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Boris Diaw, the most interesting man on Earth

posted by Tim Carmody   Oct 24, 2017


The NBA right now is surprisingly flush with “unicorns”: long, thin athletes like Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, and Kristaps Porzingis, seven-foot-tall guys who can handle the ball and shoot from range like the best guards from twenty years ago. The impossible build-your-own players from old video games are suddenly real and dunking on your head. Everyone is enamored of them.

I love them too. But before the unicorns, there were the mules. (Mulicorns?) Short, often chubby swiss-army-knife frontcourt/backcourt players who were nearly as versatile as the unicorns, but won through a combination of toughness, savvy, surprising athleticism, and unsurprisingly big butts. The mulicorns didn’t shoot as well from range (everyone shoots better now), they didn’t look as superhuman, but they were just as fun to watch. Okay. Almost as fun to watch. They got the job done. And as an amateur undersized, thoroughly chubby, surprisingly versatile power forward myself, they’ve always been my favorite guys to watch play.

Charles Barkley was a mulicorn. Ricky Pierce, Fat Lever, Adrian Dantley, Wes Unseld, Larry Johnson, Super John Williams. Magic Johnson was just a few inches too tall to be a mulicorn, but he’d be a mulicorn today. The best true mulicorn in the league right now is Draymond Green, whose bizarre blend of physical traits, creative skills, photographic memory, and I-will-tear-your-house-down-to-win attitude might prove as tough to clone as a hundred Giannises.

But the all-time mulicorn, and one of my favorite players ever, is the recently not-retired, just-playing-in-France, could-sign-with-a-competitive-NBA-team-at-any-time, Boris Diaw. Behold his majesty:

I asked my brother Sean, a math teacher and football and basketball coach who may be an even bigger Boris fan than I am and never, ever writes things on the internet, to tell me why he loves Boris so much.

Boris Diaw is like the bass player who always makes the song sound better. Or your buddy who the group just works better when he is there. He is the ultimate glue guy.

He also reminds me of that dude at the gym who you pick up on your team and you would win the court all day, and you couldn’t really keep track of who scored all of the points. But everyone would defend a little better, run a little harder and throw that extra pass.

He had the Sabonis thing where he passed really really well for a big guy. He also fit into my theory that every guy I liked could have played on the old Celtics team or the Bad Boys Pistons. Super smart; plays the game the “right way”; plays defense and moves the ball. A role player who understands their position on the team but can be the guy at least for moments. Tend to be really skilled and tough big guys. Guys who play the way that you hope you would play if you were 6’8”.

His teams were always better when he got there and worse when he left. He got traded for Joe Johnson, and somehow the Suns got better. That is a reoccurring story with him. His teams were always better when he got there and worse when he left. That one time he went to the Bobcats and then they were good. It was like him and Stephen Jackson and they made the playoffs.

When he went to the Spurs, it was a whole other level. Who has Tim Duncan and gets more fun to watch when they sub? He and Manu made everyone on the team play basketball. It was what people who like soccer describe, but I never really understood.

He is like the real life most interesting guy in the world.

There are amazing Boris Diaw stories. This Jonathan Abrams profile for Grantland sets a high standard. But this anecdote from David Griffin might be my favorite.

“Boris walks into the gym one day wearing flip-flops and holding his customary cappuccino, which was a staple for him every morning,” Griffin recalled. “It was during pre-draft workouts, so he sees the Vertec [machine] and asks what it is.

“We tell him it measures your vertical leap by determining how many of the bars you can touch. He asks what’s the highest anyone has ever gone, and we tell him Amare’ [Stoudemire] cleared the entire rack.

“Boris puts down the cappuccino, takes off his flip-flops and clears the entire rack on the first try. Then he calmly puts his flip-flops back on, picks up his cappuccino and walks away, saying, ‘That was not difficult.’”

I hope he comes back.