Mystics of almost every persuasion believe that love and hate are two wings of the same bird. And since all of us who worship at the shrine of Sports America know that the bird is the word, here are those aspects of the NBA that I sincerely hate.
- How many times a game does this happen? A player dribbles to the rim and clearly gets clobbered in the act of shooting an otherwise easy layup … But the nearest referee sucks on his whistle, waiting to see if the shot is made or missed. If the former, no foul call is forthcoming. If the latter, then the call is made. This kind of stuff infuriated me when I was coaching, whether the conditional call would be good or bad for the good guys. After all, a foul is a foul is …
- The flopper-fines don’t really work simply because, compared to the average NBA salary that now exceeds $3M, there’re infinitesimal. Here’s my non-floppers proposal: If all three refs agree that an egregious flop did indeed occur, then the flopper should be charged with a personal as well as a technical foul.
- Players who indulge in adolescent macho antics during games. The preeners, biceps-flexors, chest-thumpers, finger-shooters, and gun-powder-puffers. Yes, we all saw your dunk/block/3-pointer/whatever. Yes, we all know how wonderful you are. But why not act as though dunking, shot-blocking, successful treys, etcetera, are things that you have done before? Even worse, their common excuse for committing these foolish deeds is that they’re psyching themselves up. Say what? Millionaire athletes need to act like fools to get their chops up to play in highly competitive ballgames? They should be penalized with a T in the same way that NFL showboats are. Actually, the only one of these self-aggrandizing antics that delights me is Kevin Garnett’s banging his head against the padded backboard support before games. Hey, anything to get his brain cells working.
- Referees who overreact when big players and little players collide. Of course, the little guys will get the worst of the contact, usually getting bounced to the floorboards. It’s only natural. Try running full speed into a brick wall and see what happens. But too many refs automatically toot the bigger player for a flagrant foul. In the vast majority of cases, this is blatantly unfair. How just would it be if quick players were penalized for driving past slow players?
- An over-reliance on statistics by players, agents, the media, and even many prominent NBA decision-makers. In so doing, these guys are focusing on the sizzle and not on the steak. And this is one major reason why the off-the-ball heart-of-the-game has been so devalued, and why NBA action has been so dumbed down in recent years.
- Players (and their agents) who have an inflated opinion of their own Even the clumsy, totally inept Hamed Haddadi used to identify himself as “a star”.
- Fans who blindly worship certain teams and players to the point where even the mildest (and constructive) criticism of their favorites provoke them into vehement furies of hatred that should be reserved for serial killers. You know who you are. Hey, lighten up y’all, and pay more attention to living your own
- The NBA All-Star game is akin to a baseball game in which there are only two outfielders, three infielders, and both sides have batting practice pitchers on the mound. It’s supposed to be fun to witness meaningless razzle-dazzle passes, dunk-after-dunk, and unopposed acrobatic shots. Fans only interested in watching hooptime spectacles are advised to visit any number of playgrounds all over the country. The hoop-time truth is that authentic competition is fun, reality is fun, grace under pressure is fun. All-Star games are, at best, merely whimsical. Even worse, the starting fives are voted on by the fans! (See above!) Everybody involved would be better off with three days of R & R.
- All of the lame extra doings on the All-Star weekend. The rookies versus the sophomores? Come on. Who really cares? The 3-point contest? Boring!! Even the dunk competition is phony and repetitious. The whole shebang is all about ratings, which is all about money.
- The arrogance demonstrated by too many players on and off the court. Those who believe that the mistakes that they happen to make are really somebody else’s fault. Or who believe they are entitled to drive as fast as their expensive cars will go and are surprised when the red lights flash in their rearview mirror. Or who say “Don’t you know who I am?” when caught committing illegal acts. The guys who believe they are so rich and so well known that they can get away with anything. However, the real crime is that they’re usually successful.
- Referees with short fuses—the ones who fail to walk away when a player or a coach protests a call. Don’t they understand the emotion required for players to compete in NBA games? A few glares, cuss words, and hands waved in disgust are to be expected (and permitted) in the heat of the action. Just because the refs are runts who breathe through whistles doesn’t mean that they’re infallible.
- I absolutely, positively hate the rash of serious knee injuries that continue to plague NBA players. Back when I was playing, everybody wore simple canvas shoes and knee injuries were extremely rare. Why is this so? To find an answer, I consulted several orthopedists of my acquaintance—and their opinion was unanimous: Blame the sneakers. By fitting so snugly and being able to be laced so tightly, the boots almost totally immobilize ankles. As a result, the docs say, many of the natural ankle and foot torques that occur in the normal unfolding of a game are passed up to the next joint in line—which happens to be the knee, one of the weakest, most vulnerable joints in the body. “If one spot in your basement is leaking,” one ortho-dude explains, “and you patch that spot, the leak will invariably show up someplace else.” Yes, back in the day, we suffered occasional sprained ankles. But these are entirely preferable to torn ACLs.
- Teammates coming forward to bop fists with a player who misses a free throw. Say what? What’s their message? Yes, we forgive you even though you failed to convert a point that we sorely needed? We still accept you as one of us? If we show our man-love, you’ll be encouraged to make the next one? A kick in the pants would seem to be more appropriate.
- Abominable free-throw shooters who refuse to shoot underhanded. It’s a natural motion that’s easy to learn and master. It’s also incredibly accurate if only because the ball is always so soft on the rim. But, no! It’s more manly to shoot 60% and lose games from the stripe than to shoot 80% or more—to say nothing of being trusted to be on the floor in the clutch as opposed to riding the pines.
Even so, the totality of NBA Action is unpredictable, irresistible, much more complicated than it appears to be, and always fascinating.