I’m still waiting on the Ekpe Udoh Youtube highlight video. Yep, there are Baylor compilations of post moves, put-back dunks, the occasional block. That’s great, but it doesn’t capture what makes him good. I want clips of Udoh, showing on screens till point guards shrink into shuddering crouches. I want snippets of Udoh, recovering from those screens with angry, jointless, space-strangling limbs. I want video evidence of Udoh’s strange ability to deflect passes, with his back turned to action. And I want it all set to something a vocal chord puked into Autotune.
Recently, I became re-obsessed with Dennis Rodman. As a kid, I loved the sideshow, the multi-font book that boasted Madonna sex scenes. But who he was, was all he meant to me. My obsession saw Rodman’s love of NBA “dirty work,” as only a window into his fascinating, masochistic soul (His basketball-as-self-torture ethos was described in “Bad as I wanna be” if you got past text that shrunk and flexed like a hyperventilating accordion). Kid me had no desire to witness what Dennis did best back when he was burying unsung brilliance under an avalanche of narcissism and madness.
Today, I want to see The Worm tap boards to himself, above the fingernails of Goliaths. But the Dennis Youtube compilations I do find are replete with his dunks, buckets and fights. Our ingrained sense of what a highlight is, trumps the natural inclination to celebrate the superior. Dennis Rodman averaged 18.7 rebounds per game one year, and all we can see from that are goofy two-hand jams, and a jump shot that mocks its owner. It’s a damned shame.
Udoh isn’t close to Rodman-impact. Also, Ekpe seems sane and his specialty is a different breed of snooze-inducer. But, he’s one of a few players who need proper celebration, and probably won’t get it. Our improved technology, access, should shift the highlight culture to something player-specific. So far, it hasn’t happened.