Most people don’t know who Matthew Dellavedova is, but Aussie basketball fans will recognise “Delly” as the Aussie who is currently playing alongside the world’s best player LeBron James for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.
Delly also has a particularly strange reputation on Twitter. More accurately, it’s been how his reputation has changed over time that is strange. But I’ll get to that.
Delly is not particularly quick, or strong, or a particularly good shooter, or a particularly good passer. He is fundamentally solid in most areas but he’s only really above average in one: determination.
Dellavedova played NCAA college basketball at St Mary’s California, where is an all-time legend. St Mary’s is not a huge basketball school, but it certainly isn’t invisible either. He scored a tonne of points and led his team with distinction. It says a lot about him that fans of St Mary’s biggest rivals, Gonzaga, absolutely hate him. He also did this on National Television:
After going undrafted but working hard enough to earn a contract with the Cavs, he quickly became something of a cult hero in Cleveland. Playing limited minutes, Delly earned plaudits for his hustle, his willingness to put his body on the line, and the way his 100%-effort-all-the-time mentality influenced his teammates.
He had a few games where he really, truly, impacted the outcome. Playing backup to fellow-Aussie Kyrie Irving, he scored occasional big baskets and made big plays for the lowly Cavs. He hustled, irritated the hell out of bigger and better players on opposing teams, and didn’t back down from anybody.
Bradley Beal, the Wizards dynamic shooting guard, called Delly one of the three best defenders he had faced. He was playing meaningful minutes while ostensibly more talented players sat on the bench.
And Twitter loved him. Cavs fans loved him.
And then LeBron James ruined everything.
LeBron went home to Cleveland. LeBron, through no fault of his own, also brought a lot of baggage back to Cleveland with him: LeBron fans.
These fans would prefer to watch LeBron James score 50 points and have 7 huge dunks… and LOSE… to watching LeBron have a solid overall game in a good team performance and WIN.
They hate watching the beautiful, gorgeous, sublime ball movement of the Spurs.
They would rather see an outlet pass for a LeBron James dunk. A really nice half-court set where LeBron ends up taking an uncontested jumpshot? No thanks, they’d rather see LeBron shooting while falling out of bounds.
Style over substance. Stats over wins.
Again, I have to stress that this is not LeBron’s fault.
LeBron seems like a player who would truly rather run a really excellent set play that ends with an open layup. He’d prefer NOT to have to charge through the lane solo and dunk the ball. He’d rather see his teammates perform alongside him instead of dominating by himself. He’d pass to an open teammate more often than he’d force an awkwardly contested fadeaway shot.
But many of his fans are the opposite.
And when he went home to Cleveland, he brought millions of these ‘style over substance’ fans with him.
And they HATE Matthew Dellavedova.
These fans are so obsessed with gaudy stats and highlight plays that they completely overlook all the little things that win basketball matches.
In Australia we call these ‘extra effort’ moments ‘one percenters.’ They don’t show up in the stats, but they’re crucial to a team.
Delly is an expert in ‘one percenters’ and will often set a clever screen, or box out a big man, or cut off a drive with help defence… things that don’t show up on the stat sheet but help win games.
His teammates still love him, especially LeBron James. His (new) coach still trusts him, and the Cavs still use Delly late in close games over ostensibly more talented players.
He’s not a star, and he never will be. On a team featuring multiple players with obscene levels of scoring ability, he probably won’t score many points either. But he doesn’t have to be.
Now we can get into the details of Dellavedova’s knee injury and return and the timing alongside various trades by the Cavs, but the overarching narrative is still the same:
Delly is appreciated by teammates, coaches, and a lot of fans who enjoy a backup Point Guard who plays fundamentally sound basketball.
Delly is NOT appreciated by fans who can’t process the idea that Delly is not going to provide any Sportscenter-style highlights.
And it is indirectly LeBron James’ fault.
So LeBron, I know you read this blog religiously, and I know you will take our suggestions on board… I would recommend you shout Delly a house or something. You took away his Twitter support. It’s the least you could do.
And Delly, keep doing exactly what you’re doing. For a handful of minutes every game Twitter despises you, but those of us that appreciate hard work and fundamentally sound basketball still have your back.