Josh Smith’s win in Saturday’s slam dunk contest was of course huge for all Hawks fans, a leper colony of which I consider myself a fledgling member. However, J-Smoove’s triumph was even more important for me as a Josh.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, there have only been five ballers in the history of the L with the Christian handle of Josh, a trail blazed by one-year wonder Josh Grant, who averaged a trey a game for Oaktown in 1994. The ’03-’04 season brought Joshes Davis and Howard, the former drafted a Hawk but now a Sixer, the latter a former Demon Deacon turned Mav. And of course, ’04-’05 has ushered in Childress and Smith, both Hawks.
Clearly we’re living in the Golden Age of the Josh, and not just that, but the ATL seems to have established itself as the Locus of the Josh, which is great for a Josh like me who lives 60 miles away in Athens.
Before Saturday, NBA Joshes had flashed their share of promise, but had as of yet left little imprint on the L, a microcosm if you will of Josh’s nascent impact on the world at large, a fact owing mostly to the newly-minted status of the name as a common household birthright.
Maybe you think I’m overplaying this felicity, this common bond I feel J-Smoove and I share, but don’t undersell what’s in a name. For every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there, not to mention every Clifford, Dennis, and Russell, there’s a name we’re all given at birth that we have to spend the rest of our lives either fulfilling, rejecting, or negating. Some, like my latter three examples, solve this problem by adopting an alias, whether it be Mr. Meth, Ghostface, or ODB, but most of the rest of us just stick with what we’ve got, and rarely if ever consciously wonder whether we’re embodying its implicit qualities or spurning them.
All the same, “Josh” has a social status and value hung with all kinds of presumed attributes and personality quirks, just like any other name, and whether we’re aware of it or not, all of us Joshes have in common a shared relationship with our Joshness.
I definitely think certain character traits and types of behavior are couched in the name Josh, which is why I feel pretty secure in saying J-Smoove is a better, or at least more fundamentally apt, Josh than I am.
Because it’s only recently been popularized, Josh conveys youth, but it’s not just that – there’s also a definite strain of impetuousness there as well, of playfulness. It’s a normal name for normal guys who do normal things in an off-kilter way. It’s not the archetypal All-American name, but it’s not really a name for outcasts either. Josh is the jokester or the prankster of the straitlaced group, the guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously (I hope I’m a good Josh in this respect, except maybe with this piece), the guy who’s having fun and keeping it sleazy.
So yeah, I feel a kinship with Josh Smith, who’s had to be a Josh for 18 years (he’s got nothing on me there), and who’s made me as proud to be Josh as I can remember since I copped Entroducing in ’96 (and Josh Davis only gets half credit for rocking the handle DJ Shadow instead of his Christian moniker).
Oh yeah, almost forgot – I caught J-Smoove’s high-wire act in person last week as well, taking in a Hawks-Nuggets tilt that doubled as my First Actual Regular-Season NBA Game In-Person Ever, which seems like a blow to my credibility, but in my defense I spent the first 21 years of my life a good 2 ½ - 3 hours away from an NBA arena, and the Charlotte Coliseum at that. By the time I was old enough to take my damn self, George Shinn had pissed off/alienated/played grabass with enough of the Queen City that nobody actually went to the games anymore, and the eventual exodus already seemed inevitable.
Anyway, Phillips Arena was actually fairly poppin’ considering a 2-for-1 ticket special that night (my girl’s lure as well)…and yeah, I know this is gonna be sequentially twisted but I’ll post more comments/impressions/chatter about that game later, this post was supposed to be strictly about nomenclature, so I’ll leave it at that.