In Defense of Zaza Pachulia
In one of the most controversial moves in all of sports – a subject that still proves to inspire debate almost two weeks later – Zaza Pachulia has officially signed with the Golden State Warriors. Since that time, he’s been called “weak,” “selfish,” “weird,” a “sellout,” and possibly the worst: “not-the-real-MVP” (okay fine, that last one was me).
If you haven’t heard the rumblings caused by the incoming bandwagon to the Bay Area, it’s because an already-legendary Golden State Warriors team – fresh off a record 73 regular-season wins and NBA Finals appearance – added one of the best players in the history of the league (born in Georgia) (the country, not the state) to their roster.
The internet’s hot bags of piss and wind took this opportunity to pile on criticism. ‘He can’t win a championship by himself,’ they said. They’re technically right, because the NBA stopped being a one-on-one league on Wilt Chamberlain’s retirement day. But the game is rigged against him – it’s required that there are 5 players on the floor at any given time… so he’s not allowed to win a championship by himself.
They wondered how someone of his caliber could go to the very team that beat his Dallas Mavericks. They lost the last three games of the season to the Warriors after improbably winning one game to give them a commanding season series lead. They were close in the last game too – a game in which Zaza had only 12 points on 12 shots, letting his team down. But Zaza had 13 rebounds and 3 assists on 100% free throw shooting – he helps his team in other ways even when he’s not scoring. He gave his all that game, and earned the right to leave on his own terms.
They pointed out how he had shamelessly succumbed to ring-chasing. Which would make sense, if the Warriors had won the championship this year – which they didn’t, because Tristan Thompson changed the hand that he shoots with and LeBron bought his entire team life-size shields before the playoffs (yeah, I’m still trying to figure out a reason why they lost). To them I say this – would you have been any less upset if he went to the 67-win San Antonio Spurs and take up the mantle of weird looking white big man? Or to the champion Cleveland Cavaliers and be their obligatory pale irritant?
And if he left, surely others would follow – he would be the one to cripple the team he once called home. After all, Chandler Parsons had bolted through the door just a few days later to star in The Bachelor – although that’s admittedly a very different kind of ring-chasing. But look at his track record! He graciously left Orlando after his rookie year to make room for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time NBA’s lost puppy award winner Dwight Howard. Milwaukee’s best player at being injured, Michael Redd, played the most games he’s ever played the year after Zaza left. Just two years removed from Pachulia holding down the middle, four Atlanta starters made the All-Star team – he made the sacrifice so the NBA wouldn’t have to awkwardly send five Hawks players to the All-Star game. Now he’s determined to earn his due – on a Golden State team that will likewise have four All-Star performers in the only state with secure bathrooms in the country.