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Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 12:44 pm  |  40 responses

Who Is Sam Cassell’s Rightful Heir?

TBF is staunchly unafraid to ask the big questions.

by John Krolik

With Sam Cassell yet to play a minute this season and appearing for all intents and purposes to have retired as a player, the NBA has a noticeable void. Although Sam’s story is far from over—he’s destined to be on a studio show sooner rather than later and make Gary Payton look like Joe Buck. (I have seen Sam Cassell in person exactly once, in the locker room before his last game as a Clipper. There’s no describing what the experience is like. He’s like the extreme of everything you think he would be, only more so. My then-boss, the great Brian Kamenetzky, said, “When Sam becomes a head coach in this league, I will immediately move to that city and try to cover that team.” He was kidding. I think. I cannot wait for Sam Cassell’s next job, is what I’m saying here.)

So it will be many moons before we have to say goodbye to what we love about Sam off the court, but Sam The Player has left a void as well. So few guards become high-level players through attitude and sheer will to make shots—Sam’s Sam's Dancecourt vision wasn’t even all that good, and he shot with his feet touching, but when he got the ball he knew in his mind he was going to score. And all that wonderful ethos of Sam was encapsulated by his signature big balls dance, the greatest random NBA quirk ever, according to this official list I just made:

1. Testicle Dance, Sam Cassell (Reason: Greatness)
2. Nogin Knock, Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson (Reason: Glorious pointlessness, dual participation)
3. Gilbert Arenas, arms raised (Reason: The ball was in the air! Downgrade: Only did it once)
4. Antoine Walker, Shimmy (Reason: Read that again)
5. DeShawn Stevenson, hand-wave (Reason: Snuck cocaine reference into NBA without anybody knowing. Downgrade: DeShawn is terrible at basketball.)

In any case, on at least two occasions NBA players have tried to revive the big balls dance this season:

1. Kobe Bryant vs. San Antonio Spurs
Notice here that, as one would expect from Kobe, the form on the big balls dance is absolutely textbook—the dance is done at a jogging pace, the legs are splayed out in the correct position, the hands are swung in perfect counter-motions with each other and the finish is extended so as to accentuate the size of the pantomimed big balls. Kobe Bryant: meticulous about all things basketball.

2. Andre Iguodala vs. Boston Celtics
Not only was this much worse form, but ‘Dre’s decision to break out the dance while its progenitor was on the opposing bench watching was particularly foolish.

The truly important thing to note about these instances is that in both cases the team lost on the subsequent play—Kobe’s game-winner was stolen by an improbable 20-footer from Roger Mason Jr. while he was getting fouled, and Andre’s Sixers immediately fell victim to a perfectly designed play to get Ray Allen open for the game-winning 3. Clearly, what has happened here is that the big balls dance is cursed, and will cause anyone who impetuously uses it will be cursed by the basketball Gods. (Basketbawful picked up on this phenomena as well.)

Logically, the clear obvious next step is that one heir to the big balls dance needs to be named and bestowed with its power in a secret ceremony by Sam Cassell on his mothership, so the dance may remain in our league without being further cursed. That much is obvious. The tricky part is trying to figure out which player deserves having the honor bestowed upon him. Here are my nominees, in no particular order:

Kobe Bryant

Pros: Generally considered the best last-shot player in basketball and unquestionably unafraid of taking, and making, big shots. Leads NBA with an average of 57.3 points per 48 minutes in “clutch” situations. The Mamba.

Cons: Already tragically misused the power of the dance once and may lack the necessary responsibility. Arguably such a virtuoso talent as a scorer that the dance is incongruous. More than anything, is too insecure in how he presents himself and attempts to manicure his image far too much—we’ve seen “hate me if you want” Kobe, private Kobe, awkward attempt at humor Kobe, “seriously, I’m a good teammate” Kobe, and “I am a basketball robot sent to demoralize your players and burn down your village” Kobe. He doesn’t know who he is, we don’t know who he is. The Dance requires a unified vision of self and confidence to unfurl the swagger that entails.

