Manny: 'I freaking love it' that NBA star's using his move

April 10th, 2023

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

At some point during this week's series against the Mets in New York, might just hit a baseball into a gap. He might cruise into second base for a double. He might stand atop the bag, pointing into the visiting dugout, bobbing his head side-to-side.

A borough away, Mikal Bridges has stolen his move.

You see, Bridges, a small forward on the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, is a baseball fan. A die-hard Phillies fan, but a baseball fan. Bridges watched intently last October as the Padres and Phillies went back-and-forth in the NLCS.

"I watch the Phillies all the time, so I'd be locked [in]," Bridges recently recounted. "And I'm a big fan of Manny Machado. So watching him getting doubles and stuff like that, I'm just watching the game, and I see him just point and turn the head. I'm just like: 'Hmm. I might add that. I might add that in my own little 3-point way.' It stuck."

Bridges’ celebration is slightly different. For one, he's backpedaling on defense, rather than standing stationary on a base. But the biggest difference is that he'll use three fingers to signify a made three-pointer.

Nets star Mikal Bridges, a Phillies fan, first saw Manny Machado's celebration in the 2022 NLCS.

What does Machado think of Bridges' variation?

"I freaking love it," Machado said. "... It's special to see the Padres are on the map. Even seeing other athletes giving us their support, that's pretty special, man. We've got a good thing going."

If Machado has a fan in Bridges, the reverse also holds true. Machado has immense respect for Bridges, who has broken out since his arrival in Brooklyn. Bridges currently holds the NBA's ironman streak for consecutive games played.

"I respect that -- that's huge," said Machado, who hasn't spent a day on the IL since 2014. "What he's been doing the last couple years, I think it goes unnoticed. Finally, he's been going out there, showing people who he really is and what he's capable of doing. It's special to see."

Bridges is about to take his three-point ritual into the NBA playoffs. Machado and the Padres, meanwhile, continue to showcase the move as one of baseball’s most exciting teams. The celebration is taking over the sports world.

But where did it start?

That's the thing. Nobody seems to know.

"We were on the plane," right-hander Nick Martinez said.

"No, we were on the bus," infielder Jake Cronenworth said. "It was one of those late nights, after a game."

Wherever they were, someone was playing music. Haddaway's "What Is Love" came on. Like Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in "Night at the Roxbury," a player or two started bobbing their heads.

"That'd be a great double celebration," Martinez recalled someone saying. (He can't remember who.)

Machado has no recollection of that conversation, but he doesn't doubt that it happened that way.

"That's where all the cool things come from," Machado said. "Every time we're together as a team outside of baseball, that's where the great moments happen."

A year later, the celebration has taken on a life of its own. It's not only Bridges. Machado says fans often call his name, then point at him and bob their heads. During March Madness, it was pointed out in the Padres' spring clubhouse that some college hoopsters had swiped Bridges' celebration.

"It's the Pads!" Martinez exclaimed. "The Pads are hot, baby!"

Bridges has used Machado's celebration since the start of the NBA season, but it wasn't until he was traded from the Suns to the Nets that he was asked about its origins. That's when he finally revealed the Machado connection.

"Someone sent [that video] to me," Machado said. "I didn't know if it was true or not. I saw it, and I was kind of excited about it. ... To see fans and other athletes doing the stuff that we do on the field, I think that's special.

"Hopefully we're doing a lot of those this year -- or maybe even something new. Who knows?"

(Full disclosure: As a lifelong Nets fan, I thoroughly enjoyed writing this story.)