Earl Boykins Not Your Typical NBA Veteran
Whoever coined the saying, "it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog" might have been talking about Earl Boykins. At 5'5", 139 lbs, Boykins' stature is the opposite of the stereotypical NBA player. So following his first practice with the Wizards, Caron Butler was asked about Boykins and after a moment of smiling, Butler talked about how it was funny to see someone that small out on the court. After just a week in a Wizards uniform, Butler has learned, that opponents aren't laughing when it is game time.
In his first game as a Wizard, Boykins came off the bench to electrify his teammates, as well as the crowd, at Verizon Center. In front of the home faithful, Boykins showed the fans exactly why the Wizards picked up the NBA veteran, by dropping in 20 points and hitting several shots over players that ranged from six inches to a foot and a half taller than him.
"He knows the game. He understands it. He's a great scorer and he knows how to get to his spots," said Butler. "He's vocal. He's been around this game for a long time and he brings experience and it is going to help out a lot. We love having him around already."
As a player that from an early age knew he could not get by on his physical gifts alone, Boykins used the advantages he was given to succeed on the basketball court. While he is the smallest player in the NBA, Boykins has an explosive quickness that allows him to change the speed of the game on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. While he has the ability to dribble through most defenses with his exceptional ball-handling skills, Boykins biggest asset on the offensive end is his ability to make what sometimes look like impossible shots over taller defenders.
"It's uncanny (the way he gets his shot off)," said Head Coach Flip Saunders who, similar to Boykins, was an undersized point guard from Cleveland that overachieved on the court. "We've probably never seen anything like it. It's not just his ability to get his shot off. He goes up and you think it is going to get blocked and he shoots it. It is that theory that you can always shoot it higher than they can jump."
Boykins' success is a testament to the time and energy he spends off the court working on his craft and his body. Prior to signing with the Wizards, Boykins was in Denver working out on a daily basis in anticipation for the right opportunity to join an NBA team. After turning down several offers from NBA teams that were not the right fit, when the Wizards called, the point guard was in peak physical condition and able to contribute immediately.
Looking at his physique, the average fan probably can't tell that he is one of the staunchest workout warriors in the NBA. In a season that can grind down the biggest and strongest players, Boykins has been able to adapt to the pounding of the NBA game by packing in as much muscle as his frame will hold. It might be hard to believe, but Boykins is without question the strongest pound-for-pound player on the Wizards as he at one time was able to bench press almost two and a half times his body weight, maxing out at 315 pounds, and now does 500 push-ups everyday.
Boykins' strength was something that he had to pick up early in his career. As a rookie, Boykins was constantly tested by bigger guards who tried to post him up. Having learned a few tricks along the way and adding muscle to match larger players, Boykins now welcomes the challenge when bigger guards post him up, and usually wins the interior battle.
"Well I think everyone thinks when they comes in the game that they are going to go at him and post him up," said Saunders. "Yesterday, (Mo) Williams went at him about four straight times in the paint and they came up empty and we got run outs on all of those. He's just a guy you've never been able to post-up. Sometimes teams are putting guys who don't post up a lot like Williams in areas that aren't their strengths and Earl feels pretty comfortable there."
At 5'5" 139 lbs., Boykins was never supposed to make the NBA, and he surely shouldn't be able to bench twice his body weight, but after ten years, the undersized point guard is still wreaking havoc across the league.
"Boykins is amazing," said 7'0" center Brendan Haywood, who joked that if he was 5'5" he would be working at Target instead of the NBA. "At 5'5" or whatever he is the things he can do on the court are amazing."
After all, this is the NBA, "Where Amazing Happens".