Thanks to a bit of boredom and inspiration from Shea Serrano’s NBA Celebrations Matrix on Grantland, I’ve used some awful cut-and-paste skills above to investigate which Phoenix Suns players in the past decade had the best celebrations. It felt necessary to consider them in context to the four variables that Serrano used in his matrix. More generally, I was just hoping to rehash some of the best Suns celebration techniques.
Now we turn to one of the more obscure.
Grantland showed some love to DeShawn Stevenson’s “can’t feel my face” celebration, which likely gained fame due to his beef with LeBron James and rap mogul Jay Z. But we’re here to separate that celebration from Tim Thomas’ similar gesture.
Thomas’ “Can’t See Me” gesture is a little different. It’s about being under-appreciated, and that’s exactly what Thomas will be to Suns fans and even what he was in the midst of the 2006 season. Thomas signed in the middle of the year after voicing displeasure about his non-existent role with the Chicago Bulls, but the story behind this celebration gets a little more wonky.
Oh, the things you learn about past players through a good ol’ Google search.
The Daily Princetonian, of all places, had the most readily available lowdown on where Thomas’ celebration came from:
When sports and pop culture collide, hilarity is sure to ensue. When NBA trendsetter Tim Thomas, G-Unit stalwart Tony Yayo and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar John Cena join forces, you get the eighth-best celebratory gesture in basketball history.
Readers of last week’s column will recognize the hoops-rap-wrestling dynamic as the same one that produced LeBron James’ “Diamond Cutter” sign, which drew inspiration from both Jay-Z and Diamond Dallas Page and came in at No. 13 on our list.
Thomas beats out James because of the utter absurdity of the “You can’t see me” phenomenon. In 2002, as a rising WWE star, Cena starting winning over fans by waving his hand horizontally in front of his face after vanquishing adversaries in the ring. The gesture drew on the popular slang usage of “see” as an equivalent to the verbs “challenge” or “match.” By telling someone they “can’t see you,” you’re basically telling them they’ll never be on your level. Cena brought this phrase back to its literal meaning by using his hand to obscure his face from view.
Soon thereafter, rapper Tony Yayo burst onto the music scene along with childhood friend 50 Cent and introduced hip-hop culture to the “Tony Yayo dance,” which essentially repeats Cena’s trademark move in a more vigorous fashion.
Thomas, of course, rolls with G-Unit, having performed in skits on the group’s album “The Clean Up Man,” released in February. Two off-seasons ago, Thomas promised he would start doing Yayo’s “dance” on the court, and when Thomas had his breakout performance for the Phoenix Suns in last year’s playoffs, fans couldn’t help but see the “You can’t see me.”
A few message board discussions confirmed that Thomas was linked to G-Unit and appeared in some music videos, though I am too lazy to track those down and watch through each of them for a glimpse at TT.
Thomas wasn’t on the Suns for long, but he was a big part of what appeared to be a lost season. His gesture acted as a constant reminder to the teams that didn’t see his value. It was a big part of his gritty, almost reckless gunning that helped him to average 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 44 percent shooting from three-point range during that 2006 run, one the Suns went through without Amare Stoudemire.
Thomas was notably made the gesture during the conference finals series with the Dallas Mavericks, and photo evidence from a June 2 Daily Dime article confirms it. But the biggest shot of Thomas’ brief stint with Phoenix came in the first round, against the Los Angeles Lakers.