Professional basketball isn’t, anecdotally, at the top of Arkansas sports fans watch list. Obviously college sports come first, but rare is the time I’ve heard while out-and-about a Razorbacks fan chatting NBA. They’re missing out.
The league is as skilled as it’s ever been with a number of Hall of Fame-caliber players putting on showcases just about every night. Now, into the playoffs, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Luka Doncic, Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum all dot the rosters of surviving playoff teams. Nevermind the Lebron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the world who didn’t make this far around this postseason. Whether you like them or not, they’re two of the best to lace up the sneakers.
One thing that has drawn a bit more NBA attention from those of us in the Natural State these playoffs is the success of former Razorbacks. For a couple weeks, Bobby Portis took centerstage in this realm as a critical piece of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Patrick Beverley Reps Arkansas Basketball
With the Bucks’ exit courtesy of the Celtics, however, Patrick Beverley has stepped into the limelight — even though Beverley’s Timberwolves exited in round one. As Arkansas basketball fans recall, Beverley’s two seasons in Fayetteville ended on an ignominious note, but he still stands out as a bright spot in an awkward time for Arkansas basketball. The Razorbacks made the NCAA Tournament both years of Beverley’s stay, though they came at the end of the Stan Heath era (which was considered a disappointment) and the beginning of the John Pelphrey one (which was soon to be a disappointment).
Beverley has ignited a brouhaha across the league in recent days for his, erm, analysis of the final game of the Phoenix/Dallas series in the Western Conference semifinals. Mostly, it’s a scathing takedown of, yes, a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul.
Beverley is one of the league’s best defenders and has been since he entered the NBA in 2012-13 after two seasons playing overseas. Never one to shy away from controversy, Beverley eviscerated Paul in the roundtable discussion, claiming it wasn’t just Paul’s offensive disappearance that hurt the Suns, but his inability to defend. The torches came quickly for Beverley, who has long been a lightning rod because of his outspoken nature. Paul, after all, is a nine-time All-NBA Defensive Team player.
But the last time was in 2016-17 when he was in his early 30s, closer to the age Beverley is now. And for the record, Bev was honored as such just two seasons ago. Point being, he has standing to make an argument.
Here’s the kicker, though:
If you haven’t noticed (you’d have had to have cut the cord a decade-plus ago not to) roundtable discussions aren’t exactly thoughtful critiques. They’re often antagonistic, built to create heated discussion not just by the panelists, but out in the public, too. Beverley, as anyone who has watched him on the court the last 15 years, is a king at such irritation.
The Next Charles Barkley
He could be, in a fashion, the next Charles Barkley. Barkley is almost 60 and has his job as analyst for TNT just about as long as he wants it. He has earned that with his style. But as years pass, someone will need to take up that mantle. Beverley’s on-camera persona hasn’t been built yet – heck, he’s still playing – though it’s easy to see it becoming a possibility.
Ex-stars generally get the first run at jobs like that, but they don’t always pan out. Jalen Rose was hardly a star, even if he was a good player for more than a generation in the NBA, and he’s found himself a steady hand in the world of TV analysis now for as many years on TNT and ESPN as he actually even played in the NBA. Consider, too, JJ Redick, whose days as marksman in the NBA ended just this season but was co-hosting the show on which Beverley made the remarks.
Personalities get people to tune into those shows. Durant almost certainly won’t be an analyst as his personality doesn’t naturally lend itself to the medium. LeBron has better things to do. Beverley’s stiffest competition when it comes to a potential second career as a Post-Playing-Days Provocateur is perhaps Draymond Green, who reminds many of Beverley in the way he carries himself. Butler could also do it as he isn’t one to shy away from the cameras, even if he’s not as Heated (sorry, pun) as the other two.
Frankly, the question of wondering who might make for a quality analyst in their post playing days had me leaning the other direction. Who has the personality with a potential for vitriol but one who might not use it as his calling card? Thinking the way we do, given this website’s title, I landed on one name.
Let’s Hand it to Bobby Portis, Too
Can you imagine? Long beloved in the state of Arkansas, Portis has made fan after fan in every stop he’s landed in professional career, including New York, where it isn’t exactly easy to win over a perpetually disenfranchised fan base. Portis is energetic, skilled, experienced and not afraid of a microphone. When he left Chicago, he was quick to say the Bulls won’t find another player like him. So far he’s been right, too, as he helped the Bucks to the title last year.
That isn’t to suggest Portis will go anywhere any time soon. He and the Bucks may have just flamed out in the second round against the Celtics, but the Little Rock native could have another 10 years of playing left in the tank.
For now, let’s hope Beverley continues to get the calls. On-court and off. He’s just the sort of player the public wants to see, something most of us down here have known for the last 15 years.