Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brian Scalabrine dominated the competition in Boston one-on-one challenge

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Over 11 NBA seasons, journeyman forward Brian Scalabrine cultivated an image of a regular guy who just happened to play basketball. Eventually, many fans came to believe that Scalabrine was an Average Joe, not an elite athlete (as all NBA players are), and figured that he probably wasn't that great at the profession that earned him tens of millions of dollars. This summer, Scalabrine said that he resented this suggestion (even if he also heartily embraced the regular guy image), and in December he challenged any Boston-area amateur basketball players to games of one-on-one.

On Monday, Scalabrine faced four hand-picked competitors. He destroyed them all. From CBS Boston (via TBJ):

Scalabrine, who retired over the summer after a very serviceable 11-year NBA career, took on four of Boston’s best ballers in 98.5 The Sports Hub’s 1-on-1 “Scallenge,” put on by morning hosts Toucher & Rich.

Listeners sent in their try-out videos, showing off their skills and talking some trash towards Scal, but it turns out even Boston’s best was no match for Scalabrine. [...]

Scalabrine — who spent the last few seasons of his career seen as the “human victory cigar” — easily defeated all four of his opponents, throwing down monstrous jams and sinking smooth jumpers as he beat them all by a combined score of 44-6.

That link also features a 30-minute video of the action, and it becomes very clear very quickly that Scalabrine is on another level from these athletes. Even against decent competition — the first challenger, Matt Tomaszewski, was on Syracuse's roster just last season — Scalabrine owned everyone. The second and third games were both shutouts, and the six points scored included one two-pointer. In four games, Scalabrine conceded just five baskets.

This full-scale domination isn't terribly surprising, because it really is amazingly difficult to play in the NBA for 11 seasons. Scalabrine managed to do so in part because he found a role as a good teammate, which made him more valuable than his talent may have suggested, but even then he was in competition with an exceedingly small group of potential employees. The idea that any random weekend warrior could challenge him is ridiculous.

We are only left to wonder why this challenge was necessary in the first place. For that, Scalabrine has to look at himself. While no fan should ever feel like he's on the same athletic plane as a professional athlete, the fact of the matter is that some pros embrace that image because it provides them new opportunities. Without it, Scalabrine probably never would have gotten his current job as an analyst for CSN New England. He deserves more respect than he's been given, but there are also identifiable reasons for why he doesn't always get it.

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