The Best Big Man in the Game

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Wesley Matthews signed with the Dallas Mavericks this offseason in part due to a promise made by Mark Cuban: “We’ll put you next to the best big man in the game.” What Matthews wasn’t aware of is that said big man is Zaza Pachulia and the game in question is Pictionary.

“It’s incredible really,” Matthews later remarked. “I’ve never seen anything this impressive.”

Cuban has a history of seeking out players who are skilled at board games. He brought Rajon Rondo’s Connect 4 skills to the team last year, and everyone knows about Devin Harris’ uncanny ability to own both Park Place and Boardwalk on his first trip around the board. But none of them compare to what Pachulia has achieved.

On July 13, just after the signings were completed, several Maverick players got together for a bit of team building. Pachulia casually suggested Pictionary, Richard Jefferson seconded the suggestion. Pachulia kept his excitement under wraps, but fellow-Euro Nowitzki knew better. He slid out of a side door to avoid the embarrassment of being faced against Zaza.

The teams were set. Matthews and Pachulia vs. Jefferson and J.J. Barea. Pachulia drew the first card and Matthews rolled. They landed on a “Difficult” spot. “Aw man!” Matthews said. “I never guess these.”

“Just try your best,” was Pachulia’s comforting response.

Pachulia looked at his clue. The hourglass timer was flipped. Pachulia pondered his strategy for a moment. “Dude! Draw something!” Matthews cried.

Pachulia put pencil to paper. Five seconds later, this was the result:

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“Uh… Rearview mirror?”

One point for team Pachulia.

To understand where this skill comes from, it’s important to look at Pachulia’s background. When young Zaur was a grammar school lad, he spent weeks preparing for Pictionary try-outs. Ultimately, practice wasn’t enough, and though he had reached a level that made him phenomenal by any other country’s standards, he was hardly second tier in Georgia. He got cut on the second day of tryouts – then joined the rest of the rejects and nerds who had to go out for the basketball team.

Tears came to Pachulia’s eyes as he recounting the tale. But he got brighter by the end of it.

“Since coming to America, I’ve found that there’s no one who would be considered a mediocre player in Georgia,” said Pachulia with a smile. “The games are much more fun.”

Now, in Dallas, there would be no stopping him. The domination went on for a few more rounds, before Barea finally insisted that Zaza must be cheating. There was no denying his ability to draw, but when he successfully guessed the Place clue “Moscow” after Matthews had only sketched one straight line, there had to be some foul play.

Jefferson was able to calm his teammate down just as Cuban walked into the clubhouse. He watched Matthews move his piece into the final space. One more clue and team Pachulia would be victorious. It’s almost laughable that the clue was something as easy as “Lighthouse.” After Zaza had drawn a perfect 20:1 scale image of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, it would’ve been impossible for anyone to guess anything else. The game was over.

A beaming Matthews turned to Cuban. Cuban returned his joy with a warm smile.

“See Wes, I told you you’d be happy in Dallas.”

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