The Bash Brothers. It’s a title bestowed upon duos who, simply put, bash. Whether they are two Pop Warner football players with a mean streak or a couple muscle-bound power hitters in the MLB, the “Bash Brother” title denotes a duo that throws down and has a blast doing it.
Historically, two sets of Bash Brothers have captured the hearts of fans and left a lasting legacy. The first, alluded to a moment ago, was the duo of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. Teammates with the Oakland Athletics, Canseco and McGwire looked less like baseball players swinging a bat and more like Thor swinging a hammer, as their absurdly muscular, admittedly steroid-aided, frames sent baseball after baseball into the seats and beyond. Canseco and McGwire already stood out from their builds and ability to crush baseballs, but as they bashed their veiny, rippling forearms off one another, the became a duo.
They became the Bash Brothers.
My introduction to the concept of Bash Brothers came in my youth, through the fictional Fulton Reed and Dean Portman in the movie D2: The Mighty Ducks. Playing for Team USA at the Junior Goodwill Games, Portman and Reed set aside their early differences by finding common ground. Beyond the fact that they were what appeared to be adults amongst a team of 14-year-olds, these Bash Brothers also realized that they both loved laying the body, eschewing the rules of hockey, jamming to rock music, and, of course, rockin’ bandanas.
Looking back through Bash Brother lore, you can find a few common characteristics that earn a duo the title of “Bash Brothers.” The pair must have a definitive identity as a duo. They must also be physically imposing, and they must leverage that physicality in a manner that strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents. A coolness factor, though impossible to quantify, makes the list as well. Finally, and most importantly, they have to bash.
In OG Anunoby and Stanley Johnson, the Toronto Raptors have discovered their own set of Bash Brothers. With Johnson’s uptick in playing time, he and Anunoby have carved out an identity as defensive menaces. Their opponents hate coming down the floor and seeing one of them. If they see both, they better buckle up, because they’re about to enter the pit of misery. Anunoby and Johnson pick their teeth with the bones of offensive players.
Many teams, including the Raptors, have had quality defensive duos in the past, but it is Anunoby and Johnson’s distinct similarities and physicality that earn them the title of the Bash Brothers.
They both stand 6’7”, with rock-solid frames, bodies that look like they’d provide the cushion of an oak tree if you were to collide with them. They look more powerful than the typically lean NBA star, which comes from the fact that they are, as Johnson put it when referring to himself, “not light in the butt.” Their jersey numbers, 3 for Anunoby and 5 for Johnson, can look awfully similar on a TV screen. Combine that with their near-identical hairstyles, and you would be excused for mixing them up for the odd moment as you take in a Raptors game. Johnson himself noted that “everybody always says I look like OG.”
Picture it from the perspective of an opponent: You’re guarded by OG, he hounds you as you go up the floor. He’s big, so you think speed is your advantage. You turn on the jets and make a sharp cut, but it’s no use. His 7’2” wingspan provides more than enough margin for error for his unnaturally quick feet to recover, and then “BOOM!” He matches his chest to yours, and you collide. You recoil, feeling the reverberations of the contact through your body. You turn back to OG, hoping he is similarly shaken. Nope. He remains in complete control of his body, his expression unaltered and stoic.
At last, relief! Your teammate is coming to set a screen, and you may finally shake Anunoby. He gets caught on the pick, it worked! Out from behind the collision, however, jumps OG again, just as fast and powerful, and with renewed vigour. But it isn’t Anunoby, it’s Stanley Johnson! Thus, the painful cycle begins again, only with a different face doling out the punishment.
They have their fingerprints on so many positive defensive sequences for the Raptors, and you can see that their opponents feel their presence on each possession. Watch Goran Dragic, a heady player, get overwhelmed by the Bash Brothers here:
He’s not the only one. Jeremy Lamb experiences the dilemma of losing one of the duo only to get the other sprung on him.
Josh Hart makes the mistake of throwing the ball to an area that both guys are within range of, as seen here:
Anunoby and Johnson roam the court like hungry wolves, stalking and planning for their time to strike. When that time does come, they strike ferociously, teeth bared and snarling.
They are so versatile, with both guys having the speed to track guards, and the strength and tenacity to body up centres. Domantas Sabonis — typically the one taking guys to the woodshed — learned awful quick about the one-two punch (which probably felt like a literal punch at times) of Anunoby and Johnson.
Yes, the Raptors’ Bash Brothers can certainly bash.
The numbers bear it out as well, as the Raptors allow 13.3 points per 100 possessions less on defense with OG Anunoby on the floor, and 0.8 points per 100 less with Johnson, per Cleaning the Glass. Of Toronto’s lineups that have played over five minutes, all of those that trot out Anunoby and Johnson have positive point differentials.
Their career arcs are far from identical, but both players have a shared piece of history — they both got the LeBron James assignment in the playoffs as rookies. Although Johnson claimed that he was in James’ head at one point, neither guy was able to shut down the King. That they were chosen by their team for that role, however, says something about them. That they were both fearless and resilient in that matchup says even more.
So, Anunoby and Johnson are both 6’7” armoured cars, take pleasure out of terrifying their opponents with their sheer might and physicality, and they certainly know how to bash… but are they cool? Well, does Toronto get cold in the winter?
Johnson has endeared himself to Raptors fans of late, displaying a self-assuredness and edge that has certainly earned him points in the coolness department. Anunoby, on the other hand, has one of the more unique personalities that we’ve seen on the Raptors.
You can’t be just anyone and dress like that and expect to be taken seriously. OG, however, does it with aplomb. His indifferent expression, once confused for dryness, contains multitudes. OG is hilarious, and an expert at needling his teammates.
He also did this:
And followed it up by saying this, leaning back like he was watching Saturday morning cartoons:
OG is the coolest Toronto Raptor, by a comfortable margin.
So there you have it. It’s official. I declare that OG Anunoby and Stanley Johnson are the Bash Brothers of the Toronto Raptors. If this team can continue it upward trend, and really achieve something this season with Anunoby and Johnson throwing down throughout the season and playoffs, they have a chance to break into the pantheon of great Bash Brothers. Until then, we can only hope that they start entering games with a handshake and ceremonial bandana tie-on before promptly raising hell on the court.