Joyless Opinion Alert: NBA ‘Ankle Breaking’ Is a Lie

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On Monday night, the Grizzlies just squeaked by the Suns, 102-101, thanks to a late, clearheaded putback by new arrival Jeff Green and one emphatic last-second block by Marc Gasol. But another thing happened in that game: Eric Bledsoe got his ankleees brooookeeeen.

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Right? Watch Mike Conley cross him up. Watch him crumble to the floor. R.I.P. Eric Bledsoe.

But you have to ask yourself: Is that the true sequence of events? Or is that just what the NBA MSM would like you to believe?

Let’s look a little closer. Do you see anything? Like, say, any giant Spaniards sticking their giant left feet out, intentionally or otherwise? As SB Nation’s Mike Prada astutely noted, “On second thought, maybe Marc Gasol tripped Eric Bledsoe, but WHATEVER. Not gonna be That Guy Who Ruins Highlights.”

That’s wise, my friend. Who would be so joyless as to want to ruin perfectly good highlights?

I would. I am.

Call me a kook. Call me a crackpot. Call me heartless. I don’t care. I’m saying it: NBA ankle-breaking is, by and large, a myth. NBA defenders, for the most part, are too good to get humiliatingly crossed. When they do fall or skid or stumble, it usually happens because of a sweated-on court, or an errant defender foot, or some other minutely observed aid — and not, I’m afraid, as the result of a pure, devastating crossover dribble.

Sure, we all wanna jump and yell about how that guy got “put on skates,” how he got “thrown in the blender.” That’s a world of wonderment and whimsy; that’s a world I’d like to live in too. But I’m sorry, friends: It’s just not our world.

Here’s a particularly incisive example. “Dirk cannot guard Boris Diaw,” explains YouTuber NBAClip. “Boris Diaw breaks Dirk Nowitzki’s ankles twice.”

This seem realistic, as Dirk’s ankles would appear particularly ripe for the breakening. But watch the video and note that Nowitzki just kind of falls, twice, in the same spot.

We see a guy fall, we screech “ankleeessss.” If we cared at all about truth and justice, though, what we should be screeching — as communicated by Mr. Swish41 himself — is “weeet spoooot.”

Similarly, watch the Timberwolves’ Lorenzo Brown ostensibly abusing poor Marcus Smart.

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OSTENSIBLY. Smart had already started planting the foot and cutting back the other way when the collapse occurs. The home crowd, thirsty sheep to the site of a player falling, oohs and ahhs. What they should have been doing is looking at each other in grim silence and mouthing, “Wet spot? Wet spot?”

Here’s Kemba Walker making Nikola Mirotic fall down:

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It looks fantastic. It looks like Nikola should get on the first flight back to Podgorica.1 But upon closer look: Was Kemba even making much of a move there? Or did Mirotic get mentally shaken by having to switch and start shuffling his feet awkwardly for no particular reason? That’s not death-by-crossover; that’s tripping on your way off the subway when you nod off for a half-minute and accidentally take it one stop too far.

Here’s a variation on the trope: a defender getting turned around. “Oh, which way did he go!” yelped Cavs commentator Fred McLeod as Kyrie Irving juked JaKarr Sampson. “Bruising ankles and egos!”

OK, well. Certainly, it was an impressive display of speed-burst from young Kyrie. But then again: “It isn’t really breaking someone’s ankles if they feint into a screen.” Thank you, commenter Conor. You are wise. As commenter Fat Lever adds: “Exactly, Sampson probably figured Noel was there on the other side, so he hedged/over-played that way.” We cannot let these untruths go unaddressed. You are shining lights, commenter community.

I say this, ultimately, to defend appreciation for the art of the crossover. For the most part, best-case scenario, you’re going to get dudes messed up a bit. It’s joyless to say — yes, I know. But let’s just be realistic.

Look at Jamal Crawford on Bojan Bogdanovic:

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Or Kyle Lowry on Oladipo:

Or even Klay, slipping, a tiny bit:

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That, for the most part, is the best we can hope for in pure form. It’s not ankle breaking, no; it’s more like light back-twisting. In a better world, it wouldn’t be like this. But in the sad, compromised world we actually live in? It’s as good as it gets. Jordan pushed off, OK? I’m sorry. He pushed off.

So let’s take a deep breath and not screech every time a defender stumbles. Let’s let this be a lesson for the importance of a bold and selfless quest for truth. Let us seek the overly-sweated-on spots on the court as we should seek the overly-sweated-on spots in our lives.

And in the meanwhile, let’s wait to screech until the truly sublime occurs. Like ankles:



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Filed Under: NBA, Basketball, Ankle Breaking, Kyrie Irving, MAINSTREAM MEDIA, Kemba Walker, eric bledsoe, Boris Diaw, Jamal Crawford

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad