Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Boban Marjanovic
- LA Clippers 7-foot-3 center Boban Marjanovic plays just 11.7 minutes per game, but he has gained a cult following in NBA circles.
- Rob Perez (aka @WorldWideWob) sat down with Boban to find out how he's embracing being the NBA's next great Internet hero.
Becoming an NBA Internet hero isn’t easy.
The formula of assembling this supernatural being is like putting together a Frankenstein basketball player, but there are only a limited number of body parts to choose from and if so much as one digit is sewed on out-of-place — the entire experiment fails.
Before we dive in further, who are some Internet heroes of the past and what do they all have in common?
Metta World Peace
… just to name a few.
At first glance, the answer is superficial: They’re all walking, breathing blooper reels with countless off-the-court stories associated with them. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They never fail to entertain because we never know what they’re going to do next.
But it’s so much more than that.
Leaving the court to dap up someone from the other team or blowing in your opponent’s ear doesn’t automatically qualify you for this honor. It is a lifestyle — and it requires 24/7 work on and off the court.
You have to live your life the same way you play the game, similar to wrestlers never abandoning their ring personas.
There has to be something special about the player we can’t find anywhere else; elements that make him unique, unprecedented, flawed and most importantly: relatable.
Let me introduce you to Boban Marjanovic.
Standing 7-foot-3 and weighing a light 291 pounds, the Serbian giant has become a fan favorite overnight no matter what team you root for.
He is so massive, he can dunk barely having to jump off-the-ground …
“I [still] must jump to dunk,” Marjanovic told me in our sit-down interview. “But when I land, you catch the rim, that time I can touch the ground. If I dunk now, I cannot hold the rim and stand on the floor.”
… and simultaneously makes 6-foot-10 defenders look like day campers hopelessly trying to steal the ball from their adult counselors.
From time to time, Boban also enjoys staring down his prey and reveling in the fact that there isn’t a human anywhere in the arena who can stop him when he’s within an arm’s reach of the rim.
He’s also great for defending inbounds passes, serving as a human Fenway Park Green Monster. You might as well just hand the ball back to the ref because there is no chance you’re getting it in.
Whether it’s fair or not, Boban has become basketball’s version of “Andre The Giant” — an attraction wowing fans with his unfathomable size and athleticism.
When asked whether he hears the “OHHH!”s and “AHHH!”s from the crowd when he heads to the scorer’s table to check into the game, Boban answered:
“I hear it. It’s so impressive. When you sit on the bench of course for like five, 10 minutes, then you play 10 minutes on the floor — your body feels stiff. You must try to stretch. You must run up and down so fast after that. Then you hear the fans “HEYYYY”, I was like my body [still] warming up. Blood goes everywhere. It’s like warm blood. You’re just happy. Like when you jump in the car and say “LET’S GOOOO!!”.
This is not the first time the NBA has had a man with these physical qualities in the league.
Manute Bol, George Muresan, Yao Ming were players all taller than Boban, but there’s something that separates Marjanovic from his predecessors: He has, multiple times throughout his career, held the title as the most efficient basketball player in the history of the league.
“Good group to be”, he says.
Now, is there an extreme difference in sample size? Absolutely. Jordan and LeBron have been performing at this level for decades and Boban has barely played 150 NBA games total.
There is no doubt this number will regress at some point, but when?
As Chris Herring from ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight points out, he was at the top of the league in points per touch last year (0.453) — second to only Shabazz Muhammad (0.468).
In one preseason game this season, Marjanovic played only 15 minutes and recorded 14 points and 12 rebounds.
In his first regular season appearance, he dropped 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in just 18 minutes.
The per minute averages are jaw-dropping.
He can even run POINT GUARD for you, and look great doing it:
Boban, on his now famous baseline-to-baseline gallop:
“I’m really good handling the ball. I can say it for myself, I’m really skilled. Sometimes you must keep [the ball] low because if you do too much, everybody will be like ‘what’s this guy doing!?’ The pass was really good. The handling was really good … basically, I have that in the bag. I can handle the ball, I can shoot 3s like everybody else … maybe better.”
So if he is that good, why isn’t Boban on billboards across Sunset Blvd next to LeBron, playing more than 11.7 minutes per game, or ever being talked about as an MVP candidate?