Why Zach Randolph Is The Real MVP (Or, The Most Explicit Fairy Tale In NBA History)

Derrick Rose was named NBA MVP this afternoon, but the past two weeks have been all about the Memphis Grizzlies and Zach Randolph, and nobody's got a crazier success story than Z-Bo. Talking points is a daily series that runs down some of the best stories in sports (and elsewhere). Today, Z-Bo, El Clasico, Knicks zen, and cars from the future.

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Zach Randolph Is The Real MVP; Or, 'The Most Explicit Fairy Tale In History'

The Memphis Grizzles enter tonight's game with the Oklahoma City Thunder as 6.5-point underdogs on the road, but it means nothing. At this point, we've learned to take any Grizzlies odds with a grain of salt. All because of Zach Randolph.

You may know him by his nickname, "Z-Bo" or "the most unlikely franchise savior in NBA History", but no matter what you want to call him, he's been the MVP of the NBA Playoffs so far. The Grizzlies are the hottest team in the NBA right now, and at the end of the day, it all comes back to Z-Bo, the guy who's suddenly become unstoppable, and more than that, unflappable. He passes at the right time, he says the right things, he hasn't lost his cool, and he keeps getting better.

And it's been said a thousand times elsewhere, but you really can't overstate how surreal it is to see Z-Bo emerge as the go-to superstar for a Memphis Grizzlies team that wound up with him almost by accident. They got him for Quentin Richardson, for God's sake. And yet, here we are...

"I’m happy I’m here in Memphis. It’s great being here with the young guys. They’ve got a lot of talent and they work hard and they want to win. It just worked out perfect for me," he told ESPN Radio recently. "I’m not no type of guy to do a lot of yelling, I just try to lead by example."

...Really. Zach Randolph leads by example. For a look at why this is such a mind-bending concept, just look at his prior examples. True Hoop touched on his past while touting his present, and even separate from his newfound redemption, it really sort of boggles the mind:

Randolph was locked up for stealing a pair of pants. He got in legal trouble for battery and then served more time for selling a stolen gun. That was all before the end of high school, and that last incident resulted in his missing much of the basketball season to suspension. 


He was cited for underage drinking in 2002. In 2004, his brother shot three people in a nightclub. Randolph reportedly pulled his brother from the incident, but got in trouble with the police for, allegedly, lying about what happened. He's on video flipping the bird to booing NBA fans. He threw a headband at a referee. He broke then-teammate Ruben Patterson's eye socket by punching him. He was cited for drag racing. He asked for time off to grieve a death in the family back home in the Midwest. He then spent that night in Portland, as his teammates took the court across town, in a strip club where -- adding insult to insult -- he left without paying his bill.


Randolph had a video crew to his New York house and talked about how after the game he would eat with his family -- implying the tales of nightlife-gone-wrong were a thing of the past. The Knicks continued to be terrible. Randolph made YouTube history with poor, selfish play.

As the Knicks cleaned house, Randolph was traded to the Clippers, with more talk of rehabbing his image. After a DUI arrest and a suspension for punching Louis Amundson in the jaw, he was traded, below-market, to the Grizzlies.

And those are just a sample of from a longer list of transgresssions over at True Hoop. But the one thing they all have in common is that there's never been malice involved with Z-Bo. He's made some horrible choices and surrounded himself with the wrong people, but nothing hateful.

That's why it feels so good to root for him. He was never really evil; just totally ridiculous.

Now he's figured it all out, and the product on the court is practically unrecognizable. Even the Grizzlies never would have expected this. He may never be an actual MVP candidate, but over the past three weeks he's definitely been the most valuable player in the NBA, and it still feels weird to type that sentence because--seriously, guys--it's Z-Bo we're talking about here.

There are Cinderella stories in sports, and then there's Zach Randolph, who probably got Cinderella pregnant during an orgy at a Portland strip club, disappeared for six years without a second word, and then turned into the world's best dad. Where amazing happens, indeed.


