View Full Version : In winning a power struggle, NBA players have undermined the game

07-22-2004, 08:08 PM

Somewhere, somehow, on their pampered rise to fame--between obscurity on the cracked macadam and frayed nets of the playground to stardom on the glistening hardwood of a 20,000-seat arena--NBA stars have lost sight of it all.

Now, more than ever, the individual takes precedence over the team, the player is more vital than the coach, the stat sheet a higher priority than the win column.

This isn't necessarily a new phenomenon. But those of the past who flexed their muscles this way--including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and others--were concerned with winning championships.

Not anymore.

The power struggles in today's NBA, pitting superstar against front office, are focused only on the players' yearning for center stage--the egotistical insistence that they alone must soak up the limelight while the supporting cast steps aside.

From Kobe Bryant's power play in Los Angeles to the constant trade demands of the biggest names in the game, the examples from this offseason alone are seemingly endless.

This perseverance of the "me-first" mentality is a loud commentary on the sad state of the game. It's as if the players have organized a coup designed to undermine every coach, front office executive, and owner in the league. This uprising has weakened the game itself because, now, more than ever before, it's my way or the highway.

The NBA has evolved from a union of teams into a collection of players, each one worried about personal stats and individual awards, long-term contracts and sneaker deals, public praise and media adulation.

Me first, they pound their chests with clenched fists. Nothing else matters. With this prevailing attitude around the league, it's too easy to wonder if anyone cares about winning anymore.

The saga surrounding the Lakers this offseason is the primary example. And Kobe is the biggest culprit.

After opting out of his contract to become a free agent, he let his demands be known--even if they were whispered under the table.

Despite the sexual assault trial that awaits him next month and the possible prison term that may follow, owners and general managers were kissing his feet and bowing to even his most outrageous requests. Kobe eventually decided to stay with the Lakers, but only after they broke up their mini-dynasty for him--and offered an extra $30 million.

First, they ousted Phil Jackson, one of the most successful coaches of all time. Then they traded away Shaquille O'Neal, one of the most successful centers of all time. Why? Well, Kobe didn't like them personally, maybe because they hindered his personal ambition. They wanted more NBA titles; Kobe wanted scoring titles.

Yet Kobe denies those accusations as feverishly as he does the sexual assault charges that hang over him.

"That upsets me. That angers me. That hurts me,'' he said of Jackson and Shaq when signing his new contract. "They did what they had to do. They did what was best for their families. That had nothing to do with me."

However, Jackson, who helped nine squads raise championship banners, confirmed the public's suspicions of what went on behind closed doors.

"They wanted to make some moves to accommodate signing Kobe," he told the Los Angeles Times. "We knew they probably wouldn't work if I was coaching the team."

Shaq isn't blameless either, but he got the best of both worlds. Pay me or trade me was his motto this season. And when the Lakers sent him to Miami for three players and a draft pick, he got exactly what he wanted: a new team, and a boost in public sentiment as the victim of Kobe's unyielding power.

The Lakers, of course, are not alone in succumbing to their biggest star. In Orlando, Tracy McGrady, a two-time league scoring champ, demanded a trade and, in the process, became a master of double talk. He forced Orlando to deal him to Houston, but grew upset that the Magic didn't try to persuade him, didn't get on their knees and plead with him, to stay. He was uninterested in their latest rebuilding effort, yet complained he didn't want to leave Orlando because it was his home.

Although McGrady says he's quenching his thirst to play for a contender, his approach serves as a case study of the modern NBA player. Too many are unwilling to tough it out, apathetic toward the sweat and commitment involved in taking a franchise from the ashes and building it into a powerhouse. McGrady simply quit after just four years in Orlando, even contemplated retirement. It's much easier thriving on an instant winner than molding one.

Then there is the preposterous example of the self-loathing Vince Carter. He isn't only demanding a trade from Toronto--he's laying down the ground rules. Carter reportedly wants a trade to an Eastern Conference team, ideally the New York Knicks, because he's unhappy that the Raptors didn't consult him in their search for a new coach or general manager.

This from a player whose career has been equal parts rise and fall. He flew to stardom on the strength of highlight-reel dunks but has dropped like a meteorite because of questionable injuries and a lack of heart--both on and off the court.

Unfortunately, Carter, and others like him, believes his skills translate to the front office. His oversized ego has him believing that the club needs his approval when making management decisions. Now the Raptors pander to him in the press, making Carter feel as if they will accommodate the disgruntled star.

"It certainly would be nicer if I knew he definitely wanted to be here, but I can't control Vince," Raptors general manager Rob Babcock told The Associated Press. "My preference is to have Vince here, but that's up to Vince more than it is up to us."

Why? What makes Carter think he can simply play somewhere else when things don't go his way? Why should the Raptors have to act like a genie in a bottle and grant his wish?

The truth is they don't. No one has to. But that's the climate of today's NBA. The general managers, owners, and even the fans are invested in a league where the focus is on the superstars.

It's all about the guy who graces the cereal box, acts as the centerpiece of the video game, or is the coveted pick in the fantasy league. They are the attraction and they have leverage, selling tickets and making millions more from shoe companies than from their primary employers.

It all begs a bigger question: Do teams matter anymore?

07-22-2004, 09:39 PM
My favorite was fat shaq complaining that they fired Philly WITHOUT CONSULTING HIM FIRST!!!!!!!!!
And the idiot said it with a straight face. :loser:
The NBA is in a death spirall, I'm sure most of you will disagree, but the business indicators don't lie. They are alienating their fan base to a greater degree every year. Yes the $$ have never been bigger and everything LOOKS great. It ain't. And the owners know it.
Poo poo it now, see if I'm not right in 10 years.

07-22-2004, 09:56 PM
As much as it feels good for the Fan to vent... that is total BS. It's all about the money. It's a freakin pro sports club. No one feels that loyal to any franchise. Which is the main reason JO is a Pacer, he got paid the most here. Do you really expect, or does this writer expect players to hold some kinda loyalty to their team that goes beyond money? Let alone millions upon millions of dollars? see boozer. Who can fault him? Tell me any of you would turn down 28million because of loyalty to a pro sports team that already has more money than you could possibly imagine. right. lets not get silly here, reality check.