By Brian Taylor
Owner of one of the NBA’s best nicknames ever, “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison played well ahead of his time, winning an NCAA title as a freshman at Louisville. With Denny Crum at the helm, the Cardinals ran through the tourney and Pervis earned M.O.P. honors. After wreaking havoc on opponents at Louisville, Pervis made the jump to the NBA in the 1989 draft, which featured the likes of Shawn Kemp, Nick Anderson and Tim Hardaway. Ellison ended up with the powder-blue edition Sacramento Kings (before the black socks, purple jerseys and Maloofs). As usual, the Kings got a high draft pick expected to save the franchise, and as usual it didn’t pan out, eventually sending Pervis to the Bullets in a three way trade involving Utah’s Bobby Hansen and Washington’s previous crowd favorite, Jeff Malone. In D.C., under the teachings of fellow Louisville Cardinal Wes Unseld, Pervis blossomed into a real NBA center, going from an injury riddled newbie, to the Most Improved Player of 1991 averaging 20 points and 11 boards per game. At 6’9”, 210, Pervis was one of the first undersized, wiry “speed-over-size” postmen in the league, a predecessor to the Duncans and Garnetts of the league. Pervis wouldn’t back you down to score, he’d throw about 2 quick moves to get around you to score, and when he was on, he was dangerous. Alongside Harvey Grant (Horace Grant’s evil, slightly thinner twin brother) and Tom Gugliotta (another “Next Larry Bird” candidate), the Bullets actually looked poised to make a return to the playoffs.
Why you probably forgot him: A side note on the aforementioned nickname, his OWN TEAMMATE, Danny “the Whiner” Ainge in SacTown dubbed him “Out of Service” Pervis, for his constant injury and 34-game rookie season. He was hurt a few weeks after the draft and was damaged goods before he really played in the NBA, having bone spurs removed from his ankles. Apparently, the goal of his NBA career was to be the Most Improved Player, and then tease Bullets fans for years with what could’ve been an incredible career. I can remember every season in my Bullets scrapbook having an asterisk next to it, that said “without Pervis”, meaning that the previous season was a fluke, because being so young, Ellison could bounce back. Pervis went on to average a mere 37 games a year from that magical 1991 season to the rest of his career. Bobby Hansen turned into a serviceable backup point guard, and Jeff Malone became a third offensive option behind Malone and Stockton, before ending his career in Philly, and Pervis…well I remember him growing Brian Grant strength dreadlocks after going to Boston, but he was never more than a back up center after that. Pervis’ bad wheels never really healed up, and when his knees went, his toe started acting up, all of which prompted him to call it a career in 2000, after playing just nine games for the Sonics. After some internet nosiness, I came across Pervis’ blog, and he has some good insights on the league, so if you get some time before filing off those TPS reports, give him a look.