ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — A few months back, after Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy did a postgame interview with a WWE-style title belt draped over his shoulder, LeBron James hopped on Twitter and asked how he could get his hands on a WWE belt, “the real ones.”
Who do i need to talk to to get one of those World Championship Belt? WWE belt. The real ones— LeBron James (@KingJames) December 30, 2013
It didn’t even take a day before former Miami-resident Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson responded via social media to make LeBron’s wishes come true…
Now King James has gone one better. Earlier today he posted a photo on Instagram of the entire Heat team wearing title belts. As he wrote in the comment, “Always wanted to be the WWE Heavyweight World Champion so today I surprised my teammates with their own for their collection. And by the way it’s a Great time to be a @WWE fan with the launch of #WWENetwork #LoveMyTeammates #WWEStandOutAsAKid #StriveForGreatness”
And so we have our first. The season is barely a week old, but the Horry Scale has been broached. You want a surprise? It came in Miami, which may not be that shocking, but it came from a team that was not expected to contend this season, much less notch a win in Miami.
Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain. What is the Horry Scale? For those who are new around these parts, the Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
With the rules established, let’s check out tonight’s entry, when Jeff Green of Celtics delivered a knockout punch on South Beach to the reigning champions, the Miami Heat. Uncle Green ain’t new to this. But how do we rank it? Let’s break it down…
The old saying goes you play to tie at home and play to win on the road. And in this case, the Celtics played to win. I’m not sure how much more difficult this shot could have been. First of all, shoutout to Gerald Wallace for the inbound pass — he pump-faked to a completely covered Avery Bradley and got Birdman Birdman to briefly jump to his right, then tossed a two-hand, over the head strike to the far corner to Green. This was like Tom Brady throwing a perfect corner fade. Worth noting: Green was being defended on the play by LeBron James, an All-NBA defender. And when James turned his head for just a moment, Green took off for the corner, where he was met by Wallace’s pass and got off a shot without even setting his feet. Did this matter? Nope, not at all, as Green drained a fadeaway corner three over King James to give the Celts the road win. It was actually remarkably similar to Ray Allen’s three from Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. Still, in terms of difficulty, it’s hard to top this one.
Up two, with 0.6 seconds left to play, Dwyane Wade went to the free throw line with a chance to ice the game. His first shot rimmed out. His second shot, still with 0.6 remaining, was missed intentionally. BUT HE MISSED THE RIM. If Wade’s shot had simply drawn iron, the clock would have started, and even if the Celts had grabbed the board, there would have been perhaps 0.3 seconds left to get off a shot, which would have required something going to the rim or an alley-oop. But Wade whiffing on everything meant a violation, and the Celts were able to take the ball out of bounds on their end with no time ticking off the clock. As important as Jeff Green’s shot was, Wade not being able to draw rim was equally consequential in this instance.
Yes, we’re still early in the season, and some may argue that winning in general isn’t that important for the Celtics this season. So really, the Celtics probably didn’t need to win this game. And for the Heat, OK, sure, it’s just another early season game. The loss knocked Miami to 4-3, but three seasons ago they began 5-5 and still made the NBA Finals, so if anything we understand that a game this early in the season doesn’t carry that much weight.
Considering we’re early in the season and there was little at stake in terms of postseason standings or placement, the celebration was pretty fiery. Kelly Olynyk gave a 360 chest bump, and Wallace and Bradley were right there to give hugs. Bonus points to the coaching staff and bench players for their quick arrivals, as well.
GRADE 3 Horrys. It was a ridiculous shot, there’s no denying that. And while the shot rated highly in most Horry Scale categories, we have to dock it a bit due to the game being relatively inconsequential. It was a nice win for the Celts and a tough loss for the Heat, but there’s a lot of NBA left to play. So we’ll give this one three Horrys.
‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich wore this jersey during a 1971 game as a member of the New Orleans Jazz.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — News broke last night that the NBA was considering allowing some players to wear nicknames on their jerseys. Now, before the Fun Police show up and try to ruin this for everyone, let’s make clear that according to the story, this is just a one-time thing — one game, two teams (Miami and Brooklyn), for only one night. But it’s clearly indicative of an idea that the NBA is at the very least open to considering, even if only on a limited basis.
