Praise The Basketball Gods, for you have smiled on us this June, most likely because Red Auerbach has joined your ranks. You have treated us to an incredible Lakers vs. Celtics matchup that has nearly lived up to the hype. (I say nearly because it’s not clear that even a Game Seven triple-overtime buzzer-beater fadeaway jumper could justify this amount of coverage.)
This series has evoked fuzzy memories of Magic and Larry Legend, Rambis and McHale, Worthy and Parish. Showtime vs. The Big Three. Memories we thought were long gone.
Twenty years later, we have a rekindled rivalry with a new cast of characters: the Celtics’ “Big Three” vs. “Kobe … and those other guys.”
These two teams have been analyzed and dissected in every possible way. Stories have run on every tidbit that might turn the tide from one side to another. No stone has been left unturned, except one. Drum roll, please — I shall now upturn it.
Who wins the battle of the nicknames?
This might seem trivial, but it’s not. Having credible nicknames is key to being taken seriously as a championship contender. Just ask the 2006 Mavericks. Did we really expect a team led by the “Big German” and coached by the “Little General” to win a championship against “The Flash” and “The Big Diesel?” That’s right, I didn’t think so.
Let’s see how the starting five of this year’s Lakers and Celtics stack up.
PG: Rajon “Rondo” Rondo vs. Derek “D-fish” Fisher
I assume D-fish stands for dogfish, which isn’t very pleasant, but neither was that time D-fish nuked the Spurs back in 2004. As for Rondo, the naming isn’t quite complete. In most cases, an utterance of Rondo is usually followed by, “Oh crap, please don’t do what I think you’re about to do.” This is occasionally followed by, “YESSSSSSS,” but more consistently followed by an audible groan.
Considering that Doc Rivers forgets Rondo’s name during the long stretches when he inexplicably leaves Sam Cassell in the game, the edge has to go to D-fish.
SG: Ray “Jesus” Allen vs. Sasha “Vujacic”
Thanks to Jeff Van Gundy’s numerous and horrific mispronunciations, Vujacic has become a nickname in itself. Bonus points are awarded for the View-ja-sic pronunciation.
For those of you not paying attention in the ’90s, Ray Allen’s nickname derives from his appearance in the Spike Lee project He Got Game. Unfortunately for Allen, “Jesus” lost track of his game somewhere around the start of the playoffs and is only now coming back from wandering the desert. Still, this is Vooooo-ya-chik we’re talking about.
SF: Paul “The Truth” Pierce vs. Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant
In a strange twist of fate, Pierce’s “nom de guerre” was given by none other than the Big Diesel back in 2001. Who knew this innocuous gesture of admiration would come back to bite the Lakers and give Kobe more reason to revile Shaq?
As for Kobe, the nickname is somewhat auxiliary, as most of the greatest players of our time are simply known by a single name. Jordan, Bird, Magic, Kareem, etc. … For Kobe, it’s simply Kobe, as in, “Uh-oh, Kobe has the ball.”
The Truth, of course, is that Paul Pierce is tougher than all of the Lakers combined.
PF: Kevin “KG” Garnett vs. Lamar Odom
In the PF match up, nicknames are hard to come by. Odom doesn’t have a go-to nickname. In the past, he has been referred to as “Lo,” “The Goods,” or just “Lamar.” After that incident back in 2001, we can only hope that Odom has stayed away from “The Goods.” For now we’ll just assume that Phil Jackson calls him “The Guy Who I Wish Was Scotty Pippen.”
On the flip side, if there were ever a player too intense for something so superficial as a “nickname,” it’d be Kevin Garnett. This is why he goes by KG. It’s more economical, concise, and easy to scream at an opponent’s face after a nasty dunk. Quick digression: at a Celtics game earlier this season, after Rondo made a particularly nifty layup and fell to the ground, Kevin Garnett refused to help him up, and instead kept screaming at him and giving him high fives. That’s KG for you.
To return, Kevin Garnett does not need a nickname, just like he doesn’t need to shoot anything but turnaround fadeaways in the fourth quarter. Sigh. KG, you are six-foot-twenty and being guarded by Ronny Turiaf. Please attack the basket.
Alas, without any compelling nicknames at this position, we’ll have to call it a draw.
C: Kendrick “Perk” Perkins vs. Pau “The Meal Ticket” Gasol.
The centers in this series are quite enigmatic, and their nicknames say about as much. During any given game, Perkins has the ability to “Perk” up and drop twenty and ten. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen him confuse his hands for tennis racquets.
Pau’s nickname comes from the fact that when he’s on fire, everyone gets a “Free Meal.” I’ve never seen him called this, but then again, I’ve also never seen him box out. So I guess it balances out.
Win goes to the “Perk,” if only as a consolation prize for the lackluster applause he received coming back from injury in Game One. Sorry, “Perk,” but unlike Pierce, the Celtics won’t live or die depending on your performance. And by sorry, I mean, thank goodness.
Coach: “Doc” Rivers vs. Phil “Zen Master” Jackson
Doctor Glenn “Doc” Rivers received his PhD in psychology from Marquette University and is now conducting postdoctoral research on the ability of coaching decisions to cause emotional torment and long -lasting psychological pain. Notable experiments have included repeatedly benching and unbenching Rajon Rondo, playing Sam Cassell, and forgetting what a “rotation” is.
Phil “Zen Master” Jackson took an alternate approach in his study of psychology. And by alternate, I mean a Largely Surreal Daily Regimen of Study. His unorthodox approaches have included thinking NBA players want to learn about Buddhism and comparing former Sacramento Kings Coach Rick Adelman to Hitler. Nonetheless, he has nine rings, so who’re we to question his genius?
For a final tally, the Celtics win 3-2. An impressive win, considering the Celtics didn’t even have to play the “Big Baby” card.
Next week: Scalabrine vs. Mihm. Who takes the twelfth-man throw down?
Until then, “Beat LA! Beat LA!”