NBA players find many ways to celebrate after great players or big wins, but several have become standard. Among those, an 'obscene gesture" popularized by longtime point guard and current Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell has proven to have remarkable staying power. Since last May, Marco Belinelli, Andray Blatche, and Caron Butler have been fined $15,000 apiece for the act of simulation, showing that it communicates the players' abilities and grace under pressure so well that it's worth losing a hefty sum of money. Clearly, Cassell has been one of the league's all-time great celebration innovators.
But what does the man himself think about the move's popularity and apparent transgressive nature? Well, Cassell doesn't quite understand why it's such a big deal. From Marc Stein for ESPN.com:
"Obscene gesture?" Cassell bellowed, shaking his head disapprovingly.
I'm guessing you don't need much help to picture the look of wide-eyed, bad-call dismay on Cassell's face when he said it. [...]
Yet my sense is that the NBA continues to penalize tributes to Cassell's signature move because it thinks it should, in a bow to political correctness, more than folks in the league's New York City offices on Fifth Avenue really find the dance to be so offensive or lewd.
Whether players should even be using Cassell's move after all these years is another matter. Some would argue that what Blatche and Butler did is a crime, if anything, against originality.
But we can also pass along that Cassell definitely doesn't see it that way. He says he's legitimately "honored" anytime he sees someone bust out the Testicle Dance.
"When I saw Kobe [Bryant] do it [in the 2009 playoffs], I knew it was big-time," Cassell said.
While that Kobe reference proves that people have been biting Cassell's style for years, it's worth noting that Cassell himself didn't make up the dance completely on his own. As fans of "Major League II" know, the character Isuro Tanaka (as played by Takaaki Ishisbashi) brings out the dance both in the clubhouse and on the field. Perhaps Cassell just doesn't wish to admit he cribbed his signature move from a somewhat disappointing sequel.
Nevertheless, I hope we can agree it's pretty amazing that a coach — a figure of authority! — feels comfortable admitting that he's honored by players' mimicry of a dance based on what's actually a very serious and uncomfortable medical condition. Truly, the NBA is a wondrous world.
Whether Cassell is correct to feel these fines are an overreaction is a separate issue, but one worth discussing. Given the fact that my parents took me and a friend to see "Major League II" when I was nine years old and didn't feel the need to talk to me about an apparent "obscene gesture" in the film, it seems like this dance isn't so bad. Of course, I also think the dance is hilarious 19 years later, so maybe the whole experience irrevocably stunted my maturity. Save the children!
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