Nik Stauskas is a weird case. But he is from Canada, so that’s to be forgiven.
This season, Stauskas is accomplishing something novel in recent basketball history. He isn’t being capitalized, and that’s a good thing.
Capitalization is an important component of word life. As I am a writer, you can imagine that I have strong opinions on whether or not to Use capitalization in stanDard fashion. The rules are pretty well known, like basic thuganomics. Like we all learned in our sophomore year of college, you need to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. Give proper nouns like Detroit and Cheese a big first letter. Pierre is the capital of South Dakota. All that stuff.
Like many things, the only constant to language is change. The internet has pushed language to various points and off various cliffs since it became a common social medium. Teenagers on neopets message boards Capitalize The First Letter Of Every Word In Order To Stand Out. People entrenched in self-loathing well enough to comment on news articles often use all caps on single WORDS in order to make their point seem STRONG. If you’re bored enough, you can find unique little vagaries in any setting. I am good at being bored.
Online basketball discussion (NBA Twitter, NBA Reddit, NBA Google Maps, etc.) is not exempt from language shift. Using someone’s name as a verb, for instance, is pretty unique to basketball. In no other setting does being Jalen Rose’d mean much. But words mean different things to different people. To me, being Jalen Rose’d means being Bruce Bowen’d. Words are weird like that.
But the specific linguistic instance I’m interested is the use of players’ names in all capitals. This is common during rapid discourse, and has more to it than one might originally realize. For instance, if a Warriors game is on, you have a Tweetdeck feed blasting, and you see “CURRY!” come across your timeline, you will likely assume it to mean he just hit a 3-point jumpshot from a long distance away. Similarly, if “RONDO!” comes up, you’re likely to assume an unnecessary, and stupid, and awesome pass just occurred. A “LEBRON!” means that The King just briefly ascended to a higher plane of existence again.
We derive a lot of meaning from simple exclamations, but broadly speaking these things are positive. The negatives are usually reserved for formations like “Rondo…” or “RondOhGodNo.” The first point of the Stauskas anomaly is here.
A exclamation of “STAUSKAS” (sometimes accompanied by a question mark) has generally not been a good thing. A “STAUSKAS” usually indicates a poor front office decision reached through means which are not ideal. Or it means Vivek Ranadive said something somewhere. This usage was popularized by Bill Simmons and has its genesis in video clips of Vivek saying “Stauskas?” a few times. For evidence, here is a video titled “STAUSKAS.”
A few years of subpar performance happened after the moment depicted in that clip. Nik Stauskas’ play, along with the fact that people like making fun jokes at other peoples’ expense like a bunch of meanies, seemed to cement a “STAUSKAS” as perhaps the only negative all-cap-player-name-exclamation (Henceforth this will be referred to as a ACPNE. Or it won’t.). Indeed, discussion of Stauskas seemed likely to remain focused on things relating to this clip. “STAUSKAS” the exclamation could be more enduring than Stauskas the player.
But the anomaly has shifted of late. Change changes too. Nik Stauskas has now been playing well. Duncan Smith takes you through exactly how well in this piece. Over the last seven games, he is averaging 13.5 points on 53.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc. This includes a 21 point, +27 game against the Suns in which he played over 26 minutes. Those numbers are not a joke.
And now maybe his name isn’t either. Over the past 24 hours on Twitter, there have only been two mentions of “STAUSKAS” in a tongue in a cheeky “let’s all laugh at the Canadian” way. That is a strong departure from the estimated 645 per day every day the two years prior. No, I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me. Instead, there is reasoned discussion of whether or not Stauskas should start. There is positive discussion of his shot form. Vivek’s insistence and Pete D’Alessandro’s face of pain are nowhere near the discourse.
Language change is still impossible to predict, and seven games is a small sample size. Whether or not “STAUSKAS” will come to mean something new is not a call I’m prepared to make. But the change is happening.