Big Al has the best nickname in the NBA.
This is Al, he is large.
Not to be confused with Superman or The King, Albus* Ricardo Jefferson isn’t interested in hyperbole. His nickname, like his game, is simple and effective.
*In doing research for this article (Wikipedia) and finding out Albus is Al’s given first name, it’s really a shame that he didn’t have the nickname "Dumbledore", given the magic he worked on the left block.
The 2015-2016 season wasn’t terribly kind to Al. There was the injuries, the presumed pot smoking that resulting in suspension, but most of all the old and slow parts of Albus got older and slower.
Al is a basketball dinosaur. Everyone knows this. If you triangulate his age, body, and overall style of play, it will suggest to you he is one thing: old.
Only two years removed from a season in which Al was Third Team All-NBA, it now looks probable, if not inevitable, that the Hornets will part ways with a man who could very possibly be considered the biggest free agency signing ever for the Charlotte franchise.
This is partially the Hornets fault. Over Al’s tenure with the team, management has accumulated a group of big men who are excruciatingly non-versatile. Guys who are not fast enough to play any position other than center, the biggest offender of which is Al. The Hornets have three such players under contract heading into next season: Spencer Hawes, Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller. The latter two of which, represent top 10 picks made within the last three years. Two non-rim protecting, positionally-stagnant big men, selected in the lottery — just to reiterate.
That’s four players who can only realistically play one spot. Almost a fifth of the roster used up for a single position. More likely than not, that will not continue into next year.
Al has said he’s willing to take a pay cut. He’s said he likes the organization and he wants to finish his career here. He could ride off into the sunset pump faking and baby hooking back up big men into oblivion. Average an easy 10-12 a night against second units utterly under qualified to deal with the load that is Big Al on that left block.
But is he willing to take as little as the Hornets will want to give him?
Who knows? I do not.
What I do know is that if Al leaves it will be sad.
Jefferson has been perhaps the most enjoyable basketball player to watch on the Hornets during his tenure in Charlotte. No one in the league has his post moves — literally, no one.
The man single-handedly makes the Charlotte Hornets a totally unique NBA viewing experience, something not all teams can say about themselves.
Al’s style of play is kind of a poor man’s Steph Curry, in that his game is accessible to the general public. It is not dependent on superior speed or athleticism, just skill (and yes, the fact that he is huge). You could totally see him at your local YMCA once he retires in the next couple years. All he needs is a pair of athletic goggles and a t shirt tucked into a pair of shorts fit snugly north of his above average waistline.
I will remember the work he did in the Hornets two playoff appearances, against the Heat this year, and the LeBron James Heat, two years previous. In both series, we saw the best of Al. He was — if only for stretches — unstoppable, and it was nice to see a player not given many chances at postseason success, bring it when it counted.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked reasons to appreciate Big Al is his personality. To a person, no one had a bad thing to say about him. Quite the opposite. Those in the media loved him, always talking about what a pleasure he was to talk to — something that shouldn’t be overlooked given a particular Carolina franchise's recent dealings with a certain horrible human being that used to suit up for them.
Hopefully Al can work out a modest contract with management that indicates a reduced playing role while allowing him to hang around and help lead the locker room. Al fits in well with this southern franchise, and he represents a turning point, the transition between laughing stock and an actual up-and-coming team. On the other hand, if he wants to go ring-chasing with the Spurs, or cash in overseas somewhere (YouTube videos of Al dominating China, anyone??), that's fine too. Al's been around a long time and deserves to finish out his career however he damn well pleases.
No matter what direction he and the team decide to go in next season, I will always be a Big Al guy. Though this past season wasn't his best, the man won me over the moment he decided to join the then-Bobcats, a huge get for a totally irrelevant organization. What the team has now, what they may achieve next year — all because he decided to take a chance.
Good on you, Albus. Hope to see you next year.