9. Nate McMillan. Mac-10 may not have the offensive numbers of some of his fellow Sonic greats, but perhaps no player is more fondly remembered by fans than he, having spent his entire 12-year career with the team. Originally drafted in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft as a point guard from North Carolina State, from his rookie season McMillan showed extraordinary defensive tenacity. He was able to play and guard three positions on the floor with equal aplomb, while also running the offense. His career 44.3% field goal percentage was serviceable, and he blossomed into a prolific and credible 3-point threat later in his career. However, since McMillan wasn’t really a star-level player, he was displaced at the point guard spot when the team drafted Gary Payton #2 overall in 1990.
Some players would view this as insulting or a chance to be traded to pursue other opportunities, but McMillan loved the team and city he played in, and soon found that his versatility made him a natural 6th man and bench player, excellence which was soon coveted by many teams. For those who didn’t see him play at his best, he could perhaps be described as the Scottie Pippen of the 90s Supersonic teams. Able to run the offense as a point forward and guard opponent’s best swing players, McMillan terrorized offenses, leading the league in steals in 1993-94 averaging 3 steals a game – an unbelievable feat. McMillan finished in the top 10 in steals per game four times in his career and is currently 13th in NBA history in steals per game and 3rd in NBA history at steal percentage.
As his career wore on, in his early 30s McMillan’s body began to wear down, which was also a product of the high-octane, give 110% style that he played on the court. Diving for loose balls, taking charges, and not shying away from physical contact were hallmarks of his style but also contributed to his relatively early retirement at age 33. Some say that had McMillan been healthy during the 1996 NBA Finals series against the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls that the outcome might have been different – who knows, but the facts remain that McMillan was a beloved player and valuable piece of those 1990s Sonic teams, and the team rewarded his devotion to the franchise and fans of Seattle by retiring his number. McMillan was later named coach of the team and served in that capacity from 2000-05.
Enjoy this sweet Nate highlight video: