Saturday, January 30, 2016

How Enduring Is This France Joke?

This week's Sports Illustrated features Ben Reiter's story about Rudy Gobert* and the proliferation of good French players in the NBA. Reiter argued that Gobert and his countrymen are changing stereotypes about "soft" French basketball players.

*Short aside: In Zach Lowe's detailed look at the Jazz on Tuesday, he revealed that Gobert prefers the nickname "Gobzilla" to "The Stifle Tower" and "The French Rejection." It didn't stop SI from calling him "The Stifle Tower," and rightfully so. "Gobzilla" sounds like something dreamed up by Willy Wonka.    

Here's the opening of that SI story:
For many, the words French basketball bring only one image to mind: a lethargic, earthbound big man cowering as Vince Carter leaps over him to complete a thunderous, reputation-ossifying jam. But the perception created by that historic dunk -- which came, of course, against the infamous Knicks draft bust Frédéric Weis in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney -- is entirely outdated. The French can ball now.

As a Knicks fan who's still scarred by the Weis experience, which turned out to be a moment of foreshadowing for our 21st-century suffering, I need a little more convincing. For now, I'm going to think of Gobert as the exception that proves the rule. After all, isn't Boris Diaw the definition of soft? (By the way, I'm not hating. I think Boris has one of the most beautiful ground-bound games in the whole league.) 

Anyways, the mere mention of French toughness got me thinking about one of my favorite jokes, which was told to me by a Political Science professor during college.

Q: Why is the Champs-Élysées lined with trees?
A: So the German army can march in the shade.

Gobert is going to have to block a lot of Dirk Nowitzki shots if he wants to make that joke obsolete.

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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet

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