By now, most people who care about sports surely have seen video highlights of Austin Rivers’ game-winning three-pointer against North Carolina, lofted at the buzzer over the arms of Tyler Zeller, prompting an entire arena of Carolina blue to fall silent.
In the aftermath of the victory, Duke teammates piled on top of Rivers. His father, Doc, who must have flown to Chapel Hill earlier Wednesday and flown back to Boston almost directly after his son’s game-winner, shouted raw and unfettered screams of familial pride, and slapped the hands of everyone within arm’s length.
It was another chapter in the greatest rivalry in college basketball. And what would a chapter in any book be without a random reference to Rasheed Wallace. (Grantland)
Outside the Duke locker room, you could hear wild cheers coming from inside. Chris Collins, an assistant, yelled out, “That’s what he does!” Coach K stood by the door talking with Jeff Capel, his former player and assistant. “That was one for the ages,” he said, in disbelief. Later, he told Capel — and I’m just reporting the conversation, so don’t shoot the messenger — that the Carolina players wanted to run into the locker room without shaking hands (who can blame them, really?) and that Rasheed Wallace, of all people, was instrumental in forcing them to come back.
This is the side of Wallace we rarely see, the side of Wallace that isn’t drinking Bud Lights inside the Celtics locker room, launching ill-advised three-pointers, refusing to slide his feet within a team defensive concept, or falling victim to referee-induced rage.
During my first credentialed trip to the TD Garden, I stepped into the team’s personal lair one hour and thirty minutes prior to tip-off, as soon as the locker room was opened to the media. A few minutes later, Glen Davis walked inside screaming about being a beast and eating — this is a true story, seriously — a cheeseburger and french fries. As I recall, Ray Allen was holding court with the media at his locker, but Wallace came bounding into the room pretending to be a spartan from the movie “300.” This all sounds outlandish and fictionalized, but it’s true, I swear. After a few minutes of mumbling what sounded like pirate speak, Wallace’s brief display of hilariousness died down and the media was pushed out of the locker room.
The Celtics played the Dallas Mavericks that night. Dirk Nowitzki scored 37 points, many of them with Rasheed Wallace defending. (Kevin Garnett sat out due to injury.) Afterward, back in the locker room where he had pretended to be a spartan just hours earlier, Wallace earned a $35,000 fine.
“There were a couple instances where Paul went to the basket and got fouled or whatever, and no calls,” he said. “But we come down, blow on them too hard, and it’s a call.”
“[The refs] don’t like tough defense on [Nowitzki], so of course, I get a whole lot of bull—- calls, but that’s how the story goes,” he added.
The lesson, as always: From missed defensive rotations, to bad shot selection, to spurts of pretending to be a spartan, to stories of his urging North Carolina players to display good sportsmanship, Rasheed Wallace is one complex dude.