Is Zach Randolph Really As Great As Kevin Durant Says He Is?
Kevin Durant—the guy who almost won the MVP award in the NBA last season and who could have been in the running for it this season as well, if not for a guy named Derrick Rose—knows something you don’t: Zach Randolph is a hell of a ballplayer. In fact, according to KD, Randolph is the best at his power forward position, a guy who doesn’t get enough credit for playing a key role in getting the Memphis Grizzlies to the 2011 NBA Playoffs and helping the team to their first playoff series victory.
You don’t know this, of course, because no one’s ever told you before. You didn’t see Z-Bo make his ”decision” on ESPN last month when he signed a huge contract extension with the Grizzlies. You didn’t see him throwing down thunderous dunks on SportsCenter every night throughout the season. You didn’t see dozens of reporters huddled around his locker every night after games this year asking where he’d sign to play next season. And you didn’t see him on any TV commercials trying to sell you sneakers, peep any viral videos of him trying to get voted to the All-Star Game, or see any of his tweets making the rounds on the Internet.
But Randolph has been here all along. Or, more specifically, down in M-Town getting busy on the block and pulling down rebounds at an alarming rate. While everyone was so busy keeping tabs on Kevin Love‘s amazing double-double streak—which, by the way, warranted all the attention it got—Randolph was consistently do anything and everything to get some attention down in Memphis. Or, maybe he wasn’t…
You see, Randolph has gotten plenty of attention throughout the course of his career. Mostly, the wrong kind of attention. He’s been busted for carrying weed, arrested for DUI, and accused of being a major marijuana supplier thanks to his ties to a large drug dealer in Indianapolis. He’s been called lazy because of his unathletic approach to basketball, chopped down by analysts who have deemed him too selfish, and basically left for dead after leading a bunch of mediocre teams to mediocre finishes during his ten-year NBA career.
But now, Randolph is balling. And he deserves some attention for that as well. His game is, admittedly, not pretty. He’s got a hefty frame that doesn’t exactly scream, “NBA player!” and a series of slow, methodical moves to the basket that don’t look like they should work. But they do. Almost every time he touches the ball and squares up to shoot—like he did against the San Antonio Spurs at the end of a game during the first round of the playoffs this year—your natural reaction as a fan is to yell, “NOOOOO!” But after watching the ball swish through the hoop, you wonder why you ever doubted Randolph in the first place.
Randolph isn’t the ideal NBA player, he’s not the first guy you’d select if you were playing a pickup game with members of the Grizzlies, and unless the Grizz win the ‘chip this year, next year, or any year, he’ll probably never get the credit and the national respect that he deserves. But after ten years, he’s finally figured out that slow and steady wins the race in the NBA where guys so often fizzle out before living up to their potential. It’s taken him years to get it right, but Randolph has assembled as arsenal of veteran moves around the basket that make him lethal to guard. He’s finally a truly great player in a league filled with superstars—even if his play isn’t as exciting as any of theirs.
Let’s be clear: Zach Randolph will never be LeBron James or Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony. His name will never get you super amped up. He won’t inspire you to run out and buy his jersey before next season. He won’t get a huge Nike endorsement deal. He won’t be hanging up on posters on many kids’ walls. And he won’t turn the Grizzlies into a dynasty.
But he will continue to play hard for Memphis and use his past experience to lead the team to plenty more wins. He will continue to earn the respect of his fellow veterans. He will make All-Star teams and garner some level of respect before he hangs up his sneakers. And he will be known for more than just his off-the-court troubles when it’s all said and done. Basically, Zach Randolph will continue to prove Kevin Durant right, even if no one else seems to notice. And something tells us that, at this point in his career, that’s just fine with him.