CLEVELAND — When the older kids in his Houston neighborhood would pick on him or beat him up, little Daniel Gibson would run home crying to his mother. She gave him a nickname for not fighting back.
“’Crybaby Boobie,’” Gibson said.
It’s just Boobie now.
Well, this crybaby knows a thing or two about 3-point shooting, and he made Rasheed Wallace and the Pistons go WAAAAHHHH! — all the way home to Detroit.
During Cleveland’s unprecedented playoff run to the NBA finals, the 21-year-old, always-smiling Gibson has emerged as an unlikely postseason hero. The second-round pick who left Texas after two seasons and who prayed he’d get selected by the Cavaliers, has become LeBron James’ co-star and sidekick.
In the Cavs’ conference-clinching Game 6 win over the Pistons on Saturday night, Gibson scored a season-high 31 points by making all five of his 3-pointers, including four in the fourth quarter, when he outscored Detroit 19-16.
In the midst of a scoring flurry nearly as stunning as James’ 48-point effort in Game 5, more than 20,000 fans inside Quicken Loans Arena began chanting “Boo-bie, Boo-bie.”
“It gave me goose bumps,” Gibson said Monday. “I really truly thought it was all a dream. I didn’t think it was real. But this morning when I woke up, it still happened.”
Not long after he completed target practice on the Pistons, Gibson was given a royal escort to the postgame news conference by King James himself, who hollered “Out of the way for the superstar” to clear a path for Gibson.
“When we got Daniel in the second round (No. 42 overall), I believe it was a blessing in disguise,” James said. “I believe we got a steal. I just knew how good of a basketball player he could be, and once I saw his work ethic during practice, after practice, before practice. ... I get to the gym early, and he’s there before me.”
As the youngest of Cheryl and Byron Gibson’s four children, Daniel was raised to work hard, study hard and play hard. He drifted onto the basketball court at an early age and became a Texas high school scoring machine, racking up 3,102 career points at Jesse Jones High School.
Gibson played two seasons for the Longhorns before entering the draft. He wasn’t sure where he’d be picked — most figured late first or early second round — but he knew where he wanted to go.
Cleveland, of all places.
“The Cavs were a team that I really wanted to play with because LeBron is such a great player,” Gibson said.
Following his pre-draft workout for the Cavaliers, Gibson canceled visits to other teams, including one to his hometown Rockets. His outside range made a lasting impression on Cavs coach Mike Brown, who envisioned Gibson being able to open the floor for James.
“When (Cavs general manager) Danny Ferry and those guys brought him out for the pre-draft stuff, he stroked the mess out that ball,” Brown said, “and then in training camp you saw that again, and you saw his quickness, you saw his toughness and his explosiveness, and you’re like — wow.”
But the rookie didn’t get much playing time until late January, when he replaced Eric Snow in the starting lineup. He showed some grit early on — challenging Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal on a drive, hitting an off-balance layup while being knocked to the floor by Shaq.
“He could have smushed me,” said Gibson, who has a photo of the hair-raising encounter in his locker. Gibson’s size — he’s listed as a very generous 6-foot-2 — had Brown concerned about his ability to get the ball to the basket. He would need a new wrinkle to his game, and Brown, a former assistant with San Antonio, knew just the one.
“One of the first things I said to him was, ‘Daniel, you’re a small guy so you’re not going to be able to have a medium game like (Detroit’s) Rip (Hamilton) where you can get into the teeth of the defense and pull up.
“I said what you need to develop is the Tony Parker push shot. If you get that Tony Parker push shot down, with the way you shoot those 3s — wooo. And as quick as you are and as tough as you are, you’re going to be hard to stop.”
Parker and the Spurs most likely will keep a close eye on Gibson, who averaged 13.5 points against the Pistons.
— nine points above his regular-season average.
“I’m pretty sure that those guys are probably going to pay a little more attention to me,” he said. “But at the same time we still have No. 23 out there so they had better pay attention to him. He’s the guy that really gets me a lot of my looks.”