Fact checking and cross checking stats of classic BBL players is by no means an easy task. As such, it would seem that a number of players from the past seem to be somewhat forgotten and remain only in folklore and legend among people that once saw them grace the hardwood of a BBL court. However, without this particular player the shape of British basketball could be very different. The stats and information you can uncover about Byrd are available on Wikipedia and various websites that pay homage to the classic teams he played for and led to victory. Teams such as Crystal Palace, Livingston, (Murrey International), Manchester and Kingston are all teams that still hold very high regard for Byrd and those fortunate enough to have seen him play have fond memories of successful seasons. Byrd was exceptional on the court and his performances legendary, but it was perhaps his performances off the court that had a greater impact on the British game. If there was a televised game, live from the Royal Albert Hall or Wembley Areana and Byrds team were not playing, he would be in the studio, commentating and offering his expert opinions and charasmatic positive attitude to the sport we all know and love. He began to create a persona off the court of a very approachable, yet driven individual, hell bent on publicising basketball, generating new fans and raising awareness of the game in general, both British and across the pond in the NBA. He approached the BBC with a strategy of bringing American sports footage and debate to the UK audience and was given a radio show on BBC 5 Live covering all American sports being played in their native home and the UK counterpart. He then became the UK’s face of the NBA, where he hosted the weekly show, NBA Jam Session, which featured a “Marquee Matchup” game of the week as well as the NBA’s “Courtside Countdown” a top ten plays from that week. It also included BBL news and footage, making the game more accessable to the UK market. I myself was a regular viewer, watching once a week with eager intent and anticipation of the weekly match ups or highlight reels from the NBA and the BBL. Alton Byrd became a household name to anyone in the late 80’s or early 90’s that was of fan of basketball.

My father once saw Alton at Ponds Forge Sports Complex, Sheffield, at a none basketball event, surrounded by autograph hunters and readily accepting the attention and admiration. A rare sight for a professional BBL player, even by todays standards. Such was Altons charisma and distinctive appearance on and off the basketball court.

On the court his record speaks for itself. He was part of one of the most successful teams in NBL history, Crystal Palace, as well as one of the best teams in BBL history, Kingston. He spearheaded the offences of every team he played for, with exceptional court vision and the ability to find an open man with his amazing passing. He was named the player of the season consecutively in 1991 and 1992, and led the league in assists whilst leading Kingston to 13 trophies in a 5 year span.

Alton Byrd is clearly one of the greatest players in BBL history. His massive career assists statistic of 1,188 assists in 152 games is more than just a benchmark in the BBL. His contribution and influence on the British game can only be compared with someone like Magic Johnson and his effect on the NBA. Although not similar in stature, both players are similar in charisma and potentially the saviours of their respective basketball leagues. Although arguably it was Byrd that initiated the popularity in British basketball, rather than Magic Johnson reviving the NBA’s popularity. Without Alton Byrd it could be speculated that the BBL’s continued popularity and consistent fan base would not be what it is today, without his off court efforts and on court excellence.

With modern day point guards proving their worth in the NBA and BBL, there still rarely comes such an impact from such a small player. When there does, there is something of a media storm surrounding them. Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics is having such an impact in the NBA currently, listed at 5ft 9, which ironically was Alton Byrds listed height in College. The closest comparison to Byrd currently in the BBL would perhaps be someone like Rahmon Fletcher. Fletcher has only been in the league since 2014, but his impact has been immediate. The Newcastle Eagles completed a Quadruple, league, playoffs, cup and trophy wins in Fletcher’s first season, as well as winning silverware every season since his arrival. Plus he has already been named the Molten Player of the Season back to back, in the last two years, a feat the Byrd himself achieved in the early 90’s. Fletcher is listed at 5ft 10, and has incredible ball handling, distribution and court vision. He was second in the league last season in scoring, but like Byrd, Fletcher led the league in Assists.

Alton Byrd currently works as the Vice President of Business Operations for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, and their G-League team, the Long Island Nets. It could have been the perfect end to the story had Alton remained in the UK and coached for longer, and maybe even ran his own team in the BBL. The continued dedication to his sport would have only raised the profile of basketball more, but to what extent, we can only speculate. A true great of the British game.