Mikal Bridges is here to move you and the Phoenix Suns this holiday season with some sweetly subtle music on the basketball court.
Known mostly for Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay, his melancholy soul-cry on hard luck and loneliness, Otis Redding’s Merry Christmas Baby is a surprisingly joyful light romp through the holiday season. The kind of song that, when it hits on the playlist, your hips start swaying in rhythm from left to right without you even knowing it. By the time he’s saying,
I feel might fine, y’all
I’ve got good music on my radio
Now your head is in it, and you start to twist a bit, looking from one shoulder to the next, elbow bent as your hands raise, still in the rhythm, surrendering to it as he says,
Feel mighty fine, girl
I’ve got good music on my radio, oh, oh, oh
I feel like I’m going to kiss you
Standing beneath the mistletoe
Watching Mikal Bridges is a lot like experiencing this gradual takeover. You don’t notice it at first, but watching Bridges play is a kind of pure subconscious joy that overcomes you and just feels comfortable surrendering to.
His movement without the basketball—baseline cut, rim runs, silently fading to the corner for a three—is a large part of what make coach Williams movement-and-quick-passing system go.
Then there are those arms. Like Mr. Fantastic or Stretch Armstrong. Stretching across all passing lanes and altering shots. It’s his disruption on defense that causes you to take notice.
Bridges seems focused on making the right plays, trying not to get bogged down in the me first mentality that plagues so many young players.
“Just trying to play the right way,” he tells Duane Rankin. “Defending is the biggest thing for me. Trying to do whatever it takes offensively. Cut. Shoot. Drive. Do whatever.” It’s a deceptively simple-sounding approach, but one that takes disabling in order to achieve.
This is the essence and subtle mastery of any Ottis Reading cut.
The song on paper is about as shallow as it gets, talking about getting a diamond ring for Christmas like it is some real token of love. Redding seems to understand this and doesn’t linger on the point, focusing the song mostly on the joy and happiness of the season.
I wish you a merry Christmas baby
Happy new year, ha
A merry Christmas, honey
Everything here is beautiful
I love you, baby
For everything that you give me
I love you, honey
Merry Christmas honey
So don’t be surprised if when watching Bridges you’re overcome by a sudden toe tapping feeling. It’s okay, just go with it. Let it move you.