We all know that Rajon Rondo is a bit of a jerk on the court (and even that can be a bit of an understatement). He’ll do everything possible to get under an opponent’s skin, whether it’s talking trash, going into their huddle or igniting little physical altercations.
But one of the main questions surrounding Rondo, indeed a question that surrounds most athletes of his ilk, is what gave birth to this hyper-competitive nature? Was it a single incident? Was Rondo simply always like this? According to Baxter Holmes, Rondo always had a competitive fire, but it only manifested as we see it today thanks to one of Rondo’s former teammates: Kevin Garnett.
“Once I filled him with, ‘Hey man, you don’t need any gratification from any peers. If you bust they ass, you gain that respect from them.’ That’s exactly what happened,” Garnett said.
Thus was born the Rajon Rondo we know and (mostly) love today. The entire article is pretty fascinating, giving great insight into the formation of Rondo and Garnett’s unique relationship. While the two clicked, it wasn’t as if they were buddy-buddy. If anything, their similarities made them go at each other that much harder.
Here’s Boston strength coach Bryan Doo:
“When [Rondo] was younger, he wanted to go at KG,” Doo said. “Those guys used to butt heads. It was awesome.”
Doo added that Rondo might not admit he took certain characteristics from Garnett — Rondo doesn’t deny this — but, Doo said, “I think now, [Rondo] respects to no end KG at this point … He’s like, ‘KG had it nailed. KG gets it.'”
What’s going on inside that head?
That always seems to be the question when watching Rondo. We want to know why he made that pass instead of taking the open shot, why he’s such a pest on defense, why making people angry seems to be his natural state. Rondo doesn’t play angry, he instead seems to play with contempt, as if he knows he’s smarter than every other player on the court and he’s only deigning to play this childish sport with them because he has nothing better to do with his time. You won’t see Rondo shaking hands with an opponent during the game – you won’t even see him accepting a helping hand from an opponent if he’s on the ground.
Simply put, Rondo wants no part of on-court friendship.
“Everybody wants to be buddy-buddy. We’re out there competing. I don’t feel like we have to be dirty or anything crazy, but as far as competing, there’s no limits.”
(Rondo) added, “There’s a lot of talented guys, but there’s not a lot of guys that play the game that right way. A lot of people want to be buddy-buddy. It’s just what it is. When I’m on the court, I just compete. When you’re off the court, that’s when it’s time to talk or whatever you want to do. But once it goes up, it’s time to compete.”
This is the same competitive spirt we see in the likes of KG or Kobe Bryant (who so identifies with Rondo that he calls him a fellow “asshole“), one that essentially fractures the player into two different people: who they are on the court, and who they are off it. That spirit is different from, say, Russell Westbrook, whose on-court demeanor is simply “kill,” because there is always a sense of lost control.
Rondo, however, never appears out of control. He’s calculating, menacingly so. He doesn’t want to kill, he wants to dominate – mentally, physically, completely. And it’s all thanks to Kevin Garnett.