Nicknames on jerseys has happened in other sports — soccer players around the world do it now, and closer to home, former Braves owner Ted Turner once tried to give pitcher Andy Messersmith the nickname “Channel” so that his jersey would read “Channel 17,” a free ad for Turner’s nascent broadcasting business.
This has also taken place in the NBA and ABA, back in the day, as seen in the photo of “Pistol” Pete Maravich up top on this post. But as the NBA has grown in popularity and become more corporate, the wiggle room for fun stuff like nicknames on jerseys has been squeezed out.
As a person who is an avowed opponent of the Fun Police, I am one-thousand-million percent in favor of this idea, if only because I’m sure fans of different players would love to rock jerseys with nicknames on the back. Above and beyond the jerseys we night see in a Miami/Brooklyn game — KING JAMES, for instance — off the top of my head, here are some nicknames that would be neat to see on the back of official NBA jerseys…
BIRDMAN BIRDMAN — Chris Andersen
BIG SHOT — Chauncey Billups
BONES — Brent Barry throwback edition
MAMBA — Kobe Bryant, or…
VINO — Kobe Bryant
BIG BABY — Glen Davis
FUNDAMENTAL — Tim Duncan
MANIMAL — Kenneth Faried
BOOBIE — Daniel Gibson
AK-47 — Andrei Kirilenko
LINSANITY — Jeremy Lin
KRYPTO-NATE — Nate Robinson
Now you tell us, which nickname jerseys would you like to see?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I do not have any tattoos. Years ago, this may have put me in a societal majority, but these days I’m not so sure. Today tattoos are common, and particularly in professional sports. In the NBA, where guys run around with most of their bodies exposed, the art is particularly visible.
And in some cases, even when it isn’t visible, guys are still inked out. If you’re interested, Slate put together a pretty amazing interactive compendium of NBA tattoo art that you can get lost in.
Worth noting: After free agency, there’s going to be a lot of re-formulating to be done.
- ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — On days during the NBA Finals when there are no games being played, the NBA organizes what is called Media Availability. Basically, each team takes a turn facing the assembled media, answering a similar gauntlet of questions about the game that just happened or the game that is about to occur.
One day last weekend in Miami, I decided to ask Chris Andersen, the Birdman, about his take on NBA style. We’ve seen how he’s evolved, but we haven’t really heard him speak on it. So I sidled up to him during media availability, asked him a few questions, had a laugh, and moved on. It was a short exchange, basically a minute long, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with the video. Post it? Or just forget about it?
I ended up forgetting about it until this morning, when I was perusing Getty and came across this photo of the Birdman’s arrival to Game 5…
I guess this conforms to the NBA Dress Code? Actually, it reminds me of my favorite reality star on TV, Uncle Si from “Duck Dynasty.” (Hey!)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Miami Heat have received an unexpected boost this season from Chris Andersen, aka The Birdman, aka Birdman Birdman. For a team that won a title last year while constantly shuffling their center rotation, Andersen has given them a stable option off the bench, always energetic and frenetic and moving and contesting. He may not be the most skilled player in the paint, but he always plays hard and comes to play, which is more than you can say for a lot of NBA bigs.
Of course, a large part of the Birdman package is his look — Birdman is The Illustrated Man, covered with colorful tattoos, right up his arms and up to his chin, like a turtleneck of ink. This is topped off by an aggressive mohawk that somehow stays vertical throughout an entire NBA game.
But it wasn’t always this way. When Birdman broke into the NBA’s professional ranks, playing in the NBA D-League in the 2001-02 season, his skin was relatively undoctored, his head shaved. But since then, as this tweet from Nicki Jhabvala shows, Birdman has undergone quite an evolution…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — One of the great new memes of the playoffs has come courtesy of our cohort Shaq over on “Inside the NBA.” It began with a discussion of Heat center Chris Andersen, who has long been known as “Birdman.” During a highlight featuring Andersen, Shaq Diesel, in an inspired reference to the (corporate synergy alert) Adult Swim program “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law,” began shouting “BIRDMAN, BIRDMAN!“
And it now has officially become a thing. Here’s a quick supercut of Shaq mentions:
I can’t say that I mind, because Shaq yelling this out always cracks up Ernie Johnson. And that’s always a great thing.