Tag Archives: NBA

Athletes behaving badly: December 1st edition

Latrell Sprewell was selected with the 24th overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.  He enjoyed a fairly successful career, averaged 18.3 points per game and was named to the NBA All-Star Team on four separate occasions.

Unfortunately, Sprewell’s physical attributes and his talent were largely overshadowed by his propensity for being a bonehead.  He is now best known for his propensity for violence and his run-ins with the law.  He has also been identified as Wisconsin’s most delinquent taxpayer and owes the government over $3.5 million.

Sprewell will always be known as the dope who assaulted his coach, P.J. Carlesimo.  As y’all may recall, during a routine practice, Sprewell threatened to kill and choked Carlesimo.  His teammates intervened and Sprewell left the floor, but later returned and punched his coach.  The NBA All-Star was ultimately suspended for the remaining sixty-eight games of the regular season.

The assault occurred on December 1, 1997.  Thursday was its fourteenth anniversary.

Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to honor the anniversary of one of the more memorable displays of violence by a professional athlete than with another alleged display of violence by a professional athlete.  Light the candles, get out the cake, and wake up the D.J.  It’s time for a celebration.

On the fourteenth anniversary of Sprewell’s infamous assault, the media reported that Rolando McLain was arrested for third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in city limits.  McLain won numerous collegiate awards, was the 8th overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft and is now a starting linebacker for the Oakland Raiders.  His arrest allegedly involved an ambush of a victim and the discharge of a firearm near the victims head as the man pleaded for his life.  Although he survived the incident, the victim claims that the battery left him with a concussion, a broken nose and broken ribs.

This is the point where many authors would take the opportunity to characterize McLain, other the Oakland Raiders and their fans as a collection of thugs, delinquents, villains, goons, trouble-makers and evil-doers.  This is, after all, a fairly common sentiment among sports fans and the media, and I don’t think anyone would have much trouble tossing out a joke or two within this context.

I’m not going to succumb to the opportunity, however, simply because any further discussion would divert attention from a gang of professional athletes that appears to be operating a fairly sophisticated scheme to steal money from an NFL franchise.  This gang of hooligans has apparently plotted to charge the franchise lucrative amounts of money for services that have not been and are not been performed.  The artifice is now playing out before a national audience.

That’s right, folks.  Just about every professional athlete who takes the field for the Philadelphia Eagles is essentially stealing their paycheck.

Look, this team deserves the criticism.  It spent the abbreviated offseason signing high profile athletes to lucrative contracts, its current ringleader proclaimed that the franchise was fielding a “dream team,” and a number of talking heads picked the team as the favorite to win the league’s championship.

Instead of soaring, the eagles have crashed.  Hard.

And now they’ve contributed to the infamy of events that have occurred on December 1st by again essentially stealing money.  This time, they were paid to be steamrolled by the Seattle-freakin’-Seahawks on Thursday Night Football and their overall record fell to 4-7 record.  Their quarterback – the ringleader who previously tossed out the term “dream team” – spent his evening tossing passes to the other team.  The loss mathematically eliminated the team from playoff contention and firmly ended the possibility of a league championship.

No worries, though.  Dreams may have turned into nightmares, but the paychecks will still cash.  And I’ll probably spend my time tuning in to Court TV or MSNBC’s Lockup instead of sporting events… at least on December 1st, 2012.

NBA deal evokes a little Magic?

NBA players and owners have agreed to a handshake deal that should – in theory – end the NBA lockout and ensure that an abbreviated season will start next month.  The agreement was struck in the wee hours of Saturday morning and still needs a heck of a lot of massaging before it can be considered anything that resembles an official, enforceable contract.  Still, the handshake deal certainly represents a very significant development in the ongoing labor strife.

Millionaires and billionaires certainly agree: basketball fans can now rejoice.  The holidays came early, the “nuclear winter” has been averted and the season is hereby saved.  It’s a Christmas miracle, Charlie Brown.

I know some folks are really excited, but the NBA lost me long before it became a reality television show starring LeBron James, before Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson climbed into the stands and assaulted fans, and before ex-referee Tim Donaghy was investigated for influencing the outcome of games and successfully prosecuted for federal crimes.  It’s probably not a surprise that I find the latest development about as enthralling as the completion of a reverse triangular corporate merger, a private offering of a preferred class of restricted stock, or the inherent joy associated with the application of innovative accounting standards to the depreciation of new or unique assets.

In other words, I weep for the current generation of hoops fans if this is their defining moment of professional basketball.  Personally, I’m having obvious difficulty appreciating the significance of the parties agreeing to apportion vast amounts of money – especially when the timing of the billion dollar development coincides with the anniversary of a truly transcendent moment for sports.  And humanity.

On November 7, 1991 – twenty years before yesterday’s agreement – Ervin “Magic” Johnson appeared on television announced to the world that he was HIV-positive.  At that time, I was just another somewhat pudgy kid who followed the game when I wasn’t tossing airballs from the chalk-marked free throw line in the driveway.  I was a also little too young to have followed Magic in his glory days, but I certainly knew that he was a legend.  And I certainly could appreciate the significance of the announcement: this legend wasn’t immortal, and he was going to die.  Soon.

This was, after all, a time when the country was slowly being introduced to the existence of HIV and AIDs.  We didn’t necessarily know much about the condition or the disease, except for soundbites and talking points that intimidated us and scared us and terrified us.  Magic quickly learned that we were a very nervous nation and that nobody – even legends and heroes and celebrities – were immune from this social and cultural confusion.  His teammates quickly questioned his participation in the all-star game and rivals expressed public concern about playing against him.  Heck, at least one country contemplated a boycott of the Olympics instead of taking the court against Magic and the rest of the Dream Team.

And, somewhere in the background, we were certain that Magic was going to die.  Soon.

Except that somebody forgot to tell Magic.  Instead, in his own cool, quiet and collective manner, he told us that he “plan[ned] on going, on living for a long time.”  He told us that he wasn’t going to run or hide but instead planned to “keep going on with [his] life.”  Instead of withdrawing from society or hiding from the problems, Magic courageously took the initiative to confront the issue, to encourage a national conversation about the epidemic:

And I will now become a spokesman for the HIV virus because I want people — young people to realize that they can practice safe sex. And you know sometimes you’re a little naive about it and you think it could never happen to you. You only thought it could happen to, you know, other people and so on and all. And it has happened, but I’m going to deal with it and my life will go on. And I will be here, enjoying the Laker games, and all the other NBA games around the country. So, life is going to go on for me, and I’m going to be a happy man.

It was, in a way, almost unbelievable.  Magic’s immortality was shattered, he was facing certain death, he was the subject of the scrutiny and fears of his peers and the macabre events were unfolding on a national stage.  Yet here was Magic, calmly demonstrating an almost tangible sense of leadership and stoically planning to make the world a little bit better.

And yet he’s still alive.  Twenty years later, after the discussion has shifted from the dangers of life-threatening conditions to the apportionment of billions of dollars, Magic is still alive.  And I still believe in the immortality of legends.

Anyways, I realize that I probably come across as old and jaded when I reflect upon these historic events.  That’s okay, and I’m sure that I’ll evolve into one of those guys who lectures youth about the good ‘ol days, when I had to walk miles to and from school, uphill both ways, in sub-thermal temperatures, without shoes.  Did I mention that we couldn’t afford gloves and that I needed to carry a warm potato just to keep frostbite from settling into my extremities?  It’s true.  I promise.

%d bloggers like this: