"In order to learn you must understand what you don't know. And most people don't understand that they don't know shit, so they're just fucked."
I was thinking about this over the weekend. Don't ask me why, my brain often wanders. But Draymond Green might just be the most influential basketball player of the last five years. I'm not talking long lasting global impact or the best player in the League by any stretch. I mean the catalyst you can point to and reverse engineer the butterfly effect to see how the NBA got to where it is today. Draymond unlocked Golden State's death lineup. He's shorter for a forward but elite at defending the rim, and because of his size and lateral quickness he's able to defend the perimeter as well and not get put into a spin cycle as frequently as Rudy Gobert. He isn't a knockdown shooter but he's able to run the offense and free Steph and Klay from being on the ball. Without that skillset the Warriors still would have been incredible, there's no question, but there would have been a massive tradeoff on both ends of the court.
He punched LeBron James directly in the testicles and had to watch a Finals game from a suite at an Oakland A's game across the street, widely regarded as the key moment which blew the 3-1 lead for the Warriors handing LeBron his only title in Cleveland. That blown series lead caused Draymond - not Steph or Klay - to hop on the phone and recruit Kevin Durant to Golden State while LeBron was still celebrating in The Oracle locker room. That phone call got KD to join a team that won 73 games the year prior, immediately ruining basketball. During their tenure, Draymond was reportedly a driving force in getting Durant the fuck out of Golden State the moment his contract was up, forming yet another assumed power in the East. All the while he was shooting jumpers like he has a full Jansport strapped to his shoulders.
I say all that to say this: you can be hugely impactful in myriad ways. Your teammates can know it, your front office can recognize it and pay you handsomely for your services, the Hall of Fame will undoubtedly reward it, and TNT will come calling with an analyst job when you're good and ready. It's recognized, talked about, and appreciated far and wide. That doesn't mean you're going to see highlights of solid screens or text book chest passes. Strong on-ball defense to force a miss? You do that enough times you'll win Defensive Player of the Year. That's just not how highlights work. Nor should they. Dunk on someone's fucking head, that'll get people not only hooting, but - also - hollering.
We constantly make fun of Jazz fans and the analytics dweebs who try and make Gobert seem cool with shit like screen assists. Fuck outta here. That's not hip hop. Nicole Simpson can't rap. I love Marcus Smart, the vast majority of his great plays aren't highlights. It is what it is. Chicks dig the long ball, things of that nature. Now you want to take it another step and talk about the discourse around the NBA as a whole, I agree. It's a big heaping pile of trash. There's far too much focus on a forced soap opera that completely misses how beautiful the game is right this very moment. That shit needs to die a public and horrible death. But ankle breakers, windmills, and 40-foot threes are cool as hell and very much have a place in appreciating the sport.