Double Clutch

Aron Baynes and the trials of protecting the basket in the internet age

Australian center Aron Baynes garnered unenviable attention through being dunked on by freakishly athletic stars on multiple occasions during the regular season. Most recently, with the glaring postseason spotlight shone upon him, he was regularly on the wrong side of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s vicious contact dunks, catapulting him into the online meme-machine and he couldn’t, or perhaps more importantly shouldn’t, care less.

Since the birth of the league, even in the modern era of basketball where almost every player is expected to boast a versatile skillset, huge bodies have always been effective roadblocks underneath the basket. As of late, Baynes has been . Yet, for a large chunk of his minutes on court, his responsibility lies in adding toughness to the young Boston team, commanding the boards and meeting opposing players at the rim.

He’s not reinventing the wheel; physical, bruising centers have always been able to carve a niche by keeping guys out of the key. Even some of the longest-serving veteran defensive big men have had to swallow their pride, knowing the kind of value they bring to their team by challenging shots and accepting the hyperbolic reaction that occasionally comes along with it.

“A lot of people are afraid of the humiliation or don’t know how to handle embarrassment,” said Kendrick Perkins in 2012 during his tenure in Oklahoma, when discussing Blake Griffin’s thunderous finish over his head.

“If I was in the same position, in the same rotation, I’m going to jump again and again and again. That’s my job. How will my teammates look at me if next I just back out of the way and just let him dunk when I’m supposed to be defensive-minded, a shot blocker? That would be a coward move on me. He’d just have to dunk on me again.”

Perkins hit the nail on the head. Regardless of how viral a player goes after a huge posterizing dunk and how much that effects the casual basketball fan on Twitter’s perception of their ability, the willingness to continue to disrupt easy looks is absolutely invaluable to a coach. Public images are legimately hurt by the instant online reaction to bite-size game clips; no matter what they do from here on out, thousands of people will only know and for their unfortunate involvement in cataclysmic slams. This is the harsh reality of NBA defense in the age of social media.

Baynes himself isn’t phased by any kind of online hysteria. He’s not a typical rim-protector with never-ending, Stretch Armstrong limbs, he’s all brute strength and . After challenging Antetokounmpo in Game 3 of the series against Milwaukee, his opponent and fellow Australian, Matthew Dellavedova was full of praise for the 31-year-old’s competitive spirit.

“Once he gets momentum and he gathers, there’s so much he can do,” he told ESPN. “I know he’s got Baynesy a few times this season, but Baynesy, I know he doesn’t care. He’s just trying to help his team win.”

That appears to be exactly what he has done all season. Currently Boston hold a 3-1 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the playoffs, they finished with a record of 55-27 and were bolstered by the physical presence of the giant from down under. His team earned a defensive rating of 97.0 with him on the court and in just 18 minutes per game he logged 5.4 rebounds.

“My job is to try to make every shot attempt of the opponent’s as tough as I can,” he stated. “If that’s me putting my body on the line then each time I’m going to step up and do it. I like it when guys are focused on trying to dunk on me because then they’re not focused on their game.”

It’s reassuring to know that while Baynes may be commonly recognized online for the wild plays of athletes such as , , or , there isn’t a dunk GIF in existence that will stop him competing.

Featured photo by Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports