To start off this story, we must first go back a few years to March 25, 2010. The setting: A Sweet-16 matchup between the Xavier Musketeers and Kansas State Wildcats.
This was the first time I ever watched Jordan Crawford, a.k.a. Steezus, play basketball. He scored 32 points on 13-29 shooting, but Xavier fell in double-overtime to Jacob Pullen and company. You may have seen that game as well, but even if you weren’t watching that night, you’ve likely seen highlights, as it was one of the better tournament games in recent memory. This one, in particular, sticks out. (Skip to 1:20 in the video.)
It’s the quintessential Jordan Crawford moment; a most ridiculous shot that leaves you both screaming “no” and laughing a bit as he lets it fly, but yelping in joy when it sinks through the bottom of the net.
I could never have known that a few years later I would be sitting in the athletic training room at Xavier University (the same training room Crawford once sat in) when I saw on my phone that the Celtics had acquired Crawford in exchange for Jason Collins and Leandro Barbosa. I remember the moment as clearly as I remember watching that Xavier-Kansas State game, years ago.
(Side note: It’s interesting why some moments as seemingly insignificant as a basketball game and news about a basketball player getting traded stick with you so clearly, but for whatever reason, these two moments resonate with me. And I’m glad they do.)
In the years between that Xavier-Kansas State game and the Celtics trade, I hadn’t really kept up on Crawford. I of course knew who he was, but for the most part I regarded him simply as a goofball that took a lot of bad shots and had an incredible Instagram game (which is still on point, by the way). Unfazed by his rightfully garnered poor reputation, I was immediately all in on Crawford. I figured (hoped, really) that even if he took some bad shots, he could at least get his own shot and help the Celtics score some points once in a while, something they struggled with last year. (I even wrote about why Celtics fans should give Crawford a chance.)
I’m not sure I can really explain why I instantly bought in to Crawford. There was really nothing about him that would be appealing to a basketball team. Part of it was his “steez” or “stelo,” part of it was his Instagram pictures, part of it was the hope he could somehow help the Celtics win basketball games. I can’t give a concrete reason, but just like certain moments resonate with you for no apparent reason, so do certain players
Unfortunately, in the last few months of last year he was mostly irrelevant. He played sparingly under Doc Rivers, relegated mostly to mop up duty and a few minutes here and there. Still, despite his lack of on court production, I was all in on the Jordan Crawford era.
It’s what made the first few months of this season incredible. Watching the Celtics promised to be a rather painful experience. There was no Pierce, no Garnett, and no Rondo. But, there was Jordan Crawford, a.k.a Steezus. After just five games he was the team’s starting point guard. I felt as if my “investment” had paid off.
He was playing well, and just as surprisingly, so was the team (well relative to expectations). I always supported Crawford, while also realizing his flaws, but the first few months of this year, he was legitimately good. Late in November he registered a triple double, and in early December he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Over the month of December he put up averages of 15.5 points and 6 assists. It wasn’t spectacular, but he was a real player, and the team was in first place in the Atlantic Division.
From there, however, his play deteriorated and last week he was traded away to Golden State in part of a three team deal that brought the Celtics Joel Anthony and picks. It was the darkest day in franchise history. Less than a year after it had begun, the Jordan Crawford era was over in Boston.
I found out as I was walking into a class, and kind of freaked out. Just as I clearly remember the Xavier-Kansas State game and the trade with the Wizards last year, I’ll likely always remember how I found out about the deal with the Warriors.
It was a sobering reminder that sports, after all, are a business. Danny Ainge doesn’t care that Jordan Crawford had become one of my favorite players ever. He’s worried about doing the best thing for the Celtics and their future. Crawford was going to be a free agent after the season, and with Rajon Rondo’s return imminent, it simply made sense to get the most assets as possible for Crawford.
Although it makes complete sense from a basketball stand point, and I understand that, it didn’t make the reality any easier to deal with. Our relationships with athletes are a strange thing, as nearly all of the time we don’t actually know them. We “know” them almost strictly from watching them playing basketball, yet we can still feel a deep connection with them. (Caleb Nordgren wrote about it recently over at Hardwood Paroxysm in regards to the Bulls trading away Luol Deng.) It might not make sense to those “on the outside,” but there’s a relationship there, one way or another.
And while Steezus may no longer be on the Celtics, he’ll remain one of my favorite players in the league. He made the last few months of Celtics basketball infinitely more enjoyable than they should have been. There was still plenty of losing, but seeing Steez drain a deep three or crossover a defender and make a fancy pass brought a lot of joy to myself and other Celtics fans. He’s not going to get his jersey retired in the rafters of the Garden (which is a travesty, by the way), but no one who followed the Celtics this year will forget the Jordan Crawford era.
So thank you, Steez. Thank you for in a roundabout way allowing me to (technically) achieve my dream of appearing on Grantland. Thank you for your incredible Instagram game. Thank you for making “steez” a part of the lexicon, and most of all, thank you for an entertaining and exciting few months of Celtics basketball.