Word on the Street

Intangible Man (in-tan’-juh-buhl man) noun. A basketball player who makes significant and meaningful contributions to his team that cannot be measured by statistics alone.

Usage example:Luol Deng is the Intangible Man for the Chicago Bulls.

Word trivia: Have you ever listened to Hubie Brown call a basketball game? If so, I can almost guarantee you’ve heard him use this term, because it’s one of his all-time favorites. Brown loves the underdog role-player, which is probably why he assembled an entire team of underdog role-players when he was coaching the Memphis Grizzlies. Every time someone like Brian Cardinal scores a clutch basket or grabs a critical rebound, you can practically hear Brown violently humping the telestrator. Despite the fact that he’s an undead mummy with the power to steal my very soul, Brown has a point, because rare is the successful NBA team that does not have at least one Intangible Man on the roster. The Intangible Man is responsible for doing the little things that you won’t see in the box scores: playing defense, setting picks, diving for loose balls, taking charges, and dispensing Gatorade during timeouts. Most importantly, the Intangible Man must hit the big shot when left open and not make mistakes in critical situations. The Spurs have Robert Horry (the ultimate Intangible Man), the Lakers had Horry and Rick Fox, the Bulls had numerous Intangible Men (Jud Buechler, Scott Burrell, et al.), the Rockets had Horry, so on and so forth.

The beauty of the Intangible Man is that his lack of statistical accomplishment actually makes him more dangerous. Most fans, and even many so-called experts, have trouble seeing a player’s worth beyond the numbers that appear in his player bio. That’s why so many people wet their pants when Steve Nash won the MVP over Kobe this season. “Nash could never score 81 in a game!” they’d say. But Nash brings something to his team that can’t be measured by his PPG or even his APG. The same holds true when you compare Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Russell never even averaged 20 a game, whereas Wilt once averaged 50 and even scored 100 in a game. But all of Wilt’s points couldn’t stop Russell from winning 11 championships in 13 years, and 7 of 8 head-to-head playoff matchups against Chamberlain’s teams (which had plenty of talent, no matter what some people claim).

But I digress. The true Intangible Men aren’t Superstars or All-stars. They’re the “average Joe” of the NBA scene. Guys whom you never notice until, say, Jordan passes off to him for a game-winning three-pointer. And, if you’re rooting against that team, you’re likely to ask, “Why did they leave that guy open?!” The answer is obvious: since he doesn’t score 20 ppg, he isn’t worthy of the opposition’s best defensive effort. Most players tend to sag off the Intangible Man, even if they aren’t part of a double-team or otherwise involved in the current defensive scheme. Awed by the superstar, they more often than not leave that Intangible Man alone to wreak havok with an open jumper or a maybe an offensive rebound. And sure, maybe they rarely get the headlines and almost never get the big contracts, but Steve Kerr still has five more championships than Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Dominique Wilkins combined.

Fox may have been a pompous douchebag, but he was a great Intangible Man.

With 7 (??!!) Championship rings, you got all the rights to be happy.


Labels: Robert Horry / Luol Deng / Brian Cardinal / Rick Fox / Jud Buechler / Scott Burrell / Kobe Bryant / Steve Nash / Bill RussellSteve Kerr / Michael JordanCharles Barkley / Elgin Baylor / Patrick Ewing / Karl Malone / John Stockton / Dominique Wilkins / San Antonio Spurs / Los Angeles Lakers / Houston Rockets / Chicago Bulls / Memphis Grizzlies / NBA MVP / NBA All-starNBA Playoffs / NBA / Word on the Street


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