Over a 16-year career that has passed through nine NBA cities — with repeat stops in Houston and Washington — Trevor Ariza has made a living as a no-nonsense wing defender who knows the game and understands his role. A self-made player, Ariza practically invented the 3-and-D prototype combining length and defensive versatility with consistent three-point shooting.
Ariza has never made so much as an All-Defensive team. But he won a ring with the Lakers in 2009 and has appeared in more than 1,000 games while ranking in the top 40 all-time in both steals and 3-point attempts.
Most impressively, while Ariza came into the league as a second-round pick way back in 2004 making minimum money, he has gone on to amass more than $91 million in career earnings per basketball-reference. This is a man who got himself a $15 million deal out of the Suns at the age of 33 and did it again the following season in free agency with the Kings. Legend.
Ariza is not a man to trifle with under any circumstances, as Atlanta’s precocious All-Star Trae Young found out over the weekend. Young, who is joy to watch and having a fantastic season for the woeful Hawks, dribbled the ball through Ariza’s legs midway through the third quarter.
The kids call this a nutmeg and it’s become one of Young’s signature moves, along with deep-as-hell rainbow 3’s from way beyond the arc. It’s a move borne of disrespect — a fun move — but a disrespectful move. Ariza wasn’t having it.
Young’s dribble had barely made it through Ariza’s legs when the salty veteran laid into Young with a cross-body block that knocked Young off stride and resulted in a flagrant-1. It was an old-school move, a pointed message more than aggressive retaliation, and it got its point across.
After the game Ariza made sure Young got the message, as he confirmed to the Athletic’s Jason Quick.
“I told him, ‘Don’t do that shit again; not to me at least,”‘ Ariza said. “I mean, I’ve never made an All-Defensive team or none of that shit, and he’s an All-Star, so he can be creative by ways to get around me. But all the, like, funnies? I’m not with the funnies. I don’t like the funnies.”
What an amazing, glorious quote. It manages to convey just the right amount of salt with a pinch of knowing self-deprecation wrapped in a world view that could stand for anyone who works with much younger folks in various capacities.
Thank you, Trevor Ariza. You’ve spoken for so many of us who are also simply not with the funnies.