If you have any interest in movies, you’re probably familiar with “Django Unchained,” the new film from the hyperactively cinephilic filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. In a little more than a week, the movie — which concerns a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who becomes a bounty hunter and fights slave owners in the antebellum South — has grossed more than $80 million in the United States alone. It’s also the topic of much critical discussion, from raves to disappointed reactions to questions as to whether or not it’s ethical for anyone other than an African-American to make a movie about slavery.
The movie has been very popular with audiences, particularly among African-Americans. Not surprisingly, that group of fans includes a number of NBA players, people who are certainly likely to identify with a black man who rises from humble beginnings to occupy a position of power.
One of these athletes has even decided to take inspiration from the film. Miami Heat reserve forward Udonis Haslem, a two-time NBA champion, now wants to be known as “Django.” From Michael Wallace of ESPN.com’s Heat Index on Twitter (via TBJ):
From now on, Haslem says no longer wants to be called Udonis or ‘UD’. He said address him in 2013 as Django, FWIW.
— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) January 3, 2013
On a basic level, this is goofy, if only because Udonis Haslem already has a unique name and probably doesn’t have to align himself with a fictional character for attention. Also, Haslem doesn’t always come across as an avenging angel full of righteous fury. He’s a role player who does his job well and typically doesn’t ask for more attention than he deserves.
However, he has more in common with Django than those surfaces suggest. Throughout the movie, Django must play characters in order to achieve his goals — there’s even a character in which his mentor, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), tells him that the success of their enterprise depends on Django’s ability to play a fictional role convincingly. As an NBA role player, Haslem is fairly similar. Although he theoretically could have attempted to chase stats for personal gain, Haslem decided to take on a particular role for the good of the team. For years, he has molded his game to fit the contours of that job, focusing on rebounding, defense, and setting picks simply because that’s what was required. Also, as with Django, that role ultimately became a way for Haslem to express himself, even if it initially appeared to mask his true self.
Or, I don’t know, maybe Haslem just likes jazz guitar.