LeBron James

Pros: The League’s other marquee star, James, like Kobe, always has the ball in his hands as the clock winds down and may quietly be even more productive in the clutch than Kobe—his “clutch” stats have been as good, if not better, than Kobe’s for three years, with only 0.3 less points per 48 on seven less shots and five more assists per 48 this season. And LeBron’s Cavs have consistently been a great team in close games, playing as well in close games last season as any team ever has. Despite all this, LeBron doesn’t have quite the closer reputation others enjoy. Calling some attention to his prowess could silence some critics.

Cons: While he’s adept at scoring when the pressure’s on, LeBron’s much less of a final-shot assassin than Kobe and only has one buzzer-beating game-winner in his career. What LeBron does do is take the ball to the basket on the game’s last play as well as anyone ever has, which presents a problem.

The swagger represented by the dance in question is a David’s sling for the smaller players to defeat teams through sheer confidence in self and ability to do the near-impossible. LeBron’s game-winners are a representation of his completely overpowering physical gifts and skill. While that certainly requires confidence, it doesn’t require the confidence that tossing up a 20-footer with two hands in your face does. And the crab dribble is not a good thing to have on the resume. Also, many national media members would probably interpret the dance as a pantomime of subway tunnels, a clear hint that he plans to leave for New York.

Manu Ginobili

Pros: Last year, the top tier of “clutch” players was Manu, LeBron and Kobe. Manu’s team is the one that’s won rings recently. The go-to scorer on a team that’s the League’s most notorious for finding ways to win.

Carmelo ClutchCons: A thousand times no. I’m pretty sure Manu thinks the dance means “I have accumulated a lot of change and am unsure what to do with it, so for the moment there is much change in my pockets, which I find unwieldy.” Also, no.

Carmelo Anthony

Pros: Actually, Anthony is probably the best last-shot player in the NBA, having made game-winning—or tying—shots at a much better clip than anyone else, with 10 makes.

Cons: …In the regular season.

Ray Allen/Eddie House

Pros: They more or less cancel each other out—House is a dead-eye shooter with limited skill in other areas but off-the-charts confidence and willingness to put shots up, while Allen is tremendously skilled and mild-mannered but is an absolute assassin at the end of games, Thursday’s brick against the Lakers notwithstanding.

*****

These players are very good, especially in the clutch, but the following are my finalists for the honor:

Kevin Durant

Pros: A budding assassin, he’s already got himself a very nice reel of game-winners. He’s still growing into his personality, and it could benefit him tremendously to give OKC fans a healthy amount of swagger to get behind. But still, his combination of height, shooting ability and confidence all absolutely scream future assassin.

Cons: Let’s see how the kid does when he’s got actual pressure put on him. This is a decision we can’t afford to be wrong about.

Roger Mason, Jr.

Pros: Already has two huge game-winning 3-point plays on national television to win games to his credit. An absolutely unconscious shooter from deep. In crunch time, has a ridiculous 70 percent eFG on jumpers. Has an assassin’s name, even. Being a non-big 3 guy who takes the big shots = definitely swaggerous.

He seems to be the Spurs’ new “For all the stars everyone has, he’s the guy who represents the difference between a win and a loss” guy, a role Robert Horry previously filled. We lost Horry to cheap-shotting and evil. If Mason can inherit the dance, he could be an infinitely cooler clutch guy and bring joy and phenomenal swag where there once only was a lack of emotion and flopping in the valley of desolate winning that is the Spurs. Let a new dawn in San Antonio arise from Roger Mason’s private area.

Cons: Mason is more of a catch-and-shoot guy than we’d like to see, as it’s not really his decision to be taking big shots. Then again, Bob Horry was the same way.

Jameer Nelson

TKOPros: Like Steve Nash was in past years, Nelson is very quietly the best outside shooter in the NBA. (Fourty-five percent on 3s with only 65 percent on assists and a second-only-to Allen 50.4 percent on midrange shots, with only 8 percent assisted. Allen is at 41 percent and 53 percent with 93 percent and 46 percent of those attempts coming on catch-and-shoots.) In crunch time, his field goal percentages go to 52 percent from the floor and 60 percent on 3s while he averages 35 points per 48 minutes.

Nelson fits the Cassell-Olajuwon paradigm perfectly of a center and guard: Howard does the yeoman’s work in the paint for the first three quarters, but when the clock winds down, it’s Nelson who puts the team away. He won shootout with Kobe on national television by making bomb after bomb. Despite being a winner in college and someone who comes with skill and savvy over explosiveness, Nelson was passed on by 19 teams in the Draft and traded. He was then overlooked and shopped for his first four years in Orlando. A man on a mission. The rightful heir to Cassell. Also, could use a dash of exciting about him.

