v. To walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
In most aspects of life, “walking with an air of overbearing self-confidence” wouldn’t be a good thing. To have swagger means you are a bit conceited, a bit pompous, a bit off-putting.
But to have swagger in basketball?
Swagger allows you to play at a level players who lack confidence just can’t reach. Swagger gives you the bravado to take on all comers, the audacity to challenge anyone, and the ability to thrive even when everyone else counts you out.
Swagger gives players a distinct edge, and those who don’t have it are often left in the dust. You can never count out players who have swagger, mostly because they’re too full of themselves to realize they aren’t as talented as the opposing team’s players.
Think about the all-time greats. They all had an abundance of confidence; all carried with them the knowledge that there was nobody who could stop them, nobody who could get in the way of their doing what they needed to do to win games.
Larry Bird was a lesson in swagger. Bird wasn’t the most athletic player on a basketball court—hell, he wasn’t even close. But Bird had an undeniable confidence in himself. He believed in himself no matter the circumstances.
His undying faith in his own play let Bird reach heights he otherwise never would have attained. Sure, Larry was a great passer, a terrific shooter, and an incredibly talented player, but it was Bird’s confidence that set him apart from the other stars of his era.
I bet you all remember, or at least have heard of, Bird’s fight with Dr. J in 1984. But did you know that the fight came after Bird had outscored the Doctor 42-6 through the first three quarters, chirping in his ear after every score to continuously let him know just how badly he was outplaying him? That’s swagger.
How about when the Celtics called a timeout in a tie game with the Seattle SuperSonics? Bird walked over to his defender, Xavier McDaniel, and told him not only that he was going to hit a game-winning shot, but also where he was going to hit it.
Then, after hitting a shot from that exact spot, Bird was actually upset with himself—he hadn’t wanted to leave time on the clock for the Sonics to have a last chance. Swagger.
Remember when he asked his competitors in the 1987 three-point contest who was coming in second place? Swagger.
Or the time documented in Reggie Miller’s book, I Love Being the Enemy—the Pacers and Celtics were in a close game with little time left on the clock and Bird shooting free throws. Miller, a rookie at the time, started talking trash while Bird was on the line.
In between the first and second free throws, Bird looked at Miller and said, “Rook, I am the best f------ shooter in the league. In the league, understand? And you're up here trying to f------ tell me something?” Then, Bird calmly canned the next free throw. Swagger.
Was Bird a great player? Obviously. Would he have been a great player even without his cocky nature? No doubt.
But his confidence, his cockiness, his swagger, enabled him to become one of the greatest players of all-time. Because Bird had such an overwhelming belief in his own talent, nobody could ever count him out of any game. Bird had an uncanny knack of rising to the occasion, and it can be directly linked to his never-ending confidence.
So why am I talking so much about swagger? I should be talking about the Celtics’ newest addition, Rasheed Wallace, right?
Well, in talking about swagger, I am talking about ‘Sheed, and I am certainly talking about the 2009-2010 Celtics.
Next year’s Celtics will have an unbelievable amount of bravado, an unparalleled confidence, and an unshakable trust in their capabilities. They may not have the most talented roster in the league, but the C’s will be second to none when it comes to championship swagger.
When Paul Pierce hits yet another big shot or carries his team to victory with another high-scoring fourth quarter? Swagger.
When Ray Allen comes off a screen and cans a three-pointer to tie the game or send it into overtime? Swagger.
When Kevin Garnett barks in people’s faces, crawls on all fours, and then drops 26 and 14 in the deciding game of the Finals? Swagger.
When Rajon Rondo takes charge of a team already featuring three superstars and becomes a triple-double machine? Swagger.
When Kendrick Perkins refuses to be intimidated by Dwight Howard and mostly bottles him up for an entire seven-game series? Swagger.
When Eddie House drops three after three and screams in his opponent’s face after every shot? Swagger.
But what about when Rasheed Wallace comes off the bench to provide the C’s with exactly the defensive presence, offensive versatility, and championship experience they need in their second unit?
Yup. You guessed it. That’s swagger.
Brought to you by Celtics Town.