Everyone loves an inspirational story, especially in sports. That is probably why Greg Stiemsma has quickly made so many fans. Because for Stiemsma, his ride to the NBA was certainly nowhere near easy.
He was not a big name coming out of Wisconsin, where he played his college ball, and for good reason. He never averaged over three points or three rebounds a game in his four-year college career. So it came as no surprise when he went undrafted.
But he didn't give up there. He went to Turkey, then to South Korea and then to the D-League. During his first stint in the D-Leauge, he was signed and waived soon after by the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers. From there, it was back to Turkey once again before he returned to the D-League for a second time.
It was there where he caught the eye of the Boston Celtics. They signed Stiemsma, but both fans and likely Greg himself knew that this was no guarantee of a long-term job. The Celtics have signed big men from the D-League before like Chris Johnson, but Johnson was soon cut after being signed.
When Stiemsma did make the final roster, many were shocked. He was quickly labeled as the next Brian Scalabrine or the "token white guy." And for the first two games when he remained on the bench, the labels seemed accurate.
But then, in the third game of the season against the Hornets, he got his shot. Although it was a tough loss for the team, it was a huge win for Stiemsma, who recorded an incredible six blocks in only 20 minutes of play.
He quickly made fans after that performance and for those that weren't convinced, he followed up his debut performance with a couple of solid games and a breakout game in his first career start. In that game he scored 13 points, pulled down seven rebounds, blocked two shots, and dished out two assists.
Now there are few Celtic or NBA fans who do not know the name Greg Stiemsma. He has proved every naysayer wrong and defied all odds to make it to the NBA, and now that he is here, he is quickly proving that he belongs.
Not only has he proven that he belongs in the NBA, but he has also proven that he belongs on the Boston Celtics. For the Celtics, who lack size, frontcourt depth and strong interior defense, the emergence of the Steamroller has been a Godsend.
After all, he is ahead of Dwight Howard in blocks per game and second in the league in blocks per game. And to put that in perspective, he is only behind DeAndre Jordan, who has played double the minutes that Stiemsma has.
For all of this, he has gained the trust and unrelenting support of the fans in Boston. He may not be an All-Star or a prolific scorer, but he fits in well with the Celtics. His role is to come in, usually off the bench, play solid defense in the interior, block a few shots, rebound and be the fifth option on offense, which usually means he is open for jump shots. And so far, he has excelled in the role, with improvement each game.
The combination of the story of his journey to the NBA and the perfection with which he has played his role with the Celtics makes him an exciting player to follow. Previously shackled by a lack of job security or exposure, Stiemsma is now comfortable in his role with the Celtics and has played himself into a situation with significant job security. He also now has the entire city of Boston behind him.
So roll on Steamroller, and we will be behind you the whole way.