As the Boston Celtics made their slew of moves throughout the summer, attention ping-ponged from player to player. Fans wanted to see what Kristaps Porzingis could bring to the table, how Jaylen Brown’s extension would affect the team, and whether or not Jrue Holiday could replace Marcus Smart.
Lost amidst the madness was Derrick White, who was fresh off one of the more impressive playoff runs in the Eastern Conference. Not only did Celtics fans forget about him, but ESPN inexplicably left him off their Top-100 Players list.
But while fans and the media snubbed White, players have shown an outpour of respect for the Celtics guard.
“My inspiration has been Derrick White,” said Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell after their preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I want to be Derrick White. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does. He makes all the winning plays. That’s who I want to be.”
Russell’s comments were paired in headlines with support from JJ Redick, who went on a rant during a spin-off of his podcast, “The Old Man & The Three Things.”
“Of these 150 people who claim to be basketball experts, how is Derrick White not in the Top 100?” Redick asked Nekias Duncan and Steve Jones of The Dunker Spot. “How is that possible? He’s a top-50 player! What playoff games were you watching last year? Oh my god.”
Redick went as far as saying that ESPN’s decision to leave him off the list was “a troll for engagement.” And if that’s the case, then it worked to perfection.
Celtics fans and general NBA enjoyers took to Twitter, YouTube comments, and other social media sites to furiously defend White. But he wasn’t surprised at the apparent disrespect.
“That’s just kind of how my life has always been, so not really surprised,” White said after the Celtics’ Tuesday shootaround. “It is what it is. I don’t really focus too much on it.”
White was never a highly-touted prospect. He didn’t receive any Division I offers coming out of high school and ended up playing for the Division II program at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, where he was originally supposed to red-shirt.
Instead, White burst onto the scene, impressed the coaching staff and his teammates, and was one of the best players at the DII level. I spoke with White’s friends, family, and coaches about his journey during his impressive playoff run this past spring.
Despite his recent successes, White still flies under the radar of most, but he enjoyed hearing the kind words from Russell and Redick.
“That was cool. I was kind of shocked,” White said. “I woke up, and my boy sent me the D’Angelo Russell quote. But, I mean, especially if you’re someone that’s done so much, an all-star in this league. It was cool to hear.
“And I mean JJ – That’s my man. Shout out to him. I don’t really focus too much about the Top-100 or whatnot, but it’s good to have that recognition from some great players.”
Asked Derrick White about player support for him:— Jack Simone (@JackSimoneNBA) October 17, 2023
“I don’t really focus on top 100 that much but it’s cool to have that recognition from some great players.”
D’Angelo Russell recently said he wants to “be like” White and JJ Redick ranted about his exclusion from ESPN’s Top 100. pic.twitter.com/eojLONOTel
Throughout his career, White has chosen to keep his head down and work at every obstacle. Now, he’s slated to be a key piece on a Celtics team destined for title contention.
“I think the right people notice what I do, and I’m not really focused on the people that do the top-100 or whatever it might be,” White told Jay King of The Athletic. “So I just go out there and do what I do, play my game, and I’m not too focused on that.”
With a core of Holiday, Porzingis, Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford next to him, White should still be a focal point on this Celtics roster. ESPN may not realize his talent, but his teammates, coaches, and everyone else around the league see it, and that’s all that matters.