Understanding El Clasico. I like soccer, but I don't understand it. And I'm pretty sure I will never understand it on this level. From Slate, a nice rundown of what we've seen so far from Madrid and Barca:

Though the games have been intellectually intriguing, in every other way—emotionally, aesthetically—they've landed with a thunk. Two of the world's most beautiful teams, given an unprecedented opportunity to test each other's skill, have instead goaded the worst out of each other. Barcelona, which could play against elves and still be the finesse side, has reacted to Madrid's tough defending by diving (and writhing around, clutching their faces, thanking the academy, etc.) at the wispiest opportunity.

Madrid has displayed an entirely different brand of cowardice by deciding, despite having one of the most awesome batteries of weaponry in the modern game, to power down the neutron core and play like clumsy underdogs. The matches have been tense and nasty. At one point on Wednesday, after Pepe was sent off, Messi dribbled through five Madrid defenders and skipped the ball past the goalkeeper to score. It was a breathtaking moment that felt weirdly unconnected to anything else that was happening, as if Messi were just dropping in from another plane of existence.

And in fact there is another plane in these matches, it's just that it isn't Messi's. It's the plane of hype, spin, and conspiracy-mongering—the joyful element of Madrid manager Jose Mourinho. Billowing over the entire series, like a dark cloud leased from Karl Rove, has been a cloak of lies, innuendoes, counter-lies, and counter-innuendoes, most of them released into the world by Real's manipulative coach.

This is one of those conversations where I would nod enthusiastically and say "hmm" a lot until it's over. Feel like that sums up my soccer fandom pretty well. Follow along with today's matchup here.


A Ridiculous Intricate Look At Which College Programs Produce The Most Talent. Courtesy of SB Nation's Black Heart Gold Pants, a look at past data for the NFL Draft, and how that reflects on college programs around the country. This is why the internet's awesome:

Good recruiting data across college football goes back to 2002. And we have draft information for every year. So, by matching between those two data sets, we can answer the questions above. We can identify the programs that do the best (and worst) job developing their players (at least over the past decade). Better yet, we can use this data to tell a prospective recruit exactly how much their NFL chances are affected by their choice of school.

They don't just tally which schools send the most players to the NFL, but also factor the number of stars for each recruit, and give schools a rating based on who maximizes the talent they get. It's a little confusing, but ultimately really impressive. Check out who scores highest.


A Preview Of Bill Simmons' Next Project At ESPN. As soon as he hired Katie Baker away from Deadspin, it was clear that Simmons wasn't messin' around on this new project of his. So it's only natural that Simmons' preview of the site would come in the form of Katie Bakes' essay on the Knicks. It's good stuff, and if not for the look at the Knicks, it's worth checking out for the Amare quote at the end. Deep, man.


QB-Camp With Jon Gruden Should Happen Every Day. From EDSBS:


WHOA. You're telling me that's your hair? When was the last time you got ran a little water and soap over that wedge formation you got goin' there in the front? Cause I'm gonna be honest, and you better be ready for this because the scouts are gonna come at you with worse: the last time I saw hair that matted and nasty it was on Al Davis, and you don't wanna know where. He used to shower with the team once a week whether he needed it or not.

Read more here.


The Awkward Photo Of The Day.


Don't you feel like that's the face Pau has been making the entire playoffs?


Wait, Was All That Z-Bo Talk Just An Attempt To Jinx Him Before OKC Tonight? Yes.


Finlly... Prepare To Get Your Mind Blown. Flying cars are coming soon. FLYING CARS:

...scientists are hot on the trail of anti-gravity in the real world. Researchers at CERN’s Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) recently managed to trap 309 antihydrogen atoms for up to 1000 seconds, which is a much larger amount of antihydrogen and a much longer time period than was previously accomplished.

...the theory is that anti-matter might "fall up," or react in the opposite way that regular matter does to gravity. If this is found to be true, the implications for technology would be staggering. Think not only zero emissions flying cars and Marty McFly skateboards, but also new frontiers for space travel and physics ... In short, it would turn our world upside down.

Don't worry, IBM Guy from the year 2000. You'll get your flying cars before too long...

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