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. So far, we’ve covered Stephon Marbury’s funny face after Amare’s dunk and Goran Dragic’s onions dance in the 2013 EuroBasket event. Most recently, I hit on Tim Thomas’ “Cant’ See Me” gesture that was a staple in his brief time with the Suns and Shaq’s immortal hand.
Today, I’ll remember another Sun who made a huge contribution to the team in a short stint in the Valley. Quentin Richardson and his horns are up.
Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles brought hype to the Los Angeles Clippers in their first two NBA seasons, and little of it was riding on the team’s record. For goodness sakes, the duo had enough momentum despite lukewarm on-court success that they appeared in a “Van Wilder” flick. And you know, Q-Rich was dating singer Brandy for a while — his flair made him a celebrity. In a few years, he was also about to become pretty darn good fifth starter on a team with three elite stars and a rising future All-Star.
Richardson would bring a little piece of that celebrity to Phoenix as a 24-year-old. What tied him to his past was a gesture, the forehead tap and flick of three fingers after every made three-pointer. It had become a symbol for Richardson and Miles in Los Angeles, an exciting bit of personality that gave Clippers fans hope. If we made of graph with “Least Important Thing” measured on the Y-axis and “Biggest NBA Mystery” on the X-axis, you’d find this gem.
Were they invisible horns? Maybe an alien antenna, as in, “pay attention, get your antenna up?” Was it too graphic for the NBA to allow them doing it if it found out?
Though Richardson had earned his new contract with Phoenix by averaging 18 points per game with the Clippers a year prior, he arguably had his most successful season as a player in the Valley. We saw a record number of forehead taps in his single year in purple and orange.
Many still think the Suns’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals that year was a result of Joe Johnson‘s orbital bone fracture, but the Suns front office certainly didn’t see it that way. They saw a flawed concept. Richardson became part of a panic move following his one-year run in 2004-05. He was traded along with a pick that became Nate Robinson to the Knicks for Kurt Thomas and (you guessed it) Dijon Thompson.
It’s easy to forget what Richardson allowed for an undersized team that was led by the too-good symbiosis between Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion. But it was taken for granted that Joe Johnson was also the team’s backup point guard in a way, not to mention a deadly spot-up three-point shooter. Richardson, however, was as important in the grand scheme of things.
For a squad without a center for the majority of the minutes, Richardson was an elite rebounder whether he was the shooting guard or small forward. He was a streaky shooter not too dissimilar from current Sun Gerald Green, though his quick release got off his shots rather than any outstanding vertical.
Maybe what was most overlooked about Richardson was his passing skills and his defense. He averaged two dimes per game, and to the second point, the Suns in 2004-05 were a middle-rung defensive team despite lacking a prominent shot-blocking center — sorry Steven Hunter — and obviously using Stoudemire and Nash the majority of the time, and together at that. It wasn’t just Marion covering his teammates’ tails, nor Johnson.
Richardson’s performance in the three-point contest, and the comments coming out of Charles Barkley’s mouth during 2005 All-Star weekend pretty much summed up Richardson’s one-year run with the Suns. It was a good one, and it makes you wonder. What if the Suns had been the beneficiary to more of those horns, antennas or whatever they were?