Rajon Rondo?s run as an NBA superstar is just getting started. But when we look back on his career 50 years from now, one event will be viewed as the tipping point — the moment when he made the transition from good to legendary.
It was May 9, 2010. Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Boston. With the Celtics trailing 2-1 in the series — fresh off a 124-95 beatdown in Game 3 — just about everyone in the world expected LeBron James to deliver the knockout blow at the TD Garden. But a funny thing happened on the way to the King?s first championship coronation.
A new king emerged.
Rondo dropped 29 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished 13 assists to lead the Celtics to victory and join Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson in the record books. When your name is in the same sentence as Chamberlain and Robertson, you?re doing something right on the basketball court.
Rondo is doing more than something right. He?s doing everything right. After putting the C?s on his back and shepherding them out of the valley of the darkness, the 6-foot-1 point guard has shown everyone what Boston already knew — the kid can play. Rondo isn?t a secret anymore.
“To do what he does at his size, he could be one of the most unique point guards in the history of the NBA,” former Celtic Cedric Maxwell told ESPN.com. “He rebounds almost like Dennis Rodman rebounded, which means that before the ball hits the rim, he’s already making his move. He anticipates the angles, almost like doing math. But while others guys are adding and subtracting, he’s doing calculus.”
Rondo is Einstein with a basketball.
Think Danny Ainge is happy he locked up the 24-year-old for five years and $55 million earlier this season? That could end up being the deal of the century. Rondo?s salary this season was $2,094,923 in 2010. To put it in perspective, here?s what some other point guards made:
Deron Williams, Utah, $13.5 million
Chris Paul, New Orleans, $13.5 million
Steve Nash, Phoenix, $13.1 million
Tony Parker, San Antonio, $12.6 million
Baron Davis, L.A. Clippers, $12.1 million
Chauncey Billups, Denver, $12.1 million
Monta Ellis, Golden State, $11 million
Mo Williams, Cleveland $8.8 million
Nash is the only other floor leader on the list who?s still playing this postseason.
Rondo is the reason the Celtics still have a shot to win No. 18. The Big Three have gotten their second wind. Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen all have stepped up their games. And the C?s are playing with a sense of urgency. But the Green would be watching the playoffs on TV now if it weren?t for Rondo.
During the 2008 Finals, Reebok turned Rondo?s last name into a verb.
- 1. To smoothly move between large objects with dexterity and purpose.
- 2. To remove an object quickly without being detected.
- 3. To create a distraction followed by a swift change of directions.
The Cavaliers are the latest team to get Rondo?d. They won?t be the last.
Rajon Rondo proved he can be the best player on the court with LeBron James. Will he do the same with Dwight Howard? Amare Stoudemire? Kobe Bryant?
Don?t be surprised if he does.
Rondo has had a breakthrough. He?s taken the career-defining step all great basketball players do on the road to becoming legends.
Bill Russell did it. So did Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and Larry Bird.
Rondo?s Game 4 performance against the Cavaliers will go down in history as one of those ?Where were you when? moments, the time when a larger-than-life hero emerges, the instant when a rare event turns into a routine occurrence.
Malcolm Gladwell explained the phenomenon in his bestselling book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Who knew he was referring to Rajon Rondo.