There’s a line at the end of You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan finally gets to meet the person she’s been mailing online. As Tom Hanks rounds the corner, Ryan breaks into tears and says, “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.”
Well, here we are, with the overwhelming winner of Houston Rockets fan favorite going to Patrick Beverley. We wanted it to be him, and it was.
When Daryl Morey brought Pat Bev over from Russia in early 2013, the response was a collective shrug and and a confused “Who?” He’d had a cup of coffee at a Miami Heat training camp after a couple of decent years at Arkansas, but he was mostly an unknown. Even in our post about the move, his name was misspelled and our writer said, “Beverly is heralded as a tenacious perimeter defender and I expect he will spend the majority of his time this season on the Vipers barring injuries.” At least he was right on the first point.
It didn’t take long for Beverley to show the NBA that he belonged. His tenacious defense was evident to anyone with a brain, and he worked his tail off to gain any advantage. He barked at opposing players, he got into their space, and he was a pest to any player who dared to take him on. More than anything, it was his intensity in all aspects of the game that endeared him to Rockets fans. In a transition season for the franchise that featured James Harden learning to run a team and a bunch of young players trying to expand their games, Beverley was the one constant. He was going to play hard, and he was going to piss everyone off. And he didn’t care. Beverley played like a man that knew this was his last chance, and he was damn sure not going back to European basketball ever again.
He played solid minutes almost immediately upon his debut and after a Game 1 thrashing at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, he was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in his young NBA career. Nothing important happened in that game, since Patrick Beverley was well-known for his quiet demeanor and how well he could blend into the game and not be noticed.
Without rehashing the incident, let’s just say that if Bev wasn’t on people’s radar before, he sure was after Russell Westbrook tore a meniscus.
None of the vitriol or attention changed Bev. In fact, he seemed bemused by the idea that people were annoyed with him or thought he was a dirty player. In games, it just gave him more of a reason to be himself, knowing that it was affecting his opponents.
It’s also not a coincidence that Beverley’s ascent occurred at the same time as Harden’s. The two of them needed each other. Beverley wasn’t a true point guard and couldn’t run an NBA offense the way Harden could. On the other side, Harden needed another guard to take some of the defensive responsibility off his shoulders. The two players absolutely needed each other, and each defended the other vociferously in the media.
At the same time, Beverley became a more refined product. His three-point never dipped below league average and he even shot 40% from deep in 2015-16. His assist and rebound numbers continued to rise, and he maintained his efficiency even as he was given a bigger role each year. He was second team All-Defense in his first full season with Houston and made the first team in his last full season in Houston. He even won the Skills Challenge in 2015.
The absolute peak of the Patrick Beverley experience came in the 2017 playoffs against the same Oklahoma City Thunder franchise that had dispatched the Rockets four years earlier. In Game 1, against longtime nemesis and MVP Westbrook, Beverley unleashed the Wolverine.
Patrick Beverley was, and still is, the equivalent of a moonshot. For a player to go to Europe and then return to great success shows a lot of fortitude. Playing in the cold so far away form the best league in the world requires dedication and belief that is difficult to comprehend. There’s at least one player on every NBA team that is known for being a hard worker and hustle guy. What’s rare is the player that works and hustles so hard that he sets himself apart from those players.
The list of Rockets fan favorites features a lot of players with similar characteristics: under-valued, under-skilled, players that left an indelible mark with Houston fans. Still, many of them could be reproduced. You don’t have to work your brain too hard to imagine another version of them entering the NBA. I love all of those guys, but there have already been other players like Carl Landry or Mario Elie.
There’s only one Patrick Beverley though.