As far as basketball goes, Ballarat's Ray Borner has done it all.
His professional resume includes four Olympic Games appearances and an NBL MVP award.He has matched up against some of the top players in the world - many of whom were household names and others that could have been.
Now enjoying retirement, Borner agreed to sit down with The Courier to list the 10 best players he encountered throughout his 30-year career.
Most, you would have heard of, but others might surprise you. All of them however, possessed talent and ability that was undeniable.
10. Robert Rose
If there is one thing everyone on this list has in common, it is a desire to win at all costs. Borner experienced Robert Rose's competitiveness both as an opponent and teammate in the National Basketball League. At six-foot-six he was an ideal size for a wing, and possessed a silky smooth skillset opponents would wonder at. Like most on Borner's list, when the game was there to be won, he won it. And he looked damn good doing it. With an NBL championship and two Most Valuable Player awards to his name, Borner considers Rose one of the best imports to ever play in Australia.
9. Dominique Wilkins
For basketball junkies he needs no introduction, but those who weren't around in the 1980s might not be as familiar. Known literally as a 'human highlight reel', Dominique Wilkins is considered one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game. Borner got a glimpse of the American's jaw-dropping physicality while playing at Louisiana State University in the early 1980s. Borner's teammate found himself on the wrong side of a Wilkins dunk which shook the 15,000-fan arena to its core. He went on to become a nine-time NBA All-star. Borner wasn't surprised.
8. Vladimir Tkachenko
The name might not ring any bells, but Vladimir Tkachenko sure as heck rang Ray Borner's. Listed at seven-foot-three and 141 kilograms, Borner said Tkachenko was the biggest man he ever played against. Borner matched up on the gigantic Russian over several games during an international series against the Soviet Union prior to the 1988 Olympics. Not only was he big, he could play too. He dunked, blocked anything that came near him, and was a monster of a rebounder.
"He was just an animal," Borner said.
"He was thick and relatively athletic and I always wondered why he didn't play in the NBA."
7. Charles Barkley
Borner insists he was in the building the day an American 20-year-old named Charles Barkley earned himself a multi-million dollar NBA contract. Borner's LSU coach said as much after Barkley - then playing for Auburn University - torched Borner and his teammates in a collegiate clash attended by NBA scouts. Borner guarded Barkley again in a 1996 pre-Olympic clash in Utah while playing for Australia. By that time 'Sir Charles' was a 10-time NBA all star, and was an even bigger star off the court. On the court, Borner said he was as hard as nails, and played well above his six-foot-six frame.
6. Shaquille O'Neal
Arguably the greatest centre to ever play the game, Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most famous players in history. Many dreaded going up against his seven-foot, 140-kilogram frame, and for good reason. By the time his professional career ended he was a four-time champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and considered by many as the most unstoppable force to play the game. Borner learned why after guarding him at the 1996 Olympics. He said he was just impossible to move.
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