It can’t be easy to be a former NBA player and watch your life’s work become a part of history while you can no longer do the things you once did. Imagine working your entire life to be excellent at something, it actually coming to fruition, then it coming to an end before you are 40 years old.
The peak of their careers — to some to degree, for many, their lives — is over. Moreover, the adoration that comes with being an icon, star and influencer of other areas because of their greatness…all of it becomes mostly forgotten as younger generations will only know of a select few guys who transcend the sport.
It truly has to be relatively horrible. There should be a real empathy for them when realizing that. That said, some of the former stars of our youth are going the route of telling us they walked up the hill both ways, in the snow, on their way to school — in an attempt, I guess, not to necessarily diminish whatever greatness it is they see trotting about the hardwood today, but make sure we all know how awesome they were:
To be fair, many of these guys have platforms to talk about the NBA. It’s literally their jobs to discuss the players. Guys like Charles Barkley have done so rather well — or, at least entertainingly — for a long period of time, too. It’s probably a tough balance to have discussions about the guys in the sport today, as there’s certainly going to be some deserved biases to the generation in which they played hoops.
Then again, guys like Chuck and Reggie Miller have also been speaking out of holes in their bodies while ignoring context for some time now.
Let’s start with Reggie.
Full-disclosure: I think Reggie Miller is a wretched NBA personality. Most of his color commentary results in him talking about stuff that doesn’t apply, he seems to not know many players’ strengths and weaknesses, and his personality seems better fit for a First Take type adventure than it does of helping to tell the story of what happens on the court.
That’s merely my opinion. It’s subjective. Others can like him, while some might not like me, and we can all be right and wrong at the same time. There’s zero clear-cut way to make a factual statement about something that’s merely based on someone’s preference.
Lately, however, Reggie Miller has gone the route of discussing Stephen Curry. Doing so in a way which seems as if he’s either made a calculated decision to diminish the Golden State guard’s accomplishments, or — more likely — Miller is simply doing his usual routine of saying whatever is the literal first thing that pops in his head — which has it made it all the more shocking that he hasn’t randomly screamed, “I AM REGGIE THE BESTEST” during any broadcast at this point.
Miller has gone on record saying he could stop Curry if he were in his peak. Honestly, as competitive as all athletes are, this is an understandable statement. Few guys would admit that others would toast them in any situation. Seriously, Ricky Davis is probably around someone’s house still claiming to be the next Michael Jordan.
So it isn’t exactly what Miller said which makes it raunchy or evil, it’s that he’s yet another former NBA guy using his own career — one which Curry has already surpassed in Miller’s one true area of excellence — to diminish something going on instead of appreciating the event of it while it’s happening.
Whatever is happening with Curry, however anyone wants to view it, I swear to you — it has very little to do with Reggie “None of My Shots Came off My Own Creating of Space Off The Dribble” Miller…which is a really long nickname that Miller should try to tighten up.
The lack of appreciating greatness isn’t exclusive to retired players, as it’s an epidemic in all sports, but Miller’s job is to tell you why Curry’s run is so amazing because of how difficult it is. Not to tell you about him. Miller already had his time in the spotlight. Given that people still respect him, he should be using his platform to help others better understand what’s going on with Curry — specifically, explain to us how Curry is doing the same thing Miller did, but is doing it better and in different ways.
Again, a large part of me understands why Reggie has a hard time not separating his athletic feats from Curry because of how competitive athletes are, but none of that should apply anymore. If former players can no longer separate their careers from the ones currently taking shape, then remove them from platforms of discussion. There’s no need to taint the waters of discourse.
That’s not to say criticisms aren’t allowed. Smart ones are more than welcome. However, comparing yourself or another era to things currently happening doesn’t resemble anything close to being smart. It’s something that guys with 20 followers on Twitter do. It’s fun banter for social media — not on national networks or on radio programs.
Enter: Charles Barkley.
Barkley is beloved. Everyone likes themselves some Charles. Somehow, magically even, Barkley has become the one guy in the world who can say pretty much anything he wants, and there’s very little recourse even when things he says are more sour or uneducated than some dude at a town hall meeting railing against some sort of company which would literally save the community from collapse only because it means the local Burger King needs to go.
Chuck’s issue is that he gets personal with players. During his playing days, that sort of stuff is admirable. But that’s only because he’d have to answer for his critiques on a guy’s motivations on the court. Now, however, when he question Carmelo Anthony’s drive, it leaves the latter in a tough spot and he simply gets to sit in a studio and watch everyone take his word as gospel.
Melo can’t win because the guy who said it is Charles “Expletive” Barkley, and he’s merely a guy who’s rather polarizing because he’s a volume shooter without rings.
Here’s the thing, and it isn’t something strictly tied to former athletes, but whoever has a platform to spread opinions, particularly about those on other humans, should go about treating their words carefully. There’s a responsibility to be truthful, accurate and provide the best insight possible to the general public. For former athletes, their role in this medium is to provide glimpses into areas of the sport the rest of us could never know. Barkley’s comments are not that, though, as they’re more like an uneducated shot on a guy who he hasn’t dealt with.
It’s irresponsible to say what he did without having any other proof other than Melo’s volume shooting or the win/loss record in his wake. Even though what Barkley said could be true, there’s zero way for him to know about an intangible from watching him play in a studio. Yet, since TNT’s halftime shows are beloved and watched, many people who use that as their go-to spot for NBA insight, now think something about Carmelo Anthony without actually knowing that it might not be true.
That’s the scary part, too. Average fans are going to believe former NBA stars over the general media and stars in the league today. It’s that valuing the “hand in the dirt” thoughts more than those who might actually be more educated on certain topics discussed, which has somehow made Danny Kanell’s opinion on brain trauma and a non-existent “war on football” important.
Tread carefully, reader friend. Simply because a former player might have great insights on what’s happening on the field and even — to a lesser degree — in the locker room (it’s lesser because people, eras, rules, etc. all change), doesn’t mean their opinions on things outside of that should be treated as factual information. It should be treated with balance. Simply another opinion to hurl alongside the thousands others — which you should stir around in a pot, let simmer for a day or two, before forming YOUR OWN opinion on whatever matter is at hand.
Don’t let former athletes bully you into thinking what you’re seeing isn’t special. Don’t let them tell you how much more special their era was compared to any other — they’re all special in their own ways. Don’t let them make it about, you know, them.