Intangible Man (in-tan'-juh-buhl man) noun. A basketball player who makes significant and meaningful contributions to his team that cannot be measured by statistics alone.

Usage example: Luol Deng is the Intangible Man for the Chicago Bulls.

Word Trivia: Have you ever listened to Hubie Brown call a basketball game? If so, I can almost guarantee you've heard him use this term, because it's one of his all-time favorites. Brown loves the underdog role-player, which is probably why he assembled an entire team of underdog role-players when he was coaching the Memphis Grizzlies. Every time someone like Brian Cardinal scores a clutch basket or grabs a critical rebound, you can practically hear Brown violently humping the
telestrator. Despite the fact that he's an undead mummy with the power to steal my very soul, Brown has a point, because rare is the successful NBA team that does not have at least one Intangible Man on the roster. The Intangible Man is responsible for doing the little things that you won't see in the box scores: playing defense, setting picks, diving for loose balls, taking charges, and dispensing Gatorade during timeouts. Most importantly, the Intangible Man must hit the big shot when left open and not make mistakes in critical situations. The Spurs have Robert Horry (the ultimate Intangible Man), the Lakers had Horry and Rick Fox, the Bulls had numerous Intangible Men (Bobby Hanson, Jud Buechler, Scott Burrell, Stacy King, et al.), the Rockets had Horry, so on and so forth.

The beauty of the Intangible Man is that his lack of statistical accomplishment actually makes him more dangerous. Most fans, and even many so-called experts, have trouble seeing a player's worth beyond the numbers that appear in his player bio. That's why so many people wet their pants when Steve Nash won the MVP over Kobe this season. "Nash could never score 81 in a game!" they'd say. But Nash brings something to his team that can't be measured by his PPG, or even his APG. The same holds true when you compare Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russel. Russell never even averaged 20 a game, whereas Wilt once averaged 50 and even scored 100 in a game. But all of Wilt's points couldn't stop Russell from winning 11 championships in 13 years, and 7 of 8 head-to-head playoff matchups against Chamberlain's teams (which had plenty of talent, no matter what some people claim).

But I digress. The true Intangible Men aren't Superstars or All-stars. They're the "average Joe" of the NBA scene. Guys whom you never notice until, say, Jordan passes off to him for a game-winning three-pointer. And, if you're rooting against that team, you're likely to ask, "Why did they leave that guy open?!" The answer is obvious: since he doesn't score 20 ppg, he isn't worthy of the opposition's best defensive effort. Most players tend to sag off the Intangible Man, even if they aren't part of a double-team or otherwise involved in the current defensive scheme. Awed by the superstar, they more often than not leave that Intangible Man alone to wreak havok with an open jumper or a maybe an offensive rebound. And sure, maybe they rarely get the headlines and almost never get the big contracts, but Steve Kerr still has five more championships than Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Dominque Wilkins combined.

dumb as a fox
Fox may have been a pompous douchebag,
but he was a great Intangible Man.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I heard Luol Deng is pretty good also (ha ha).

As far as Horry, I would say he's not the same as the rest of the guys you've mentioned. With the exception of Rasheed Wallace in last year's finals, everyone on the floor usually knows how dangerous Horry can be. I don't think anyone doubts Horry's worth beyond his numbers, do you? After all, the dude has 6 rings, and those aren't Jack Haley rings, in many cases it could be argued that the teams he played for wouldn't have won the titles without his big shots. Especially in 2001, 2002, and 2005.

Blogger chris said...
With the development of the term "lacktator" we have to figure out now how much seeming non-contribution actually has to do with prepping for the ONE career-changing shot that these types make...are the terms synonymous?