How Ryan Broekhoff's first NBA start was a significant moment in history
Sometimes in life, we are treated to a rare glimpse of history being made.
On 14 October 1066, King Harold was slain in the Battle of Hastings as the Norman empire wrested England from the Anglo-Saxons. On 5 November 1605, an assassination attempt against King James I was thwarted at the last moment thanks to an anonymous letter. On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, proudly planting the American flag onto its soil.
On January 31 2020, Rowdy Ryan Broekhoff made his first career NBA start, and in doing so, all preceding history was rendered irrelevant.
The unassuming Melburnian’s insertion into Dallas’ starting lineup may have come to a surprise to many — including himself, apparently — but much less shocking were the results of the game, wherein Broekhoff constructed a masterful performance; nine points, five rebounds and one block in a victorious losing effort.
Never mind the zero assists, clearly none were needed.
Never mind the -4 plus/minus margin, for it was better than any of the other Mavs starters (and also a serviceable golf score).
Broekhoff’s debut as an NBA starter was so significant, it forced the Houston Rockets to employ a practically unfathomable small ball lineup. This contest marked the first time since January 1963 that an NBA team played an entire game without a player taller than 6’6″.
Such is the power of the Rowdy one; a power that James Harden would see firsthand.
Harden is the NBA’s leading scorer this season, averaging just under 36 points per game, and as he moved the ball down the court early in the first quarter, he no doubt envisaged a routine basket, with only Broekhoff standing in his way. But the wily Mavericks wing would not be intimidated, staying with his bearded foe every step of the way.
(If this was an episode of Kuroko no Basuke, the two would have exchanged approximately three minutes’ worth of scathing banter during the play.)
Broekhoff’s actions, however, spoke louder than words. As Harden attempted to lay the ball up with his left hand, Broekhoff ascended gloriously, swatting the unworthy shot attempt aside. Watching the replay in slow motion, you can just barely make out a fragment of Harden’s soul also being jettisoned.
It set the tone for the rest of the game, and Broekhoff’s ethereal presence clearly got into Harden’s head — the normally prolific scorer failed to manage 40 points on the night, and fell well short of 20 rebounds.
Whether this will set Harden on a downward spiral for the rest of the season is unclear at this point, but for one night at least, he was Broeken, and the Rockets’ 128-121 victory would prove a small consolation prize for what he truly lost.
After the match, Broekhoff was a vision of modesty, belying his supreme talents. On the subject of readjusting to the speed of the game and cleaning up his defensive rotations, he stated, “that’ll come, hopefully, with some more playing time”, though he could just as easily have been talking about NBA championships.
In an effort to maintain parity with the rest of the league, Broekhoff’s role was reduced in the following night’s blowout over the Atlanta Hawks, coming off the bench primarily with the game well in hand. The final score was 123-100, and though Broekhoff may have only added eight of those points officially, it’s likely that the aura surrounding his first career start was still resonating through the Mavericks’ lineup, making his actual contributions indispensable.
It was a joy to see, and just the beginning of this young man’s legend. Give it a little time, and he’ll no doubt become the frontrunner for this year’s Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, and even Coach of the Year (by the slimmest of margins, since we’re trying to remain realistic here).