The Step Back

A farewell to former San Antonio Spurs great Boris Diaw


All good things must come to an end, and today, one of the best things in the NBA is — at least for the foreseeable future — heading back overseas. Photography enthusiast, amateur fencer, noted espresso proponent and 2014 NBA champion Boris Diaw signed a contract to return to his home country and play in France’s top basketball league for Levallois Metropolitans, formerly Paris-Levallois Basket.

For years, Diaw has been among the most interesting players in the NBA, his versatile skill set equaled only by his considerably wide breadth of hobbies. A 2016 Sports Illustrated profile from Andrew Sharp revealed many of the quirks which have long characterized the Borista’s generally warm presence in NBA locker rooms, as well as his basketball heritage and over two-decades-long friendship with ex-Spurs teammate and international comrade Tony Parker.

That profile also shed light on what had been a volatile start to his NBA career, from his draft selection by the Hawks to breaking out with Mike D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds or Less Suns and culminating in a much-maligned spell with the Bobcats from 2008-2012 (during which, it ought to be noted, Diaw averaged some of the highest box score stats of his career, including a career-high 15.1 points per game in 59 appearances in 2008-09).

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Following a baffling exchange with then-Bobcats coach Paul Silas in which Diaw asserted that a team championship was more important than personal success, Diaw was traded from the moribund Hornets to a title-contending Spurs team. Always more comfortable as a role player filling a gap, Diaw thrived for Gregg Popovich and company, helping the Spurs make two consecutive NBA Finals appearances and win the 2014 NBA title after averaging 35 minutes per game in a series against the final LeBron James Heatles squad.

The Spurs version of Diaw is perhaps definitive, though his box score stats and averages will never totally reflect the numerous contributions he brought to the teams for which he played. For instance, in January 2016, Diaw began making espresso in his locker before games. He continued his pursuit of being the league’s foremost Rennaissance man even after being traded to the Jazz last summer, providing a veteran presence for a burgeoning Western Conference power.

Though Andre Iguodala (rightly) represents the current zeitgeist for team “glue guys,” Diaw’s presence has often evoked a cracked egg, always managing to fill the pan. That Diaw never impressed with his raw stats didn’t seem to matter, least of all to him. It was a more-than-lucky habit of being in the right place at the right time and knowing when to cut, where to switch and how to take advantage of a double-team that made him an endless source of delight.

A French international since 2003, Diaw has been a member of some of the greatest teams that country has ever assembled and is a two-time Olympian. His basketball career in its twilight, Diaw has already expressed an interest in going to space. This, after comparing himself, favorably, to the noble hippopotamus. If the dilettante sommelier‘s NBA career is indeed over, it has been a fruitful one, both for him and for fans.

In the hours after Diaw’s move was announced, another interesting wrinkle appeared, courtesy of — who else? — ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: Diaw’s deal includes outs for both NBA and European teams. Perhaps, hopefully, we’ve not yet seen the last of the Borista.





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