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NBA Free Agency Recap: Otto

PORTLAND, OREGON - JANUARY 05: Otto Porter Jr. #22 of the Chicago Bulls reacts from the bench before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on January 05, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The most important signing of the just-opened NBA free agent window happened late last night, and as a result, the rest of the market has been rendered unimportant and even dismissable.

The Golden State Warriors signed Otto Porter Jr. to a veteran minimum contract. That’s it. Everything else pales in significance. Chris Paul? Meh. Trae Young? Feh. Lonzo Ball? OK, fine.

But the Porter signing is the purest kind of sublime for one overriding reason. His name is Otto.

Otto is a great name, almost certainly among the greatest ever. It’s palindromic. It’s Teutonic. It is quite literally 175 years out of fashion, and evokes images not of athletes but of Prussian soldiers with massive handlebar mustaches and wearing helmets with spikes coming out of the top of their head. It is, with all due respect to Porter himself who received the name as a family legacy and should be duly proud of it, simply Otto. That’s it. Nothing else matters. It’s Otto.

Seeing the word Otto is fun. Hearing the sound of Otto is fun. Even the simple act of typing the word Otto is fun. It is everything you should want in a sports name, because if nothing else, even the Germans gave up on Otto after the First World War. Nobody is Otto any more, except, well, Otto. You mostly named your kid Otto if you had a bad day at the coal foundry in 1913 and came home in time to find out that your wife gave birth without you knowing she was pregnant, yet here we are.

And that’s the other thing here. While the Warriors have invested a mere pittance in him ($2.4 million over one year rather than the $28.4 million he made enduring Jim Boylen in Chicago a year ago), have few enough expectations for him (he is older, slower, and less springy due to chronic back concerns), and no grand plans (he is essentially the Warriors’ new version of Kent Bazemore, for what that may be worth), he is still Otto, damn it, and that is sufficient on its face.

And that’s the sole point. For all the tiresome bleatings of amateur video junkies, self-proclaimed basketball seers, and roster construction nerds out there crushing our collective will to live and fighting to avoid extraneous human interactions, some things are simply beyond such earthly concerns. The man’s name is Otto by choice, people. What is it you’re not getting here?

The other Ottos in NBA history came and went without proper fanfare. Otto Moore carved out a perfectly reasonable nine-year career with four teams in the 1970s, two of which now exist only in other cities. Otto (“The Claw,” and I swear I couldn’t make this up) Schnellbacher played one year in Providence and St. Louis while playing simultaneously in the NFL. The most recent Ottos of any kind can be found in the NHL in the last two seasons, but they are Finnish natives, where the name Otto is clearly less of a thing. Oh, and for the degenerate who is Comrade Roth, Otto Velez was a Yankee, but that was short for Otoniel, which to be fair is a pretty boss name itself.

But I can hear your eyelids slamming shut even from here, so let us return to today’s hero. As team broadcasters increasingly use only first names to identify players, an obnoxious affectation that should probably be stamped out by federal law, Otto has found his true home. Warriors radio larynx Tim Roye, in all other ways a superior form of the genre, almost reflexively refers to Curry as Steph, Thompson as Klay, and Green as Draymond or Dray. He will slip into Andrew for Wiggins here and there, but the big three may as well be Brazilians for the minimal amount of time their surnames are used. Add to that the incandescent mellifluousness of Otto, and you’ve got yourself broadcasting gold, my friend.

And that’s all we have, and all we need. Players on veteran minimums don’t typically last long or leave much of an impression; in a business that can plow through a billion in future commitments in nine hours as the league did yesterday, a $2.4 million deal is what the waiter gets tipped. Otto is special for only the one reason. At some point (probably today) he may explain (or more likely explain again, as it is hard to imagine the subject has never come up) why his grandfather dropped Otto on his dad and why his dad then dropped it on him, but the explanation is mostly irrelevant. Otto is Otto. He has been known as Bubba from a young age anyway, so Otto isn’t necessarily a visceral part of his NIL anyway.

Except here, where Otto is all he will ever be called. Because Otto is perfection. Because Otto is music for lead guitar, synthesizer, accordion, and tuba. Because Otto is currently less popular in the baby-naming game than Jehoshaphat. Because it’s Otto, damn it, and that’s going to have to be good enough for you. Anyone can be a Trae, or a Giannis, or a LeBron. Otto stands proudly alone.