Andrew Rafner is a recently liberated fan and writer from Los Angeles. He owns two Sasha Vujacic jerseys and isn’t sorry about it.
You know the girls in those cloyingly sensitive, quirky indie-leaning rom-coms? The ones whose quotes of Belle & Sebastian lyrics (mostly from “Tigermilk”) and floral tattoos and hand-knitted mix CDs and perfectly blunt bangs usually belie some kind of deep-seated childhood trauma that forces them to act like a hyperactive seventh grader-slash-human Care Bear? The ones who have inspired lengthy Onion AV Club articles and parody videos?
The ones that seem to unexpectedly fall from the sky in a poorly executed meet-cute 15 minutes into the movie and swoop the beleaguered and downtrodden cardigan wearing 20-something from his bleak and stark existence and thrust him into a world full of urban scavenger hunts and vintage sundresses and undiagnosed borderline personality disorders? Yeah. Them. They’re called Manic Pixie Dream Girls and while I like to think they are the scourges of the cinematic earth, it is hard to not admit that they have become quite the powerful stock character in Hollywood over the last decade or so.
A similar thing has happened in the NBA, except the rise of the Pixie Point Guard has been met with hordes of fans of the game buckling at the knees and feeling giddy for their devotion to the idea that the only rule for them is that there are no rules. And unlike the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who’s ultimate goal is to possess and consume the soul of the boy they force to fall in love with them via their sticker collection, the Pixie Point Guard represents the best thing in the world being even better than it seems.
You could say we’re in the middle of a positional revolution in the NBA. Many have. The Miami Heat won a championship last year with Chris Bosh as their starting center. Not to mention the team that they beat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, played Kevin Durant at power forward quite a bit during the series. Now, don’t get me wrong, KD is my favorite player in the NBA, but he’s got the muscle tone and definition of a streetlamp. Tough, but fair.
This crazy positional Dadaism is running rampant all over the league. J.J. Hickson is slotted to be the starting center in Portland, Pacers forward/guard/center/human person Paul George grows and shrinks between four and six inches at will, and I have long contended that the center position itself is a dying commodity in the NBA. I mean, how many true top tier fives are there in this league? Three? Maybe four?
But the long, ghastly death rattle of the 21st century center aside, the most lovable and delightful creatures to rise from the seismic ripping apart of the fabric of NBA positional acceptability is the Pixie Point Guard. Even if you don’t know what I am talking about, you know what I’m talking about: sprightly, kind of woodland elfish and dizzyingly quick. The guys who don’t just control the ball and passively run an offense, like your Mario Chalmerses and Raymond Feltons, but dissect defenses with precision passing and often times head-exploding and 30-second-replay-inducing dribble moves. And most importantly — joy. Pixie Point Guards play with pure joy.
Remember Linsanity? Yeah. That’s the pixie shit. It’s the thing that made you simultaneously throw up and pee your pants when Jason Williams passed off his elbow in the 2000 Rookie/Sophomore Game. It’s what made Showtime even a thing — although let’s be honest, there is nothing pixie about Magic Johnson’s physique. It’s what made the Seven Seconds of Less Suns a joy to watch in the mid-00s. Steve Nash, as we can all agree, is the prime modern example of a pixie, and that’s not just because he’s got the bone structure of a character from Fern Gully. It’s because he plays with lightness and ethereal beauty. It’s a look the Lakers haven’t really had since Nick Van Exel was pixie dusting his way all over the Forum in 1997.
Pixie Point Guarding is what makes a team go from kinda-sorta-maybe-not even that good to exhilarating. It’s what makes you watch a Timberwolves/Cavs game on League Pass on a Thursday night when Spurs/ Mavs is on TNT. It’s what will keep you from watching that same Wolves/Cavs game until Ricky Rubio comes back from his knee injury, a knee injury that threatens to rob him of his innate pixieness, which I pray doesn’t happen.
Pixies aren’t snarly and mean like, say, Russell Westbrook, who plays the same position with the slobber and pressure of a pit bull on a short chain in an unlandscaped backyard in Riverside. They don’t play with the slow-down, professorial style of Andre Miller, who chooses to take every possession and examine it like a complex equation and then test his theories, usually taking 20 seconds to do so before executing. Pixie Point Guards use instinct and blind trust.
It’s the quality that sends Kyrie Irving and Brandon Jennings twirling and spinning into the lane only to hope there is a halfway decent shot available once they get there, and if there isn’t, so what? They’re fucking pixies and they don’t give a shit. They’ll figure it out. It’s what makes you love Derrick Rose and hate Deron Williams. It’s what makes Bob Cousy and Pete Maravich, the patron saint of the Pixie Point Guards, such canonical figures. It’s what is going to make Damian Lillard the next Gary Payton and what kept Jonny Flynn Jonny Flynn. It’s that Pixie dust. (I’d like to give some sort of mention to Rajon Rondo here, but he’s just kind of a jerk.)
Pixies play with the kind of disregard for set plays that was born out of the playground, but with the presence of mind to know not to set fire to the notion that they have four other teammates out there. They’re smarter than that. Look at Chris Paul, a Pixie if there ever was one, but with the calm-headedness and wisdom of a lion tamer that knows the difference between control and respect. Sure, he knows he could have his face ripped off at any moment, but he has enough belief in his methods to expect his will to be carried out by those around him. That is the Pixie Point Guard magic trick — to fully realize your power, to understand that your shortcomings are often your largest assets, and to have others fear and respect it.
Pixie Point Guards are the lifeblood of fun and frenetic basketball. I love them, and soon they will come to destroy their methodical forebearers who have owned the position with so much less bliss and ecstasy. So when the positional revolution ends and the basketball landscapes have been ripped apart and the boundaries are redrawn, the only ones that will be left will be the Pixies. Why? Because they won’t be tamed. They won’t stop. They can’t be stopped. They’re protected by the pixie magic.
But the Manic Pixie Dream Girls? Yeah, they need to be stopped or else we’re all doomed.