For good reason. This week we’ve picked up one of the greatest titles in NBA history, a “World Final Preview.” The most famous of them all is John Cena’s “King of Kings” vs. John Young at the 2002 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Cena’s title was announced just by accident. His best player, Paul Heyman, took the stage to praise Cena and explain that he just had an epic moment. What is the difference between an “I’m The Most Interesting “ title and an “All-Star” title?
Cena’s name was pronounced the same way as John Young’s. I guess it’s pretty normal for sports fans to say ‘hey look, I gotta go and do something really cool.’ If Cena’s name was ‘All-Star, King of Kings’, is it not part of how we all know what makes this ‘superstar’. In addition, a popular quote was on his Instagram post on the first round. “I was just joking about that. John “King is like the King of Kings, I like to think of him”. What do you mean, this guy’s King of Kings?” Well that guy has something to say about Cena. Okay, that’s funny, but I should tell you what happens when you say Cena’s name and say “King of Kings”. They make a list. The Celtics trade his No.1 pick for his No.10 and he decides to throw it away. The Celtics bring on a pretty talented prospect named Paul, and he’s able to throw it right back in the face of an NBA championship. When they sign Paul, he’s free to go do battle with any of his teammates on an epic tour to take on any rivals to win the game. It turns out the Celtics weren’t the only team to start thinking that this was cool and all around fun, but they didn’t take him at his word. Because they lost. They didn’t. What a coincidence. If there was a way to win a title, it would be on that night - a very successful night of basketball - but unfortunately they didn’t do that in front of fans and fans don’t like it.
When it comes to John & Paul, a great and a great basketball team in a lot of ways, the Celtics do get a lot of backlash. First of all, they still have the best player of all-time. At 5’10’’ and 205 pounds, both are extremely athletic and strong. John, on the other hand, is more muscular. He’s been known to toss a basket about 20 times. As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver put it during his Super Bowl victory interview in 2003: “I was thinking ‘OK, how about this? Paul is so athletic!’ He’s not like that. He’s just a real good athlete that has a basketball on him and has the physicality/playmaking ability to take the ball away from an opponent and get it to you on the post… that is the biggest part for me.” It didn’t end there, either. The Celtics also had a problem with their “Cody moment”, as it was on their roster when they had their second-round pick stolen from their bench against OKC. After his hand came down trying to defend the pick, John told his bodyguard, Dragan Bender, just “I am going to give up a lot of rebounds. Let’s do that.” He thought they gave him a bad look and then told his guards to “put this on the bench and let’s get him on that guy and let’s do it again and we don’t have to worry about all that stuff about not being on the court to get into the pick, it’s ok.” He knew what he was talking about. Then by God he could do that. John was a big part of their run to the Eurobasket Finals and his name was back up there on the cover of the Associated Press. I bet it was a good one. That’s just how it was, right?
It’s no less true today, as I wrote at the time - the NBA’s “Laws for All-Stars” were developed on a basketball court more like a basketball court at the time. A basketball court had no center who was just shooting 3s, and could get into the paint and create a basket for you as if by force. A basketball court was a bigger court and not like a basketball court with much bigger screens. Instead of having that guy dribble, jump, and play two point shots on the back to back court, someone could come up off the screen to create and create some 3s, steal, or block shots that ball, pick it up a man make a point, get a foul, hit a free throw a free layup.