From that dive for the ball against Jason Williams in Game Three of 2010 Eastern Conference Finals to that poster dunk on Chris Bosh that sent Kevin Harlan on video game mode back in 2011, Rondo had given us plenty of moments worth remembering.
But nothing is more precious to me than the times he stood up for Kevin Garnett. Three occasions come to my mind when I think about moments that defined the brotherly relationship between these two great competitors.
Although Rondo was a crucial piece to the Celtics’ playoff runs in 2008 and 2009, it wasn’t until 2010 that he truly caught my attention. It was during Game Five of the NBA Finals. With just over two minutes remaining in the first half, Kevin Garnett drove to the basket and hit the deck after he was fouled hard by Ron Artest. Before KG could even get up to retaliate or say anything, Rondo had already sent Artest flying with a one arm push. Asked later on why he pushed Artest, the enigmatic point guard simply said, “I felt that Artest pushed Kevin. It wasn’t just a regular foul. We weren’t going anywhere, so in Kevin’s defense I pushed him back.” And in that moment I knew, Rondo was someone worth my admiration.
Fast forward to November 2012, Garnett found himself in a similar situation, this time he was fouled hard by the then Brooklyn Net Kris Humphries. Rondo, who was in the midst of the second longest double-digit assist streak in NBA history at that time, lost his cool at the sight of his big brother falling to the ground and unleashed his anger at a hapless Kris Humphries. This brought Rondo’s streak to an end and was penalised with a two game-suspension. Despite what critics say, I saw this as a true and tremendous display of leadership. To paraphrase the great Red Auerbach, a leader cannot expect his team to fight for him if he is not willing to fight for them.
In January 2013, Kevin Garnett found himself in trouble once more against Carmelo Anthony after the former allegedly told the latter that his wife, Lala Vasquez, tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. In rage, Melo waited for KG outside the Celtics team bus. The entire moment was captured on video and clearly lurking in the background was Rajon Rondo, who was serving a one-game suspension at that time after making illegal contact with a referee in their previous game against the Atlanta Hawks. Asked later on as to what he was doing near the bus during the incident, Rondo was quick to say that he was simply there ensure that nothing happens to his guy. Again, even in suspension, Rondo was there for his brother.
While it is his flashy passes, unworldly vision and eye-popping assist totals that makes Rondo a great player, it is his brotherly instinct and the fact that he never thinks twice about standing up for his teammates that makes him a bona fide leader. Rondo is many things. He is the one of the greatest point guards the league had ever seen. He is a walking triple double. He is a brother and he is terrific leader. But he is human first. He makes mistakes. In fact, he makes a lot of them. But he doesn’t let any of them define him as a person. I guess that’s what makes him so appealing to the masses. He is human first and that’s what makes him special.
Thanks for everything, captain! There is no doubt that your presence in the TD Garden will forever be missed. Best of luck in Dallas, where us true Celtics fans will live vicariously through your journey to that elusive second ring.