The Biggest Jerk On The Court

Gerald Henderson is a jerk. In fact, he's a big jerk. He's a big, fat jerk.

Full disclosure: I don't know Gerald Henderson. I've spoken to him once or twice when I was a member of the media, and he seems like an engaging young man. I've seen him talking on television, and he seems like a humble guy who loves to play basketball. He's a fantastic spokesman for Duke Basketball.

But on the court, he's a jerk.

When they write this season's postmortems (and I won't tell you how far I think Duke will go before they write those postmortems, but I will, in classic Coach K-speak, say, "I think Duke has a chance to be really good. I mean, you've got Jon, Greg Paulus, Kyle, Greg Paulus, Gerald, Greg Paulus, Greg Paulus, Wojo... We could probably go to the Final."), the writers will write about Elliot Williams' move to the starting lineup and how it turned things around by ratcheting up the intensity on defense.


Duke's season turned around the moment Gerald Henderson decided that he wasn't content being the best player on the court, and decided to be the biggest, meanest jerk he could be.

And that precise moment occurred when Maryland's Dave Neal floored Nolan Smith during Duke's game in the Comcast Center Feb. 25, sending the Terrapin fans into a frenzy. Henderson got the ball on the next possession, told his teammates to get out of his way, drove right down the lane and dunked in Neal's face. Then, he stomped and flexed his muscles.

If Neal and the rest of the Terps weren't deflated, then I'm a doctor.

You can see the arrogance, the I'm-better-than-you-are, the do-you-know-who-I-am?-because-I-sure-don't-care-who-you-are in the way Henderson plays the game now, how he played in the ACC Tournament, all sneers and screams until the horn sounds. He pretty much stopped doing that airplane thing he used to do after his dunks at the beginning of the season. Now, when he dunks it, he stares down the guy he just threw down on, then stalks back up court.

The airplane thing was fun. It was cute. It was a move that said, "Hey guys, check out what I just did. Wasn't that awesome? I'm just happy to be here!"

A jerk has been there, done that. A jerk is unimpressed by you, and he is unimpressed by himself. A jerk knows he is the best player on the court every single time he steps on it. He fails to surprise himself.

Last year, if a guy like Neal knocked out a guy like Smith, Paulus probably would've gotten in the guy's face, or taken a long 3-pointer that may or may not have gone in. Because last year, Paulus was the team's designated jerk. Except Paulus never was a jerk, because to know you're the best player on the court, you actually have to be the best player on the court.

No offense to Paulus, but he's more of a pest than a jerk. (But boy is he a great pest. I mean, he's six-foot-nothing, and he'll mix it up with anyone.)

In basketball, jerks win championships. Michael Jordan-huge jerk. Kobe Bryant-Shaq-alienating jerk. Christian Laettner-face-stepping jerk. As much as I like J.J. Redick, and as often as he was the best player on the court, he wasn't a jerk, so he didn't win a championship.

Jerks take the last shot, even when they've gone 0-for-24 up to that point. Jerks want the ball on every possession. Jerks have ONIONS! (as Bill Raftery would say) and the talent to back it up. Jerks don't care if you think that they shoot too much, or that they take too many bad shots, or that you made their seven-year-old daughter cry by swatting her shot 35 feet away and across an interstate during a pick-up game. Jerks just don't care what you think.

On the basketball court, Gerald Henderson is a jerk. And if he plays like the jerk he's been since the Maryland game, he'll be a jerk who's smiling at center court in Ford Field during the first weekend in April, National Championship net around his neck.

And Coach K will get up on the podium say, "You know, Louisville is a great team-I mean, really great, and they played a great game-but you know we've got Jon, Greg Paulus, Kyle, Greg Paulus, Gerald, Greg Paulus, Greg Paulus..."

Alex Fanaroff, Trinity '07, is a second-year medical student, former sports managing editor and former conductor of The Train. He writes a bi-weekly editorial column. This column appears in The Chronicle today.


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