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Rajon Rondo has my respect

Rajon Rondo has my respect.

Playing in game three after suffering a dislocated elbow was beyond the call of duty. He played the entire fourth-quarter with a throbbing elbow when most would have called it a night.

It was Mr. Rondo’s call after all: it was his decision to return to action in Boston’s game three victory and it would be his decision to play in game four. The doctors knew the joint was reset and secure. But having your joint “reset and secure” does not mean he could play basketball at the highest level our species can generate. There would be pain…lots of it. Few would be able to stand the pain.

Mr. Rondo was one of the few. Thirty-six hours after having his elbow popped back into place Rajon Rondo took the floor in Boston and played over 38-minutes. Wearing a large pad and brace on his elbow, Rondo took the floor and gave all he had. It wasn’t good enough.

Rondo finished the game sitting on the bench in the last 3:09 of overtime, contemplating his 10-points, 5-assists and 3-turnovers. He was not nearly as effective as he was in game three and Doc Rivers needed more offensive firepower in a game controlled by defense.

But that is not what this story is about.

Watching Rajon Rondo play basketball after suffering a serious injury made me question myself. What would I have done? Would I have been able to stand the pain? Would I have been able to play? These are the questions that have no answer, the questions that cannot be answered but inevitably run through the mind of professional athletes, past and present.

Such is the nature of being a former athlete. Danny Ainge knows this all too well.

“Quite honestly, I’ve never seen one like that before,” Ainge said. “I’ve seen some guys come back from injuries over the years and had a day or two to get treatment. I’ve never seen anybody do that before. I really didn’t want Rondo to go back out on the court just because I’m concerned of our future, but the doctor assured me that we weren’t risking his future. It was a matter of pain tolerance.”

Dwayne Wade came under fire. He was accused of playing dirty basketball. He got tangled up with Mr. Rondo and it was that entanglement that caused Rondo’s elbow to fly from its home.

“Obviously, people have their own opinions and it’s unfortunate. But no one’s out here to hurt anyone. It’s a physical game of basketball. Me, as a competitor, I was glad to see him come back into the game. That was very courageous of him, very tough for a player to do that.”

Apparently, I am not alone in regard to my level of respect for Mr. Rondo. But D Wade’s respect for Rondo would and will only go so far.

When Mr. Wade was asked if he was “cool” with Rondo, he said: “Man, we’re in a playoff series. We’re not cool with the Boston Celtics. I’m not saying that at all. You respect what he did. But we have to win a game just like they’re out to win the game.”

I concur.

Rajon Rondo has my respect but I would have hacked that elbow every chance I got. No question about it. I have done it before in the NFL and I would do it again. No question.

I would have hacked that elbow, legally. I would have hacked that elbow out of respect for what it means to play hurt. I would have hacked that elbow to make sure I was giving no quarter to my sworn enemy. I would have hacked that elbow out of deference to my teammates. I would have hacked that elbow because that’s what my opponent deserves. I would have hacked that elbow in the name of victory. I would have hacked that elbow out of respect for Mr. Rondo. I would have hacked that elbow…

And when the competition was done, when all had been decided, when the throng had left along with my rage, I would have waited for Rajon Rondo. I would have waited for Mr. Rondo just so I could tell him how much I respected him.

I may have yielded to the pain. But I’ll never know. And that’s why it sucks buttermilk to be fat and 48.