Boris Diaw is assuredly one of the best basketball players in the world. And also one of the worst. You'll love watching him play because he's a genius. You'll hate watching him play because he'll do stuff that nobody understands — including us, his teammates and the coach. Bobo plays to Bobo's standards, and the rest of the world must try to keep up...
Boris walks into the gym one day wearing flip-flops and holding his customary cappuccino, which was a staple for him every morning,” Cleveland Cavaliers general manager and former Phoenix front office member David Griffin recalled. “It was during pre-draft workouts, so he sees the Vertec [machine] and asks what it is.
“We tell him it measures your vertical leap by determining how many of the bars you can touch. He asks what’s the highest anyone has ever gone, and we tell him Amare’ [Stoudemire] cleared the entire rack.
“Boris puts down the cappuccino, takes off his flip-flops and clears the entire rack on the first try. Then he calmly puts his flip-flops back on, picks up his cappuccino and walks away, saying, ‘That was not difficult.'
Most people hear that story and think that the vertical leap is the important topic. It is not. The important topic is the cappuccino.
Boris Diaw is... different.
Boris is a photographer. Seriously. One of his many business ventures is a professional photography studio.
Boris's father Issa Diaw, is from Senegal, a former French colony on the west coast of Africa. Boris often visits Senegal — he supports schools and basketball camps there. Over the years, his trips to Africa went farther and farther afield, eventually spanning much of the continent.
So of course, Boris eventually combined "photography" and "Africa"... and produced a photo-safari for kids, Hoops to Hippos! Published by National Geographic, no less. My grandson likes his copy very much.
Boris Diaw is... different.
In the early 1980s, Issa Diaw, like many African athletes, trained in France for a time, at the national sports center, INSEP. There he met Elisabeth Riffiod, longtime center for the French women's team. They had two boys, Martin and Boris.
Issa went back to Senegal, where he is now a lawyer, while Elisabeth raised the boys, near Bordeaux in southwestern France.
Elisabeth was captain of Les Bleues for four years. She collected 247 selections, second most in the team's history. Boris has now been captain of the men's team for ten years, and has a little over 200 selections. He wants very much to catch Mom.
Twenty years after Elisabeth, Boris also left Bordeaux to go to INSEP. Boris also met someone, but not a girl. His roommate was a kid from the Paris suburbs, named Tony Parker... They have spent a lot of time together, since then...
After Les Bleus imploded at the Rio Olympics, all of the Diaw/Parker generation retired from the national team... except Boris. He likes being on the team, and says he will remain, even as a replacement, until he gets kicked off. Not gonna happen tomorrow...
How will Les Bleus perform, now that Tony is gone? Personally, I think they will be better. Nando de Colo has blossomed since failing in the NBA: leader of Euroleague champions, CSKA Moscow, and both top scorer and MVP of the Euroleague. Evan Fournier, the Orlando Magic shooter. Ian Mahinmi (Washington) and Jeoffrey Lauvergne (OKC). Several good backcourt players not known to American fans, because they play on Euroleague teams. And of course, Rudy Gobert!
In Phoenix, at the start of his NBA career, Boris played Center. And Power Forward. And Small Forward. And Shooting Guard. And Point Guard. All five positions, at one moment or another.
Boris isn't as light or as quick now... although you'll be surprised...
He has gradually settled on a "Point Power Forward" role. He will be the best passer on the Jazz. He is always the best passer on all his teams. He is a "pass first" guy. Also a "pass second" guy... and "pass third" guy. He will shoot only under duress. This will drive us all crazy.
Steve Nash addressed Diaw’s strange choice of shot selection, driving to the hoop and getting all the way there, but instead of taking the layup, passing it out for a corner three.
“I yelled at him, Raja (Bell) yelled at him, everyone was yelling at him: ‘Borrrrris! Just f—— lay it in. You’re right on top of the rim. We need your points, man. Don’t you understand? The layup is wide open!’
And he just said: ‘That’s what you think.’
“You know what? In looking back, maybe he was right. It was infuriating at the time, but when you watch him play, you realize that he sees things other people don’t see. Such a smart, smart player.”
Google "diaw beautiful game" and watch all the highlights. The Spurs' 2014 "Foreign Legion": Diaw, Ginobili, Belinelli, Mills, and Baynes/Splitter. Oh, and Corey Joseph, too, I suppose... They all played Boris's game, with players moving and the ball moving, and the whole thing looking like a choreographed dance. The best basketball.
Mom Elisabeth and brother Martin were a bit encumbered when they traveled to Manila in June for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which Les Bleus had to win... and did win... to get to Rio.
They were carrying Boris's scuba gear. Boris wasn't going straight home after the tournament.