OKLAHOMA CITY — Boston Celtics rookie Robert Williams hasn’t looked at his Basketball-Reference page (“Nah, I don’t get on (expletive) like that”), but he has seen the most recent nickname on the page tweeted at him constantly: Time Lord, or Timelord, or T I M E L O R D.
“Always, always,” Williams said, smiling on Thursday. “Instead of calling me ‘Robert,’ they call me ‘Time Lord.’ But I don’t know where that (expletive) came from.”
Williams probably isn’t the only one, so here’s the origin story.
For many NBA fans, part of the fun is following along on Twitter, where the conversation twists and turns in amusing directions as the games unfold. Over the last year, a section of Celtics fans on Twitter formed a popular subgenre: Weird Celtics Twitter, which posts absurdist memes and jokes. Marcus Smart is “Smarf,” a warrior king. Semi Ojeleye’s muscular frame is “thick and jacked,” and lifting weights is going to the “Ojeleye Factory.”
At the center of Weird Celtics Twitter is Ryan Hebert, whose Twitter account @HebertofRiffs has gained a considerable amount of notoriety over the last few years. He was one of the people who came up with “Time Lord,” and asked for an explanation, Hebert requested he do it via email.
“I might literally give you a concussion trying to tie it all together over a speaker phone,” Hebert said.
Strapping on a helmet, here goes: Hebert had been tracking Williams at Texas A&M for two years. He enjoyed Williams’ defensive potential and believed he’d be a perfect fit with the Celtics. When he started to slip toward Boston’s range in the draft, Hebert and Weird Celtics Twitter were delighted.
“Teams said they questioned his effort, which I thought was insane because he was a two-time SEC DPOY,” Hebert said.
The Celtics, of course, selected Williams at No. 27. When Williams was late for a conference call and absent for the team’s first Summer League practice, the media reaction was intense.
“I’m irony poisoned, but to me it was hilarious,” Hebert said. “Manny Ramirez is the first athlete I loved and it was very Manny. And like, local writers and talk-radio people overreacted, and the whole point of Weird Celtics Twitter is to make fun of them and media in general being too uptight. …
So (we) started joking that he wasn’t late, he was operating on a different timeline concurrent to the one we are in, as evidenced by the fact that I knew he was a Celtic two years before he was a Celtic. And we would do it with people taking themselves really seriously and they’d get very mad at us for thinking they were too uptight. So from there he became a T I M E L O R D, like the characters in Doctor Who whose time travel can tie together terrible holes in the plot of a shoddy script.”
If you are confused (and if Williams is confused), that’s okay. Weird Celtics Twitter expects you to be confused. It is, after all, weird.
“Basically, Timelord boiled down to the prediction of drafting him in 2017 and also defending him against uptight people who were earnestly acting like they’ve never been late to work in their lives,” Hebert said. “Weird Celtics Twitter is a bizarre place, but we genuinely love the characters and personalities and people on the team, and we are online so much that we have to do absurd things to show people how stupid it is to say a mega-athlete with a savant-like feel for timing, blocks and passing is a bust because they missed a flight. We all love Robert and are pulling for him as a pro and as a person and this is our bizarre way of going about it.”
So does Williams think Time Lord will stick as a nickname?
“I (expletive) with it. It’s cool,” he said. “I’m probably going to have 20 other nicknames. I don’t know. I haven’t heard a lot of people saying it. I think it’ll stick when the coaching staff starts calling me that.”