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The B-Side: Rudy Fernandez and the Triumph of Flair

Doug Pensinger/NBAE/Getty Images
Doug Pensinger/NBAE/Getty Images
Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterMarch 27, 2012

The B-Side is a recurring feature here at Bleacher Report that gives kudos to the unheralded: the brilliantly executed set that leads to a bland layup, the swarming coverage that causes a shot clock violation or even the phenomenal move that ends with a blown finish. Every night in the NBA is filled with plays that are noteworthy for a wide variety of reasons, and this space is set aside to enjoy the alternatives to the standard highlight—one clip at a time.

 

If I may, this edition of The B-Side will engage in a slightly different flight of fancy. Today we'll look at a clip that's as pure as highlights come, complete with the fact that it holds no importance outside of its rigid, embeddable edges.

Behold, an old (in internet years, anyway) gem: Rudy Fernandez's over-the-head oop to Kenneth Faried.

Last week, the Denver Nuggets announced that Fernandez—the real creator of this completely unnecessary highlight—would undergo a surgical procedure that would rule him out for the remainder of the season.

No team in the NBA is better equipped to deal with the loss of a reserve wing than Denver. With Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer already playing regular minutes in the Nuggets rotation, Fernandez was an afterthought before his lingering back injury made him one.

That in itself is a bit of a shame, if only for the unique role that Fernandez fills in a wider context. He does nothing for the Nuggets that cannot be done by others; he's no better a passer than Gallinari, no better a defender than Brewer, and no better a scorer than Chandler.

But Fernandez is one of the league's few remaining highlight gunners; those who seem to embrace the potential for spectacular play over all else. There's still some substance behind Fernandez's spectacle, but he's easily at his most charming in these moments of pure reach.

In what is essentially a three-on-two fast break, throwing the ball backwards for an alley-oop may be among the most ridiculous decisions a ball-handler could possibly make. Throwing it without looking turns that impracticality into an art. The easy bucket is forsaken, the unnecessary risk is embraced, and Rudy Fernandez earns some YouTube real estate merely because he can. 

There may ultimately be no place for Fernandez in a basketball world of increasing pragmatism, but he'll always have some value for the contrast he provides. Though GMs and coaches will appreciate his versatile offensive skill set, Fernandez's greatest contributions to the league may well lie in his willing submission to whimsy. Through decisions good and bad, it's hard to dispute the simple fact that Fernandez makes basketball fun.

That shouldn't be undervalued or underestimated; not in a league where interesting play and exciting play can be so definitively different, and where the most charismatic players have largely earned their standing through visceral transcendence above all else.

The highlight reel has a very clear authority over the public consciousness, and though plays like this one will do no good for his coach's blood pressure, they thrust Fernandez into a different realm of discussion than his solid-but-limited game would otherwise allow. 

So here's to you, Rudy Fernandez. Heaven holds a place for those who throw backwards, overhead alley-oops into the wind.

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