During the summer, especially in the “dry heat” oven known as Phoenix, going to the movies is a great way to kill time while beating the heat.
If you’re anything like me, since movies have become so expensive that you feel like you’re making a purchase on the New York Stock Exchange, you probably relying heavily on reviews to make sure you’re investing wisely. In the research phase you don’t rely on just anyone to guide your decision either. You turn to the biggest names and not GuyInHisBoxersInABasement.com to get honest opinions and treat them like gospel.
It’s those assessments that keep you from seeing Olympus Has Fallen and send you to its slightly funnier and more entertaining twin White House Down. It, and the common sense most people posses starting the day they are born, are what keep you from spending money on Grown Ups 2 when you can see the same film for $1 in Red Box when it was called (insert any Adam Sandler movie title from the last decade here).
There are trusted voices like that in sports as well. Guys whose opinion carries a lot of weight in the game. They are the people who can tell you if your favorite team’s deal was a summer blockbuster or something that more closely resembles The Lone Ranger, aka a hot mess.
Two of the biggest names in the game have reviewed the newest edition to the Phoenix Suns, Eric Bledsoe, and if they are any indication, the Valley is really going to embrace their newest Sun.
My mind was made up on Bledsoe long before his name ever came up as an option in Phoenix — which was easy to do because his name wasn’t mentioned until the deal was done — and it had absolutely nothing to do with anything I ever saw on the court from the young guard. It actually had to do with an interaction that took place mere feet from me in the hallways of the event level at US Airways Center on the evening of January 24.
That Thursday night, Valley legend Charles Barkley was in the building doing his best Harry Doyle impression during one of his rare stints as a color analyst for TNT for Suns versus Clippers. Prior to going on air just minutes after his arrival, the Round Mound of Rebound was kind enough to take time to introduce himself and have a conversation with team employees and select media. I was lucky enough to be one of those listening to the former forward’s words flow out as if he were giving some kind rare combination of history lesson and basketball sermon.
In the middle of the conversation, a member of the Clippers came down the tunnel and caught Barkley’s eye. It was Eric Bledsoe who had just wrapped up his pregame workout. The Hall of Famer politely excused himself from the conversation and approached the guard. Over the next few minutes the two shared a very sincere conversation in which Barkley gave encouragement to the young man telling him how he believed in his game and that he felt he had a very bright future in the league.
Those are powerful words coming from a man from who no one, including God, was impervious to his verbal wrath.
If you’re more from the NBA 2k generation than the NBA Jam crowd, Barkley’s opinion may carry much less weight than the forward’s oversized frame. But how does one LeBron James move your interest needle? (My guess is more than a California earthquake on the Richter scale.)
Bledsoe had a very unique nickname in his time in Los Angeles. One that is bound to excite even the most fickle of fans in Phoenix. It was a nickname bestowed upon him by a teammate he truly impressed with his athleticism, Jamal Crawford.
The moniker was simply, Mini-LeBron.
If it were self-given it would be viewed as so far beyond hubris that it makes a Kardashian look humble. When it is given to you by a teammate, though, it is a honor. But it becomes a badge of honor when the namesake himself gives his blessing to the nickname based on your play. That’s exactly what Bron did for Bledsoe last November after the Clippers defeated the Heat 107-100.
“[LeBron] actually called me that when we left the court,” Bledsoe told ESPN.com. “Yeah, he did. He said, ‘This is [Mini] LeBron.”
“It’s great to be called … one of the greats,” Bledsoe said to the Worldwide Leader in Sports. “Well …Mini-LeBron. … I guess it’s a cool nickname.”
That’s high praise for the best player currently in the game to acknowledge after losing at the hands of the guy with the nickname. I’m guessing Michael Jordan never called Harold Miner “Baby Jordan” when walking by him after the Bulls dropped a game to the Heat in the 1990s, to give him a verbal fist bump.
Unlike Miner and others who have been saddled with lofty expectations and unrealistic nicknames, however, Bledsoe doesn’t rely solely on athleticism. He also relies heavily on a high basketball IQ and an uncanny defensive ability and nose for the ball.
Those skills haven’t gone unnoticed. They caught the attention of not only Suns general manager Ryan McDonough but two of the all-time greats in the game. Regardless of the price, that’s something you’d never regret acquiring.