After three quarters, the Golden State Warriors led the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals by 31 points. The game had long since been decided — really, you could argue it had been decided midway through Game 1 — and all that was left to determine was the final margin. (It’d land at 36.)
With 12 more minutes of garbage time left to play, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich emptied his bench and gave his lightly used players a chance at some extended postseason burn. That included a face familiar to many NBA postseason observers, but one that most hadn’t seen on the court in quite a while:
Wow I haven't seen Joel Anthony play basketball since the Heat big 3 days
— BATTLES NBA™ (@BattlesNBA) May 17, 2017
Once the starting center for the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, Joel Anthony hasn’t played much over the past four seasons, bouncing from Miami to the Boston Celtics to the Detroit Pistons before landing this year in San Antonio. He made just 19 appearances off Pop’s bench, playing a grand total of 122 minutes. As a result, his appearance in a playoff game caught fans and media members alike off-guard.
Saw Joel Anthony before the game and thought, that guy looks like Joel Anthony but cannot be him. Now he's going to play 10 minutes tonight.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) May 17, 2017
That collective surprise briefly sparked something of a social media phenomenon:
Joel Anthony is trending literally because everyone just realized Joel Anthony is still in the NBA
— shrill ???????????????? (@theshrillest) May 17, 2017
That appears to be true.
Had no idea Joel Anthony was still in the league
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) May 17, 2017
They say you learn something new every day. Today we learned that Joel Anthony is still in the League and is on the @spurs.
— NBCS Warriors News (@NBCSWarriors) May 17, 2017
Joel Anthony still playing ?!
— tré (@gorgexus) May 17, 2017
I had no idea Joel Anthony was on the Spurs hahahahahaha
— Pooch Flair (@ItsPoochFlair) May 17, 2017
I don't think Joel Anthony knew Joel Anthony was on the Spurs https://t.co/WLMR9LUNe5
— Joshua Chapman (@JChapmani65) May 17, 2017
Joel Anthony still collecting NBA checks ?
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 17, 2017
Joel Anthony plays on the spurs?
— Grey (@okaygrey) May 17, 2017
Spurs got Joel Anthony??? pic.twitter.com/CF5YgiW3rD
— RetroBoomin???????? (@RetroBoomin707) May 17, 2017
I had no idea Joel Anthony was still in the NBA.
— Kelly Scaletta (@KellyScaletta) May 17, 2017
Joel Anthony is still in the league?
— josh (@josh_schroeck) May 17, 2017
Joel Anthony signed with the Spurs 25 minutes ago
— Dummy Tiny (@Gresham_Major) May 17, 2017
As true as that seems, it is apparently false!
Anthony signed with San Antonio in late January, rejoining the team on a 10-day contract after the Spurs had waived him during the preseason. He rarely got off the bench, though, taking the court just 19 times in 39 games after signing and topping the 10-minute mark only four times. He’d played a grand total of two minutes and 33 seconds in the postseason — mop-up duty in San Antonio’s Game 6 annihilation of the Houston Rockets — before getting to run the whole fourth quarter of Game 2.
As you’d expect from the 34-year-old bruiser whose professionalism made him a favorite of Pat Riley and Stan Van Gundy before he landed in San Antonio, Anthony was ready when called upon:
In which Joel Anthony reminds a nation that yes, he is still in the NBA. https://t.co/sMAoHjczXS
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) May 17, 2017
The Montreal native finished with six points on 3-for-4 shooting with three rebounds and one very big and clean block of Golden State’s Damian Jones in the closing seconds of the Warriors’ monster blowout win. Anthony’s play didn’t meaningfully impact the outcome of Game 2, but it did remind people that he is still an actual, honest-to-God NBA player, and made him a nationwide trending topic in the process. That’s something, at least.
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