By Jon Carlos RodriguezDon’t leave your teammates hanging. It’s the simplest rule, really, but in an intense and high stakes game, some teammates tend to forget to give some love. Ditching the ritual at a fun-centric All-Star Game though? There’s just no excuse.
Karl-Anthony Towns just made a free throw at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game and I knew what was coming next: congratulatory high fives and handshakes all around—a symbolic ritual of warm, intimate bonding and camaraderie among teammates.
Giannis Antetokounmpo answers to the call, walks over, and slaps hands with Towns. Klay Thompson, who was lined up at the left side of the lane, walks toward the rim, his eyes on the ball, not once shifting his vision to the free throw shooter.
Towns extends his left hand to Thompson, but Thompson makes a U-turn back to his rebounding position. No high-five, no handshake, no love.
Wait a minute, does Klay even know where he is? Did he forget KAT was a teammate? Was he daydreaming? Was he daydreaming about scaffolding? These are all valid questions; questions that Towns have no time to unpack.
Left hanging and confused, Towns holds the pose for half a second before slapping his own hand for a self-tribute—the basketball equivalent of liking your own post on Facebook.
As consolation, Andre Drummond, who’s playing for the other team, sprints to Towns to give him the love he deserves. Towns laughs and nods his head in approval.
That wasn’t the first time the high-five at the free throw line ritual was ditched in the NBA. Many others, just like Towns, have been victims of the dreaded missed FT high-five.
Sometimes, the missed high-five or handshake can be hilarious, like in Towns’ case (it was the All-Star Game, after all), but there are times when it can reek of awkwardness, like that time Kevin Love and Wes Johnson tried to connect, then missed, tried to re-connect, then missed again, until the high-five lost all power and meaning. As a guy who once mistakenly grabbed a fist bump and shook it like an idiot, I can relate to this.
There are times when the missed high-five can get ugly and mean-spirited, like when Russell Westbrook expected one from Steven Adams and didn’t get any. Unlike Towns, who made the incident comedic, Westbrook put on his trademark scowl and stared down his teammate as if to say, “Oh, it’s like that, huh?” But, really, it was more like, “I’m gonna rip your head off your body and shoot it at the basket, see if you like that, you ungrateful giant.” I got scared for a minute for Adams, but then I remembered he was a 7-foot, 250-pound Acacia tree who doesn’t feel wayward elbows to the face.
Other times, guys would just hit air to save face—because who needs actual teammates when you can have imaginary ones?
Exhibit A: James Harden
Exhibit B: DeMar Derozan
But the MVP of the Self High-Five is Andrew Bogut. The former No. 1 draft pick and NBA champion didn’t only perform the ritual all by himself, he was joined by—let’s count ‘em—not one, not two…but six imaginary hands.
So may this be a lesson to all of us: the next time a teammate, or an officemate, or a random stranger has a hand up for a good old-fashioned high-five to #CelebrateLife, never leave them hanging. Hands are not going to high-five themselves.