Happy birthday Antoine Walker! The former Celtic and Heat player was born 37 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois. To commemorate ‘Toine’s big day, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and bring you the best celebrations in contemporary NBA history. While Walker has encountered some serious obstacles in his post-NBA life, he’ll always have “The Shimmy.”
When you’re going good, or you hit a big-time shot, you want to celebrate. It’s human nature to express our joy when we’ve accomplished something incredible. Nowhere is this more true than the NBA, where big shots are often followed by big celebrations; where players can get so hot everything starts to go in, and where a last second shot can birth new legends. With all that drama, there are bound to be some incredible celebrations.
Here are 10 of our favorite celebrations from over the years.
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10. DWYANE WADE – Cam Newton‘s Superman
This one might be a one-off, but it still makes our list because of the timing and execution. Early during the 2011-12 season, Dwyane Wade and the Heat faced off against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats would go on to finish a season they’d just assume forget: they had the worst winning percentage of any team in NBA history. But even playing against the mighty Heat last season, they were leading by one with under 30 seconds to play. Before going forward, we should note that Carolina Panthers QB, Cam Newton, was in attendance that night. Newton, if you didn’t know, burst onto the NFL scene as a running and passing quarterback in the vein of an early Michael Vick. When Newton scored a touchdown he liked to pretend to pull his suit open, like Clark Kent does before saving the day.
Back to the game. The clock ticks down to zero while Dwyane Wade lofts a bank shot at the rim that swivels around the cylinder for a second before falling thorough. Wade took the opportunity, after hitting the game-winner, to Superman Cam in the front row. It was perfect, but we’ll likely never see it again.
9. LARRY JOHNSON – The L Elbow
Larry Johnson seemed like a sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee when he first burst onto the scene as “Grandmama” with the old Charlotte Hornets back in 1992. After averaging 19 and 11 and 20 and 10 his first two seasons, his play dipped as his weight (don’t forget about his back issues, either) did the opposite. He averaged 20 points a night in his last season for Charlotte, but he wasn’t nearly the same athletic marvel he had been when he came out of UNLV. Regardless, his time with his next team, the New York Knicks, will always been looked on fondly by Madison Square Garden denizens. That’s because his 4-point play in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers is the stuff of legends even if Johnson wasn’t (and isn’t) a legend. After hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with the foul (and if we’re honest with ourselves, Knick fans, he wasn’t really fouled on the play), he grabbed his elbow to form an “L” for Larry. While it might not be the most conspicuous or witty celebration, it’ll always have a place in the heart of Knicks fans. For now, we can just say: “Big L rest in peace.”
8. DIKEMBE MUTOMBO – The Finger Wag
It’s hard to differentiate a lot of the intangibles Dikembe Mutombo brought to his game in the NBA, but blocked shots were certainly a large part of what he could do. He was a great rebounder and defender, and occasionally got a nice dunk on offense, but it was his defense that kept him in the league until well past his 40th birthday (his last game in the NBA was at 42 for the 2008-09 Rockets). Part of the allure of Mutombo, besides his rumored pick-up line at Georgetown (he’d walk into a crowded party and yell, in that deep Mutombo baritone, “Who wants to sex Mutombo?!”), was the tenacity with which he went after opposing shots. After swatting a shot, he’d wag his finger in a player’s face. As the years went on, some would use that trademark against him, but most will never forget the first time they saw Mutombo wag his big ol’ index finger in an opposing player’s face. It was a perfectly Mutombo thing to do.
7. STEVE NOVAK – The Championship Belt
Steve Novak is an unassuming member of one of the most well known teams on the planet: the New York Knicks. However, his three-point shooting is anything but covert. There’s a special roar to the MSG faithful whenever “Novokaine” catches fire from long range. To commemorate a big shot, Novak has adopted a particular brand of expressing his satisfaction. He unclasps a metaphorical belt – the championship belt – from around his waist; it’s meant to symbolize that he’s the champion of the long range three. Also, his new teammate in New York, Rasheed Wallace, used to carry around a championship belt during his title-winning years in Detroit. Now, “Sheed” busts out Novak’s move from the Knicks’ sideline.
6. CHRIS ANDERSEN – The Bird Man
Chris Andersen has had a tumultuous tenure in the NBA. He’s spent a couple years in street clothes after violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy, and recently his home was targeted by law enforcement for Internet crimes against children (he was not charged with a crime, though). Despite all the rigamarole, he’s still managed to play on an NBA team for the last decade, and he’s taken that opportunity to perform his own ceremonial dance after an emphatic dunk or out-of-nowhere block. He crosses his arms in front of him and then flaps his hands like a bird. He’s the Bird Man, and even with all the trouble and tattoos, he’s been a genuine fan favorite in Denver for years.