Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Basketball Things That Aren't Really About Basketball: The Originators

Trey Kerby is the author of The Blowtorch. We've given him a space to fill with the deranged ramblings that come spilling forth. This week's topic? Cliff Robinson. Of course.

Trust me, you like Clifford Robinson. You do. There’s no getting around it, really. Funny thing is, you might not even realize it. Let me enlighten you.

You like long forwards? Guys like Garnett, Bosh, and Sheed? That versatility on both ends, the way they run the floor, the way they can beat you from anywhere on the floor – that’s Clifford Robinson.

Or maybe, you’re a big style guy and you dig headbands. Those turn-of-the-century Blazers teams that had, like, 8 headbands on the squad were dope, right? Uncle Cliffy was on to headbands a decade before that. And yeah, people wore headbands before Cliff, but people (excepting Slick Watts) never wore headbands like that before Cliff.

Sticking to things hipsters love, let’s talk about weed. It was a bit of an outrage that a thoughtful guy like Josh Howard would get involved in the pot talk, he’s wholesome! Well, Cliff got pinched in ’01 for possession. At age 35. Regardless of your thoughts on marijuana, that’s funny.

Catch my drift? Clifford Robinson was doing the things that are commonplace today, but he did those decades ago. It’s not to say Clifford Robinson was the best player from my childhood. Far from it. Rather, he remains one of the most important players in life from an aesthetics point of view.

Two background points that might help: a) I grew up in a far southwest suburb of Chicago and am therefore a Bulls fan. 2) The Bulls/Blazer Final was epochal.

One more side note: that Blazers team was filled with Trey Kerby legends. I even named my old whip Jerome Kersey because it was black TrailBlazer. Rest in Peace, Jerome Kersey. The automobile version.

Back to the lecture at hand, I’ve been on some Cliff Robinson ish for a long time. He’s one of those guys that probably won’t be remembered by most people, but the people that do remember him fondly. And, really, isn’t that pretty much the whole point of Clifford Robinson? He never was going to be the best guy on a team, but he would be exactly what that team needed when they needed it.

You see, Clifford Robinson could never be my favorite player. With Jordan around that was an impossibility. However, Cliff was just as important. A legend like Jordan was an unreachable Ideal. The kind of once-in-a-thousand-lifetimes player that makes a kid fall in love with a game. A guy like Cliff Robinson though? That’s a goal. Something that you could take pieces of; someone that you could steal from, make him a part of you.

There’s a reason we fall for players that aren’t superstars. It’s not that they aren’t special, it’s that they’re us.

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