|Posted by paul on October 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM|
Players like John Wall, Kevin Durant and Lebron James have filled up our summer with dunkadelic highlights. By comparison, Rondo's neon kicks have stood out more than his heroics. Except for one play.
As he has so often done, Rondo surprised everyone in the end, and somehow snuck off with the consensus Sickest Play of the Summer Award. It doesn't matter that it was in a meaningless game, against a team more overmatched than the typical GlobeTrotters opponent; it was Rondo proving that he is, in his own inimitable way, a modern Human Highlight Film.
One of the reasons I like Rajon Rondo is that he reminds me a lot of another Boston sports legend: Doug Flutie. Like Flutie, he seems to think about his game differently from everyone else; because of this, like Flutie, he polarizes fans. Where Flutie was dubbed/dismissed as 'the midget', Rondo is ridiculed as 'the alien'. No matter what Flutie did during his illustrious career, his accomplishments were belittled. When he led Boston College to its greatest success in decades, perhaps ever, it was because BC faced weak competition. When he won the Heisman award, it was because he threw a fluke Hail Mary. When he dominated the CFL like no player before or since, it was because the CFL is a minor league. When he posted a winning record in the NFL and became a pro-bowler, it was because of his team's defense. If he threw a touchdown pass, it was a great catch. If he ran for a first down, it was because he couldn't throw. But, really, it was all because he was DIFFERENT.
Rondo may have been lucky that he wasn't a big star in college. When Doug Flutie came to the pros, he already had a fan club, but he was also already the most hated player in football. Rondo slipped in under the radar, as he loves to do. Even so, it didn't take long for the boo birds to take notice. The more Rondo accomplished, the more they hated him. Headcase. Can't shoot. Too many circus moves. Even coaches got in on the act, claiming that Rondo would be a scrub without the Big Three. It makes one wonder, doesn't it? How can a guy who brings so much to the game of basketball, and clearly loves the game so much, come in for so much hate?
Ever notice that every sport seems to attract a certain type of 'hardcore' fan? These are folks who claim to understand the game better than everyone else, and they prove it by seeming to know every stat about every player, and all the ins and outs of all the different offensive and defensive sets, etc., etc., etc.. In my opinion, this is the crowd that can't stand to see someone different succeed, someone who confounds their well-honed expectations of how the game should be played. They like their football to be all about Big Hits, and they like their basketball to be all about Big Dunks, and they don't like someone who marches to a different drummer. These are fans who will never warm up to Rondo. No matter what he does over the rest of his career, they'll always find reasons to belittle him. They don't like him because he's not Lebron James, not Michael Jordan, not Blake Griffin, for gosh sakes! He's Rajon Rondo.
Lately, they've gotten on Rondo's case because he said that this has been the best summer of his life. Good grief! How silly is the Rondo Hate going to become? Personally, I think Rondo sounded great in his latest interview. He sounds like a guy who is, as the Boston Globe put it, "raring to go".
"Yesterday, the Celtics point guard made an appearance at a Boston bookstore to sign magazine covers featuring his photo....
“I hope there’s a season,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to it and everyone around the league is, even the fans.
“It’s just an extended vacation as far as trying to continue to train and get better. It’s more time for me to work on my game ..."
“The elbow is fine. I have been playing in a lot of games and it hasn’t given me any problems yet.’’...
“This has been the best summer of my life, really,’’ he said. “Lockout or not, I’m still going to enjoy my life and do what I do best.’’"
Rondo sounds like a guy who is not only ready for NBA basketball, but ready to lead. Asked about whether he is planning to sponsor an allstar charity game of his own for Boston, he said this:
"If such a game were to come to fruition in Boston, it would in all likelihood be sparked by Rondo. So I asked Rondo, are we going to see a game like that here in Boston? "Not yet," said Rondo, who was in town this weekend at a Red Bull magazine cover signing at Barnes & Nobles Bookstore in Boston. "Guys maybe looking at me to do it. But I don't know yet." Rondo's hoping the season will start sooner rather than later so there wouldn't be enough time for such games to be organized. "
To me, this sounds like a guy who recognizes that he is expected to lead, and who is ready to take on that challenge. It's amazing to think back to the way Rondo started last season, at an MVP level of play, especially considering the short summer he had, shortened even more by his attempt to join the USA team. This year he is rested and sounds eager. I think we can expect a lot from him, whenever the games start.
Lang Whitaker interviewed Rondo for Slam magazine (seems to be a Nike ad). His may be the best one line description of Rondo's game so far:
"In a League where we so often look for absolutes, Rajon Rondo’s game has shading; it’s subtle when it needs to be, screams when it has to be heard."
I'm pretty sure Rondo will be heard a lot when NBA games start again. But don't expect the boo-birds to give it a rest.