Fans take some time to learn about new NBA players, and that’s especially true when the man in question comes from overseas. Without the familiarity of a notable college or prep career, foreign basketball players do not come into the league with a known personality or playing style. Such things come in time, but the process takes some patience.
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Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Nemanja Bjelica is in luck, though, because he comes to the league equipped with a truly stellar nickname. The 27-year-old power forward, fresh off guiding Serbia to a fourth-place finish at EuroBasket 2015 and winning the tournament’s MVP award, is getting to know his new teammates and media members (and vice-versa) at Wolves camp. Those having trouble pronouncing his name can use another one — Professor Big Shots. From Jerry Zgoda for the Star Tribune:
When it rolls off his tongue, it sounds something like, “Nem-en-ya Bee-a-lihzt-ah.” When others say it, it sounds like everything from “Nah-man-jah” to “Bah-jell-ah-kah.”
By any pronunciation, they know him as the 2015 Euroleague MVP and a star at the recently completed Eurobasket championships whom many called just “Professor Big Shots” because of its simplicity. […]
Selected by the Wolves in the 2010 draft’s second round, he has reached the NBA at age 27 years after he first expected he’d play in Minnesota. He played three seasons in Spain, then two more in Istanbul before the Wolves signed him to a three-year contract in July, not too long before he went to the European championships and impressed by beating Dirk Nowitzki and Germany with a last-second shot and starred for Serbia before it was beaten by Lithuania in the semifinals.
That game-winner popularized the Professor Big Shots nickname.
“They call me that in Turkey and also that one game in Germany,” he said. “I like these nicknames. I don’t know why [they call me that]. You have to ask them. My friends call me that [because] I do everything on the court, blah, blah, blah. I’m probably not Professor because I finished university.”
For the record, Bjelica has been playing professionally since 2007 and does not appear to have picked up any advanced degrees. Not that anyone thought that was the case.
I mean, just imagine a Professor Big Shots. It’s like if Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups had decided to go to school to major in shotology, pursued a graduate school where he interrogated the semiotics of uniform typography in pre-Naismithian versions of ball-and-hoop games in an award-winning dissertation, played the adjunct/post-doc game for a few years, and finally ended up at a party school in Minnesota. Now he just has to hope his department head considers him for tenure, or else it’s time to say goodbye to academia and work in corporate branding.
Anyway, here’s hoping that Bjelica’s adjustment to the NBA and United States continues to go well. If people don’t warm to him immediately, maybe it’s worth hanging out in small groups. It’s those seminar settings where he really shines.
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