Cons: Tragically, he is out for the year, just as he was becoming one of my favorite players. But he will be back, and this honor lasts a lifetime. Jameer will return, with a chip on his shoulder as large as the scar on his bicep. And he will be hitting big shots. And he may even have a new dance.

UPDATE SPECIAL BONUS NOTE HOORAY!:

As I was about midway through this, I noticed that the great 82games.com has finally brought back its “game-winning shots” data. I implore you to look at it yourself and use it to decide who you think the rightful heir to the dance should be.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Just a few big-ball candidates John didn’t mention: Brandon Roy, Dirk Nowitzki, Mike Bibby, Dwyane Wade.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Gotta give it to Mason.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    “LeBron James was just 4-19 in our previous look at game winning shots, so in the ensuing two and a half seasons, he has come up with a very respectable 13-31 (.419) record and just the other day had a pure game winner at the buzzer to top the Warriors. In addition he has six assists and a healthy number of free throws earned.

    Vince Carter doesn’t get a lot of love from fans for the most part but is actually #2 in the standings for most game winners over this period.

    Ray Allen is in third overall but also leads in most 3′s made under our game winning defined situation specifics, with eight three pointers. Long live the NBA’s arguably best pure shooter (Ray also currently leads the NBA in Midrange 2pt FG%).

    …and then we get to Kobe Bryant. Kobe fans don’t like to hear it, but while their man is #4 in the league in total game winners hit, he holds the top spot in a less glamorous category: most game winning opportunity missed shots!”

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    ^Yes…..click the link…..very informative.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    And thats why no one takes him seriously at the end of games, right?

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    mike bibby adopted it years ago.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Stats is stats.

  • ab_40

    brandon roy

    dirk has his I pull my shirt out move which is lame

  • whooo!

    roger mason! you shoulda found the photo of him actually doing the dance! after kobe did his pre-mature big balls dance, mason came back, hit the shot, got the foul, then did the dance right back! if that’s not swag, i dunno what is.

  • http://www.illoz.com/michaelcho/?section=portfolios&gallery_id=1198 M Cho

    This was some seriously hilarious writing. “He’s like the extreme of everything you think he would be, only more so” – hahahahah!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Two things about those ‘stats’.
    1. I’m quite certain that no opposing assistant coach has ever interrupted a last second huddle with those stats and said “See? Kobe Bryant isnt that dangerous, it’s just a bunch of hype. Just show him single coverage and box out.”
    2. These numbers have been floating around for years and in all that time I don’t believe Ive ever seen anyone do the math on one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Which would be interesting because I doubt he shot anywhere close to 50% himself. You take a lot of those shots, you’re probably gonna miss a lot of them. Enough to make a commercial about it.

  • tenorca

    I’m fully behind Roger Mason for this. That 3 against the Celts this weekend was cold blooded.

  • Gumdrop

    If Gilbert can get healthy it won’t even be a contest.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Myles really needs a hobby.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Somebody has to do it.

  • MeloMan13

    this was actually one of the best articles i’ve ever read

  • MeloMan13

    there are two celebrations that u passed up on:
    1) VC’s motorcycle hand jesture
    2) and the on that he used to do when he put his hand over his head in the shape of a “half V”

  • MeloMan13

    i personally think it the following people have the ability and swag to keep the trend alive:
    Melo, Roger mason, Eddie House, Jameer, and Danny Granger

  • http://www.kicksonfire.com Anton

    Sammy Sammy Sammy
    Can’t you see (uh-huh)
    Sometimes your balls just hypnotize me (yeah)

  • http://nba.com tealish

    Haha so touchy, Myles! End of game, Kobe is the deadliest. No one is arguing that, because we all know what he can do. He continues to do what he does when the defense throws everybody at you in those closing seconds.
    But numbers are still numbers. MJ he is not. I’m surprised Kobe’s only #4, but not so surprised at VC getting slept on in the clutch department.

  • t-rocc

    great stuff! and I agree that Jameer could rock it. @ Ryne – doesn’t Bibby have some sort of weird dance he already does?

