The Seven Stages of Rudy Gay: Identity Appropriation
USA Today Sports
Last night Rudy Gay was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Sacramento Kings and we here at Hickory-High are still trying to work through the intellectual and emotional confusion (I don’t just mean confusion about the trade but general confusion about Rudy Gay as a professional basketball). Join us as we travel through The Seven Stages of Rudy Gay.
One of the strangest things that can happen to a human is for them to become a living breathing symbol, to have their actual identity pushed aside in favor of some idealized image of what they represent to society at large. Over the past two seasons that’s exactly what’s happened to Rudy Gay.
From the moment analytics frontman John Hollinger pulled the trigger on a trade sending Gay to Toronto, he began the slow process of permutation from basketball player and human being to vessel for the defining stylistic rift of the modern age of basketball. The new and old schools of player evaluation are fighting a battle for his soul, each eagerly claiming his production and lack thereof as an indication of greater truths. Ironically his value to each side of this coin is largely created by the attention of the opposite. If no one was defending Gay and his basketball value, me and my fellow quants would have no one to wave our slide rules and holler at.
But unfortunately for both sides, Rudy Gay is not an abstraction. Despite our best efforts to convert him into one he’s still just a human being and basketball player. As Rob Mahoney pointed out, qualifying Gay’s current level of production requires next to nothing from advanced analytics. Only eight players in the league have taken more shots than him this season and he’s been making them at a 38.8 percent clip. OOf. But, as Colin McGowan pointed out, that is not the final reflection of his talent, nor does it preclude him from being a useful player in the future or launder his basketball efforts of any trace of fun.
On days like today I’m utterly thankful that I just get to be myself. Being all things to all people looks exhausting.