All my life, my greatest dream has been to become a professional athlete. Unfortunately, my genes won’t allow me to do that. Maybe I should have set my sights on the national spelling bee, because Indians rock that shit every year. But as far as actual sports, I’m limited to mostly wondering “what if”.
In any case, I bring this up because a friend of mine asked recently if I had the choice would I:
A) Catch a game-winning TD
B) Sink a game-winning bucket
C) Hit a walk off homerun
I thought about this for about 5 seconds and answered B. And not because it’s the most popular sport (Football is) or the least physically demanding (Baseball is) or because you get paid the most (probably baseball again, unless you’re a top-tier basketball talent).
It’s because of the celebration afterwards. Think about it. Football players are flagged and penalized and hounded by media talking heads for doing anything remotely exciting. Baseball players are similarly taken to task for “not respecting the game” and baseball players in general tend to be pretty boring anyway (when Jose Reyes is considered to be an entertaining personality, you have a problem).
The NBA isn’t my favorite league by a long stretch, but part of what brings me back to the game every All-Star game and playoff series is the characters involved. Only in basketball do you get see guys like Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Rafer Alston, Chris “The Bird Man” Anderson and countless other completely insane characters get on a national stage. And with a collection of insane characters you also get the best celebrations.
And with all that said, here it is: a list of my favorite NBA celebrations.
#9. Sam Cassel’s Big Huevos dance, as demonstrated by Kobe
Minus points for ripping off Sam Cassel. Minus points for going on to lose the game after doing said dance. Plus points for the sheer awesomeness of the dance, ripped off or not.
#8. Kobe steals one from the Suns
Minus points for coming after a controversial jump ball call on Nash. Minus points for Kobe stealing another move, this time doing Jordan’s single fist pump. Minus points for the Laker fans not being able to come up with anything better than “MVP” chants. Plus points for the chest beating and thumping by Kobe afterwards. This is not something many other players would do, because many of them are not as self-centered as Kobe and wouldn’t separate from their teammates so soon after a buzzer beater to get some solo camera time. But you gotta give him something for being unique (since he rarely is, ha!).
#7. Dwayne Wade wants you to recognize
Dwayne Wade makes the running 3 after picking up the loose ball, then runs over to the scorer’s table and hops on top of it. He just demands that everyone look up to him and celebrate his greatness. A Kobe-esque move, where the celebration is all about the player and not the team. But the difference is that the Heat suck and his teammates didn’t deserve shit. Also have to love the look on Brad Miller’s face. Well done.
#6. When you know it’s good without having to see it
A classic Jordan. The cameraman doesn’t even have to follow the shot , because Jordan started celebrating right after he let go of the ball. Of course, Craig Ehlo in the background falling down is what really puts the finishing shine on this game winner.
#5. Reggie Miller beats Jordan, loses his mind
First, you have to love Reggie’s play here. He shoved Jordan out the way, giving MJ a taste of his own medicine (see “Classic Jordan”, below). This is back before the NBA decided to pansify the game; nowadays, you’d probably get 5-to-life for that move. But the best part is Reggie’s reaction. Even in 1998, with Jordan on the decline, beating MJ in a playoff game like this was so unspeakable that it caused even the coolest, most clutch shooter in the game to completely lose his mind.
4. Ben Gordon has something to show you.
Grabbing your balls after a huge shot in one of the all-time great games in NBA history– something the league will predictably cut out of their classic games footage, but I will remember this moment fondly. For the record, this is my celebration of choice if I were to ever be in that position.
#3. Classic Jordan
Jordan basically invents the “freeze your follow through” move. This occurs in 1998, well after Jordan had already cemented his legacy. He doesn’t have anything to prove, so now it’s just about style points. Look at the faces of the Utah fan at 0:46. That’s the face of someone who realizes that they always knew in their hearts that weren’t going to win. Jordan had that kind of effect.
#2. Lebron’s Jordan moment
Listen to the dead silence before the shot and eruption of sound after it. Watch for Mo William’s disbelieving collapse on the court and Lebron just losing it and sprinting down the court to join his teammates after the shot. Check out Stan Van Gundy’s “well, what are you going to do” face at 0:55. Awesome.
#1. Baron Davis shares a moment with the best fans in the NBA
Why is this #1? Because this celebration is noteworthy not just for the player involved, but for the fans and teammates’ reaction.
Allow me to set the scene. The Golden State Warriors, hailing from one of the most hard-luck cities in the USA (Oakland, Calif.), are playing in their first playoff game in 13 years. The Warriors sport one of the most eclectic starting lineups in the NBA, with team leader Baron “Boom Dizzle” Davis, Stephen “Captain Jack” Jackson, Monta “Mississippi Bullet” Ellis, and Matt “Needs a Cool Nickname” Barnes. These are guys with tons of talent, tons of character, and tons of tattoos, but not a ton of star power.
They also had an equally off-beat home crowd, who weren’t priced out of the arena by richer corporate types that had taken over every other playoff team’s stands. The result was magic, and this clip showed it all. Look at the reaction by the fan starting at 0:32—pure unadulterated joy and amazement. Nothing exemplifies “Where Amazing Happens” like the look on that fan’s face right there.