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Sui Generis: "A Latin expression, literally meaning of its own kind/genus or unique in its characteristics. The expression is often used in analytic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity, or a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept.”

I first heard the term Sui Generis used a long time ago in a useless Philosophy course. I heard it once again a couple weeks ago when the Globe’s Bob Ryan used it on a podcast with ESPN’s Bill Simmons to describe a certain player on the Boston Celtics.
Obviously if you have heard the term before, that player immediately leaps into your mind at the speed of a wrap around kick for an open Ray Allen triple.

When describing Rajon Rondo, there is no better term than Sui Generis. Generis comes from genus which is species. Sui Generis is a species who’s genus was created at the discovery of it. There was no other genus in which this species could be placed, thus a new one was created for it and all those who came after it were placed in this new genus.

Long ago the term was used by Canadian Aborigines to describe the first of its kind educational system they developed. Merriam-Webster defines Sui Generis as constituting a class alone.

When Rajon Rondo is “on,” and you know it when you see it, he is as Ryan stated, Sui Generis. When he is holding a pass for an extra second waiting for the lane to open up. When he makes a spectacular leaping save, diving into the stands. When he is toying with another team’s point guard-big man duo to the point he can have his way with them like Michael Oher at Briarcrest Christian, he is Sui Generis. He is unique in his own characteristics.

Is this all just a facade? A story being weaved to us by coaches, analysts, and teammates. Are we just watching a talented, but flawed point guard with great athleticism and superior teammates? It may very well be, however it is exciting to entertain the possibility of what we are watching.

When trading a player of what fans constitute, “his caliber,” one is obviously looking for equal value in return. Though that is rarely the case with NBA trades, (see KG to Boston, Perkins to OKC) it is always the intent or perception of the trading parties. However, examining Rondo in this light will get you nowhere. There is no equal value to be found. At this point, following a stretch in which he is averaging a triple-double, one is trying to trade a Woolie Mammoth or a Sabre-toothed Tiger.

Sui Generis, a Leonardo Da Vinci-esque skill set on a basketball court. This is an overstatement only if you look through the lens that this means he is the greatest basketball player ever or even of his generation. He is far from, because he is as flawed as he is talented. Sui Generis is not the pinnacle of a species, merely a unique form.

When a performance as unique as Rondo’s against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon concludes, there is little to say or comprehend. As is stated on Wikipedia: “a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept.”

Rondo’s physical skills and detriments are outnumbered by those in his head. Others who might be described as Sui Generis had similar defects. Da Vinci, Picasso, Hemingway, all may have failed to reach their potential because of mental or physical handicaps. Men of supreme brilliance can be capable of great good and great evil. Some of histories greatest villains can be described as Sui Generis. However, it is important to remember that this is not a comparison, because there can be none when discussing a Sui Generis.

Watching Rondo work at the height of his abilities is a privilege that not many can comprehend. For us, it can be simultaneously awe-inspiring and mind numbingly frustrating to witness. It would take a Sui Generis to realize that another is Sui Generis, however in definition, that cannot be attained, and thus neither he nor we may ever realize the uniqueness of his talents.

I would just plead for more time to enjoy the spectacle.

Walsh 3/06/2012 03:00:00 PM Edit
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