  • http://karanmadhok.blogspot.com Karan

    despite the injury, i don’t think anyone deserves this dance more than gilbert arenas.
    i can almost hear him screaming ‘hibachi’ as he does the ‘sam cassell’s jog’

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    I wish I could be a Cassell fan, but he’s mean to little kids. Back in the days when he played for the Rockets my friend Matt(who was like 7 years old) saw him leaving the practice court in San Antonio, ran AROUND the court so as not to disturb its sanctity and as he approached Sam, pen and paper in hand, Sam simply replied “Sorry little man, you ran all that way for nothing.” What an alien-headed DBag!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    t-rocc: It’s informally called the Bibby Bop, and it’s best described as a cross between Vince’s motorcycle (steals the hand and arm gestures) and Sam’s big balls dance (legs).

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    This was a great read. But for the record, Roger Mason already startd to mock the big balls dance after hitting that shot at the end of the Laker game, only to be interrupted and dissuaded by Finley (I think) before calmly sinking the FT. But really, Mason has been the most clutch “big shot” shooter in the league this season.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    …and the shot aginst the Cs was a straight pull up off a screen with 20 seconds left, not a catch and shoot situation. Dude has huevos, regardless of whether or not he has a special dance to show them off.

  • Bash

    I don’t know who wrote this, but to leave Hedo Turkoglu off this list after he has been making clutch AND doing the ‘big balls’ celebration for the past two years, is ridiculous. Horrible researching.

  • Bash

    I don’t know who wrote this, but to leave Hedo Turkoglu off this list after he has been making clutch shots AND doing the ‘big balls’ celebration for the past two years, is ridiculous. Horrible researching.

  • MeloMan13

    i think Granger and Melo have been equally deadly this season Coilkstar

  • BostonBaller

    No matter whom you name as the heir it is NOT apparent….The dance dies when Sam I Am officially retires! It’s one thing to immulate another players game (especially when you can pull it off) but a players dance is sacred. It’s like an endzone celebration, to each his own unless invited. PERIOD!!

  • http://slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fedora/ John Krolik

    @coilk-the rough draft was turned in on Friday.

    @bash-Hedo’s game-winners have fallen off with the rest of his game this year, and I couldn’t find a video of him doing the dance-he did sort of a shimmy with his hands low after Boston, but I didn’t count it. If you can find video, please put a link.

    I thought about putting Arenas on here, but I just don’t see him doing something that anyone else has done before.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    Gotta be LBJ. No one on the corner has swagga like us . . .

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Yao Ming.
    Or Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Hahaha can you imagine Big Z doing the dance?

  • BostonBaller

    PLUS whom ever you guys choose will still fall short of worthiness b/c they will not have the mouth to go with it…You have to have ability to also Talk the Talk as you Dance the Dance.

  • BostonBaller

    Ming or big Z would be funny but could you see Big Perk doing anything that resembles fun? Can you do an angry BBD? Love ya Perk but lighten up Big Fwlla, we need you…

  • Prentice Mcgruder

    Caron did it against Houston earlier this season, also in a loss. There might be something in that Big Balls curse Krolik.

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  • Blinguo

    Read halfway, no mention of Kenyon Martin doing the big ones dance this year. He did, and even did a slap across his front to end that celebration. Now to read the rest with those player heir breakdowns.

  • http://www.newyorkshockexchange.com Old School Baller

    I can’t think of anyone today who quite has the total package that is Sam Cassell i.e. game, plus attitude, plus assassin mentality. His mid-range game reminds me more of a Clyde Frazier while his cut throat mentality is captured by A.I. and Chauncey Billups. The only person that comes to mind is Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth. Go back and check the tape of that game against Duke. He wasn’t supposed to destroy the Blue Devils like that (just like Sam wasn’t supposed to do in the Knicks) but noone talk Maynor that. The whole game he had this blank, enigmatic stare on his face as if he was impervious to the pain he was putting Greg Pawlus through. Totally detached like Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”. Showed no remorse whatsoever. To hit a 3 point shot when open is so impersonal, but to back your man down and put jumpers in his face, rendering him helpless is “very personal” and mean spirited. The law takes that into consideration when sentencing criminals.

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