NBA commissioner David Stern and his cohorts are cracking down on complainers in their league. Yes, their league. The players, who millions of fans around the world come to see, have to take a back seat to the administrators who, by the way, sit in their suits and make up rules to police their inmates.
I admit some of their interjections, like NBA Amendment 101 a couple years ago demanding players wear suit coats when sitting on their bench in street clothes, thus cleaning up the influx of hip-hop style as a fashion statement of the young NBA players was a good idea.
I remember covering the NBA Finals in 2001 when Philadelphia played the Los Angeles Lakers and Allen Iverson came to the press conference in a sweat suit baggy enough for two of him, the head scarf and baseball cap to the back and a giant neck chain. In the Lakers press conference all the players had suits on.
I just felt that they were presenting themselves to the world and playing a million dollar game, they should look the part, too. You know, up from poverty into the world of movers and shakers . . . change the game and yourself. Now that was an idea I could get behind.
But this censorship thing going on now is not right. I’ve been in too many press boxes to recount and I’ve heard writers banter that some athletes do not show any emotion or do not care about the game or are just going through the motions.
The initiators of media perceptions cannot have it both ways. They cannot scream no one plays with emotion and then when emotional men playing an emotional game display emotion, change the game and say they are spoiled or getting away with something.
Sure, there needs to be a limit to complaining, and, the league already has that in play, with the end results being a technical foul called on a coach or player. Of course, if a player gets two he’s expelled from the game. But that was not good enough for the overly image conscious NBA. They have in the pre-season turned the idea of what constitutes a technical foul into a joke. NBA referees have received a whole new set of rules to follow when it comes to issuing technical fouls.
The idea is that they will deprogram the players into thinking before they decide to argue with the refs. I say you cannot take the emotion away from and emotional game and players. Here are the new rules regarding what can constitute a tech:
• Aggressive gestures, such as air punches, anywhere on the court.
• Demonstrative disagreement, such as when a player incredulously raises his hands, or smacks his own arm to demonstrate how he was fouled.
• Running directly at an official to complain about a call.
• Excessive inquiries about a call, even in a civilized tone.
When I look at these rules, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, et al. started getting kicked out of games. What about the fans? They are the ones who mark their calendars for the dates of when their favorite player will be in town only to see them look at a ref and get tossed.
“The proper mindset, in every player’s mind, is abstinence. That is, to not complain,” NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson told ESPN. “The focus here is to just play the game.”
My man Rasheed Wallace is glad he retired because if anything he was not a robot, and the NBA seems to want to make cookie-cutter robots out of men who have to use that emotional edge to elevate themselves to the level of professional athlete.
Leland Stein III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.