NBA career was all downhill from there.
Benoit's other notable blips on my selective memory radar include that one time that one of John Stockton's kids broke his arm trying to 'dunk it like Benoit' on a kiddie hoop; and of having a poor season ending exit interview with Jazz Brass one season -- which lead to him parlaying his trade in New Jersey (and later Orlando as a part of an astonishing trade that surrounded Yinka Dare for Rony Seikaly). During his career he played all over the world: Spain (Mayoral Marists in Malaga); Italy (Roseto Sharks); Israel (Maccabi Tel-Aviv); he came back to the Jazz for that 2000-2001 season for a bit; China (Shanghai Sharks alongside Yao Ming); and in Japan (Hitachi Sunrockers, Saitama Broncos). He played till he was 38 years old and was still an integral part of his teams -- especially in leagues where he could thrive as an inside player; never having become a serious outside threat. Today he remains a coach (in some capacity) with the Broncos. (or at least he did, back in 2007-2008)