In his as-told-to-Lee-Jenkins Sports Illustrated essay announcing his decision to leave the Miami Heat in free agency and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James described how the passion of the people of Northeast Ohio drives him: "I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can." Well, his choice — and his means of communicating it — clearly inspired somebody.
His name is Brian Scalabrine.
The 11-year NBA veteran last played with the Chicago Bulls in 2012, and spent last season as an assistant coach with Mark Jackson's Golden State Warriors. After things fell apart there, much to the chagrin of at least one of Scal's big-man charges, Scalabrine found himself having to decide where he'd turn next. He's chosen to rejoin Comcast SportsNet New England as a color commentator on Boston Celtics games — he had a "trial run" with the network after his playing career ended — as announced in a pretty fun smirking spoof of LeBron's essay on CSNNE.com.
From the "homecoming" announcement, "by Brian Scalabrine, as told by Brian Scalabrine":
From the moment I signed with the Celtics, I knew this was my new home. Most of the people are just like me. They work hard, they play hard, and the passion they have for their sports team is unlike anywhere in the world. I had passion for my team just like the fans. I guess I was kind of like the fans except I had a courtside seat for free and if we were up by 20 with less than two minutes to play I would get to go into the game. Where was I — the great American city of Boston. [...]
Remember when I spurned the Celtics and signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2010? Actually I begged [Boston GM Danny] Ainge to keep me and he wished me the best of luck. I was thinking, "This is really tough." I could feel it. I left something I had spent five years creating. I haven’t paid for a meal since 2008. What if all of this goes away? [...]
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted ... and gather some great press based on another recent NBA signing ... in almost the exact same way. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Mark Jackson didn’t get along … The Bulls and Warriors couldn’t put the right team together … Does anyone really care what Brian Scalabrine is doing right now? None of these things were true. And for the record I never played for the Warriors, I was just a coach, didn’t people see me holding my clipboard. I don’t understand why people couldn’t put it together, I was holding a clipboard, I was a real coach. [...]
I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. I want kids in Boston, like the hundreds of elementary school kids who have red hair and no chance of making the NBA, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and work at a bank. That would make me smile.
Scalabrine's sense of humor about his place in the NBA world — and the self-confidence that comes from a keen awareness of just how much better at basketball he was than the average Joe — is part of what helped make him such a fan favorite throughout his career, starting with the New Jersey Nets, continuing through his five-year stint in Boston, and wrapping up during his final years with the Bulls. (The fact that he was a 6-foot-9 redhead didn't hurt, either.) The combination has helped him connect with fans in a way that few true stars can, and it's clear that he continues to have that common touch now that he's transitioning back into commentary.
"I know that I have a lot to learn but I see myself as a Champion, and I think I can help break down some great Marcus Smart dunks this season," Scalabrine wrote. "I think I can elevate Kelly Olynyk’s game by the amount of research I make my interns do before announcing road games."
I'll need to see that Olynyk bump to believe it, but it seems evident that, if nothing else, Scal's prepared to elevate CSN's Celtics coverage. That's great news for Celtics fans and those of us who catch their out-of-market games on League Pass alike. Welcome home, Scal. Here's hoping those free meals start up again soon.
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