Who is Rajon Rondo?
On the surface, it seems simple, but the deeper you dig, the more you realize how complex the question really is.
After hours of pondering, what I concluded was this: I don't know exactly who Rajon Rondo is, nor does anyone else. In fact, he may be the most complex player in the NBA.
Just think of all of the words that come to mind when you think of him: competitive, unselfish, selfish, loyal, scrappy, dirty, talented, hindered, leader, follower, childish, immature, winner, elite, not quite elite.
Now if that's not the most confusing list of adjectives, then I don't know what is. Yet it tells us a lot about Rondo and his enigmatic nature. That list of words, like Rondo himself, leaves us with far more questions than answers.
This latest incident leaves us with this question: Is Rondo selfish or selfless?
The data suggests that he is just about the most selfless player in the league, almost to a fault. In the past few games, he has passed up some open fast-break layups to wait for a teammate who he can pass to, and on a couple of those instances, the Celtics failed to score.
Rondo nearly broke the record for most consecutive games with double-digit assists. However, he did not break the record because of his aforementioned brawl and subsequent ejection.
And that pretty much sums up his selfish tendencies. It is his third suspension in the past nine months, and all of them have come on childish acts.
When he acts irrationally and gets himself suspended, he is being selfish. He means more to the Celtics than any other player, and forcing the Celtics to try to win without him is as unfair as it is selfish.
Thus this question, like the fight itself, can be interpreted in many different ways in terms of describing Rondo. Was it loyal for him to defend Kevin Garnett? Was it dirty to go after Kris Humphries? Was it childish and immature to get involved?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.
And that is the nature of Rondo. He is one big contradiction. You could describe Rondo with any word, and you'd probably be right.
This recent fight really opened my eyes to this. Suddenly, everyone had their own opinion about Rondo because of this one isolated incident, and they were all right. He was loyal, dirty, immature, scrappy, wrong, right, selfish and selfless.
Everything Rondo does and everything he is as a person is up for interpretation. He is like the Constitution.
You have your strict interpreters who would tell you that Rondo is a dirty player because fighting is bad, but they would also say that he is the most unselfish player in basketball due to his assist numbers. Finally, they would tell you that he is a leader as the best player on the Celtics.
The loose interpreters, on the other hand, would argue that Rondo is loyal because he stuck up for KG, selfish for continually getting suspended, and they would probably also argue that Rondo can hardly be considered a leader as he is still living in KG and Paul Pierce's shadow.
And just like actual politicians trying to interpret the Constitution, it is impossible to say who is right. It's not like they can call up the Founding Fathers and ask them to explain what they meant by
the "right to bear arms."
In a similar way, our only access to Rondo is mostly closed off because Rondo, among everything else, is also somewhat secretive.
For all we hear about Rondo on the court, we rarely hear about his personal life off the court.
Perhaps that provides a counter-point to the immature tag, as he is clearly mature enough to keep his personal life, well, personal.
We can't fault him for this. In fact, it's nice to see an athlete who only is in the limelight when he is doing his job. Although, that doesn't make our job in trying to figure out Rondo any easier.
Anecdotally, I was able to observe Rondo first-hand and up-close twice this year. Most recently was at a Celtics practice where I saw Rondo basically in his element.
The first time that I saw him, though, was far more unexpected. I was tailgating before the Patriots' home opener when a black Range Rover with tinted windows pulled up (we can infer that Rondo has nice taste in cars) right across from me, and out stepped the Celtics star in a Welker jersey (likely paying respect to the other short, quick star in New England) with presumably his girlfriend and another buddy.
They had nothing on them to tailgate. No food, no drinks. Yet there they were, just standing there as I blinked a few times quickly to make sure that I wasn't just seeing things.
In an odd way, he seemed inviting and stand-offish at the same time.
Soon, he started walking around, only in about a ten-yard radius. He did not walk over to me, as I was wishing that I had planned a more elaborate tailgate.
As he walked around, he took some food from one group and played some beanbags with another group. During that game, he was as lively as he would be the whole time.
He's a competitor for a living, not a socialite, and that was on display during the game.
After the beanbags game, I went up to him. Standing nearly eye-to-eye, we talked briefly (and I mean briefly) and took a picture.
And after that, he was gone, and so was any chance for me to really pick his brain.
Looking back, maybe I should have grilled him with questions about who he is as a person.
I guess that I made the right choice, though, I let him enjoy tailgating without all of the questions, and I allowed one of the greatest mysteries in sports to continue.
He remains an enigma, but more importantly, he remains the best personal debate-starter in the NBA right now.
What started as a question of whether Rondo is an elite—or even the best—point guard in the league has remained while countless others have emerged.
The mere question of who Rondo really is could fuel debates for the next decade, and we will likely never know the exact answer.