The first time I heard Norris Cole’s name, he was in the midst of playing brilliantly for Cleveland State, but more importantly for me at the time, I saw his name listed as “Norris King Cole.” I thought, “Please let that be his real name.” Alas, it seems the “King” portion was just a nickname, and I figured that would be my main brush with Norris Cole.
I was wrong. He became a first-round draft pick, and wound up on the Heat, which means instant attention. And then, when the season finally got around to happening, he started turning some heads in scrimmages. ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh said he “took training camp by storm.” Would that last when the games started mattering?
Yes. Cole chipped i seven points (albeit on just 3-8 shooting) in the Heat’s opening win over the Mavericks. Then, last night against the Celtics, Cole took over. He scored 20 points on 8-16 shooting. 14 of those came in the fourth quarter – and make no mistake, the Heat needed those points. He chipped in four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. The guy’s good. How good? Check out what Heat fans chant for him at the 1:10 mark below:
Yes, those are “M-V-P!” chants. It took Cole two career games to begin earning those chants. He won’t actually be the MVP, of course – even with those 20 points, he was only the Heat’s third-leading scorer last night – but those Heat fans sure took a liking to him fast.
And I imagine part of that’s because Cole is one of their own, and has no connection to the Big Three that made the team so divisive. Dwyane Wade’s been a member of the Heat from day one, but he’s forever lumped in with LeBron and Bosh. Norris Cole – he’s his own guy. An actual under-the-radar story for Heat fans to cheer on. He’ll never be this team’s best player, but being good might be enough to make him the most beloved.
I saw it last night in real time. As Cole pretty much single-handedly finished off the Celtics, my colleague James Plafke, editor of this here site, Heat fan, and a bigger NBA fan than I am (go figure), freaked out with Cole-induced joy. Multiple IMs consisting of just “COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLE” came my way. Another: “Hurry up, journalists. All I want to do is read about Norris.”
His team has possibly the top two players in the entire league on it, and all he cared about was Norris Cole. We hope to post a few more of James’ thoughts on Cole in a bit, but for now, we’ll just say: Cole might emerge as the most compelling figure on this Heat tea that will still get a ton of coverage, if not quite like last year. No one cares what LeBron does before the Finals? No problem – enter Norris. If he keeps up anything close to this pace – a big if, of course – we’re nowhere close to done hearing about him. And at long last in the case of a Heat player, that’s actually a good thing.
Getty photo, by Mike Ehrmann