Why Atlanta Hawks fans should root for Kent Bazemore

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 22: Kent Bazemore
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 22: Kent Bazemore /

In today’s sports-crazed, social media world, of which we are all a part, fans love to discuss players attributes off the court, field, pitch, or e-league arena chair (I’m sure some people do it).

We find the attributes we can relate to and hang on those as a sign that it’s OK for us to root for them. Lately, I’ve noticed that all this connection fans spend time developing is usually only the precedent to a quickly disappearing loyalty as soon as said fan is given a reason to distance themselves.

To take it even a step further there is a disturbing trend of dehumanizing players that have “outlasted” their worth. Too old? Cut them! Paid too much? Trade them! Forbid a player becomes viewed as someone who has maxed out their potential, because our current route to dealing with them is tweeting “behind their back” like we would talk about our crush in middle school who we finally realized wasn’t going to pan out for us. It’s an odd cycle that isn’t always fair to people who spend so much of their time in the public eye.

Kent Bazemore is going through just such a time. Listening to sports talk and Twitter, Kent Bazemore is now viewed as an overpaid burden that it’s in direct contrast with where the Hawks are going as a franchise. I’m not saying I don’t understand where and why these discussions are happening but it’s strange considering how beloved he has been for most of his career. Bazemore has spent the majority of his career as the ultimate underdog.

Never having been known for bursting on the scene Kent Bazemore played in college at a mid-major school in Old Dominion where he slowly developed, culminating in a first team All-CAA conference season his senior year where he was the biggest thing the school had going for them.

That wasn’t enough to gain him the honor of having his name called in the draft however as he had to fight for a spot in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues. Eventually he signed with the Golden State Warriors where he spent a good portion of his first 2 seasons playing in the D-League. Finally he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where, as shown in the video below, he got a chance to play and show his unique versatility which as we all know lead to the Hawks signing him in the next off-season.

Also, forget how hard his career has been, the biggest way he made a name himself during this time was by being one of the greatest bench celebrators of all time. He was, and still is, a guy that teammates universally love. He never failed to hustle and was always supportive regardless of how his own game was going that particular day. It’s hard not to root for anyone to become successful that has those kind of attributes.

As Hawks fans we watched him grow into a key bench role on what was arguably the greatest season in our franchise’s history.

Then followed that with a really solid starting role on another 2nd round playoff team. He was never mistaken as an All-Star or more than he was but I, for one, enjoyed watching him play. So did many of us… until it was time for him to get paid.

Coach Mike Budenholzer made the decision to bring him back, battling out the Rockets for his signature to mix his wing play with a core of Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. We thought this would be the team for the next few years. We were wrong.

Not only did the roster not produce the desired results but Bazemore had arguably the most disappointing year of his career. Dwight was traded, Millsap goes to Denver, and just like that after all his hard work, Kent Bazemore became a player that’s unwanted. Fans began to look at his bench antics as immature instead of fun-loving. Instead of his hustle we talked about his recklessness.

Kent Bazemore
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 26: Kent Bazemore /

Look, I get the criticisms from a basketball standpoint. I also get that Kent himself wanted the higher expectations and was probably more disappointed than any of us when he didn’t fully live up to them. But at the moment I’m more concerned with how our collective perspective as fans can shift so suddenly to turn on guys who simply worked their butt off to be where they currently stand.

One of the things that made the Atlanta Falcons so fun to root for last season was you felt like you weren’t just rooting for players you don’t know but you were supporting a culture. One where players were more family than TV stars. I understand that in the win-at-all-costs mentality that most fans have this won’t happen often but it’s tough to see the cold brutality in which we administer advice to change livelihoods and end careers.

At this veteran stage of his career he’s in a peculiar place of not necessarily being a part of the plan for the future but absolutely being a part of the plan for this season. The Hawks right now provide a situation that he can thrive in. His energy will mesh well with the young guys and his attitude can keep things upbeat when the wins aren’t coming in as fast as they used to.

Maybe Atlanta trades Kent Bazemore before the deadline or in the off-season next year, there’s no way to tell. Either way, this is a guy who is the literal definition of the word “grind”. So lets all take a step back from the trade machine for a second and appreciate the human example that he is. Not only is he capable of still having an impact on the floor we might just find that we enjoy it more.