The NBA bloggers at SB Nation are doing a series of themed posts each week leading up to the season that should be both interesting and discussion worthy. Unfortunately, we at DBB missed the first post last week, where we were supposed to select a Cult Classic Piston. I'm remedying our neglect this morning and Matt W. will be along later with this week's themed post.
Steve Perrin of Clips Nation, who spearheaded this idea, defined a cult classic player as follows:
These are the players that earned a following within their fanbase that was, shall we say, disproportionate to their skill levels on the basketball court. ...If you were looking for the single common characteristic for most of these Cult Classics, it would probably be energy. The vast majority of these players would invariably be described as "energy guys" and that makes sense for a fan favorite. These are the guys that were great teammates that could change a game by diving for loose balls or playing some scrappy defense, even if they weren't the most talented players on their teams
While I thought about going with Otis Thorpe for personal reasons or Walter Herrmann (incidentally, the Bobcats' blog chose him), and Matt and Boo suggested Buddha, I feel like I would be Red Panda'd and exotic animal'd to death if I went with anyone not named Jonas Jerebko.
Jerebko may not even be the most popular Piston anymore now that Greg Monroe has risen to unrealized stardom, but he's still the most handsome and, more importantly, he's the Piston who best embodies that of a true Bad Boy.
I said the following in 2009 about the Dolph Lundgren lookalike after he dropped 17 points in the second half against Philly and I think it bears repeating:
J.J. works so hard, I heard he ran 10 miles after the game tonight, before starting a 300-style workout as a way to unwind for the night. His meals consist of beer and hockey pucks. He once turned down Tiger Woods' wife because he was busy doing pull ups. And he was also suspended in kindergarten because he told his teacher, "I must break you" when she tried to tell him it was nap time. Jonas Jerebko does not nap.
Jerebko's work ethic showed this past season after he rehabbed his way back from a torn achilles. All we heard during the season he had to sit out was how hard he was working to return stronger than before. Sure, the Pistons media can drown us with Koolaid at times, but Jerebko's grind was evident in pictures and videos that would supplement the stories of him riding around practice on his little Dr. stool, focused and dripping in sweat and the blood of those who stepped in his way. Of course, how he held up last season was just proof in the pudding (the pudding that he wasn't eating during his time off because, I mean, look at that body).
Jerebko's skills are only disproportionate to his following amongst the Pistons fanbase because he's so loved. At the Palace, like Ben Wallace's Rebound Row during the better years of the 2000s, there's a Jerebko Row where viking helmets and bandanas are passed out. At the team store, they sell t-shirts with his number 33 inside said viking helmet -- a shirt I proudly own and have worn under a blazer, because I'm classy.
I suspect that Jerebko's fanbase will only grow if he can get more playing time to show off his hustle and good looks. It was once joked he was drafted merely because he once satisfied Joe Dumars' popcorn cravings, but now we know it was because he's meant to replace SF Tayshaun Prince, who is currently the exact opposite of a cult classic. We anxiously await that moment and, in the meantime, we'll continue to celebrate the sweetest Swede in the NBA.
(For what it's worth, Jerebko is currently playing in the qualifying games for the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket tournament and he dropped 26 points on Bulgaria, probably because he was taking it easy on them.)
For more NBA cult classics, head here.