Critical and vocal actors are put into the teams to provide the leadership and mental advantage that a championship team needs; Crowder is as close as he’s ever been to finally validating his role.
Naturally, all the attention of a championship team is focused on its stars. The Michael Jordans, LeBron James and Stephen Currys of the world. The truth is, however, that these supernovas never reach their championship potential without the critical players by their side. The second and third key options get their fair share like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green the list goes on and on. Often, however, what remains on the list are the fourth and fifth level players making crucial contributions as needed to help win matches. In the playoffs it all comes down to one moment or one possession and when these little players can make big plays, the Championship becomes so much easier to achieve. Jae Crowder is one of those players who helps a team win games, but hasn’t quite reached the ultimate goal he’s looking for.
It started early for Crowder. As the son of a former NBA player to Corey Crowder, the game has naturally always surrounded him as he saw his father bounce back from team to team and from region to region. Then, once he got to college and eventually to the NBA, he would jump from school to school and from team to team. He played at South Georgia Technical College, then Howard College, and eventually landed in Marquette with now-star Jimmy Butler. He’s had plenty of time to refine his grain, his nastiness, and his tenacity. He used to go there with Butler in practice and talk to each other like garbage collectors while playing against each other in a series of one-on-one games. He took that rugged mentality with him in the NBA.
It didn’t matter if he was a young player on the Boston Celtics. He immediately became one of the leaders of one of the most iconic franchises and helped bring an edge that was sorely lacking. During a period of loss in 2014, Crowder couldn’t hold back and tackled in training, especially against then-head coach Brad Stevens. He wondered if they were deliberately losing games to get a better draft pick and Stevens pulled him aside to promise him that was never something they would do in Boston. Boston would continue to make the playoffs this season and several years after, would do deep runs in the Eastern Conference. These races are not without the ferocity, competitiveness and tenacity of the versatile striker.
Years later, the Celtics are still killing for that advantage and they’re hoping longtime goalie Marcus Smart can bring more leadership this season. In 2020, the Miami Heat relied on that ruggedness of Crowder to make an NBA Finals before ultimately failing. Faced with a difficult contract decision, Crowder chose to choose a longer-term contract that gave him more security. This is exactly what the Phoenix Suns offered and when stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker reached out to him it helped close the deal.
“It was the difference between ‘we want you’ and ‘we need you'”, Crowder mentionned. Now Crowder is facing the most critical moment of his NBA career. He’s seen what it’s like to lose, and he can almost see the sunset over the top of the mountain, but there are two games in his path. He has two games left to accomplish his ultimate role-playing mission and validate everything he has worked on throughout his career.