there is no “i” in “unforced turnover”


It’s time to come right out and say it: the NBA fucking sucks. It is a national embarrassment. I am officially withdrawing what parsimonious scraps of support I once harbored for professional basketball and telling them all to lick my nuts. If I have to sit through another goddamn NBA game again, please just do me a favor, take me out to the garden shed and hit me in the head with the business end of a hoe.

This latest brawl between the Knicks and the Nuggets (oh, just YouTube it if you haven’t seen it) was the nail in a rotting coffin that began when Jordan actually retired and was furthered by the unbelievable ugliness of Ron Artest & Co. two years ago. There’s a place for unchecked egos throwing sucker punches, and it’s called either “prison” or “my middle school locker room.”

When the players aren’t fouling the shit out of each other, the NBA game is soporific, funereal, rote and mind-numbing. I’ve had it with watching these multi-multi-millionaires with tattoo-festooned necks offer unearned braggadocio in every interview, jack up shots from 35 feet without regard to any teammate, and allow rivals to take a twenty point lead in the first quarter and do nothing about it. They have no heart, dulled by numbing vats of money, and have absolutely no pride in whatever city they happen to be playing for this year.

Some might find this line of reasoning racist, or generationalist, but I swear, I used to love the pro game. My favorite player growing up was the Iceman. I come from a school in North Carolina that provided the NBA its greatest player ever, and a platoon of guys that were among the most awesome dudes you could ask for. I loved Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse about as much as you can love those from afar, but they disappeared for me as soon as they left the fold. I still harbor affection for all Carolina players, but I simply cannot buttress up any amount of excitement for the pro careers that swallowed them.

Besides – the cold, European, long-range assassins ruin the game just as much. I can’t stand any of it. Darko Milicic, you’re almost as boring as Tim Duncan. Nowitzki, whatever. Shaq, you’ve become a real boor. Marbury, you’re a complete head case, and you’re stinking up NYC. You and your Knicks serve only to generate hilarious headlines for the Post and the Daily News.

Yes, I know everyone has their favorites. Yes, I like Steve Nash and Earl Boykins. Yes, I know teams occasionally wake from their slumber in time for the playoffs. But is it worth the shoe deals, the posturing, the sneers after dunks, the 15-game suspensions, the endless clunked shots from twelve feet? I’m just one guy, but I’m one guy with lots of cable sports packages who just banned the game from my house.

Do I cry at the end of “Hoosiers”? Yes. Am I a twee, old-school, sentimental fop? I suppose so. But for me, the farther away you get from Dean Smith’s way of thinking, the less the game becomes a gorgeous metaphor for everything in life, and more of a profane, cruel, stupid, “fuck you, pay me” dumbshow carnival.

In college, any given team can beat any other. Santa Clara can beat the Heels in a championship season. Lorenzo Charles can tip the ball. Walter Davis can bank a 35-footer in a meaningless game at the end of the 1974 season and change lives forever. I’m taller than Wes Miller, and he wears the blue and white. THAT’S the game I love.

26 thoughts on “there is no “i” in “unforced turnover”

  1. Paul

    The hype about the NBA brawl is overrated in my opinion. NHL players fight EVERY SINGLE GAME, yet no one makes as big a deal about it. What gives!?!

  2. Matt

    The aren’t fights “every” NHL game, Paul. But hockey is a contact sport and when you’re skating around at 30 mph hitting people, it’s not surprising that tempers flare and examples must be made. Add to it the fact that everyone’s carrying a weapon (stick) and it’s a miracle things don’t really get out of hand.
    While we’re on the subject of sports… when’s the mea culpa coming on the wrongful smearing of the Duke lacrosse team? You remember, right here:

  3. Beth

    I’m not a sports buff, but isn’t this getting to be a trend in professional sports? I’m thinking of baseball, even cycling and running, with all the egos and salaries and sponsorships and drug allegations. After the controversy surrounding Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, I have a hard time believing even Lance Armstrong was riding clean. And I want to believe in heroic feats, I really do.

  4. GFWD

    George Karl, former Tar Heel, does not like Zeke Thomas (Knicks coach) for the way he treated Larry Brown, former Tar Heel.
    Did Karl leave his starters in too long on purpose, including Tar Heel signee J.R. Smith, who skipped the championship season to go pro?
    You damn right he did.
    The lesson learned?
    Don’t mess with the Tar Heels, baby.
    Kidding aside, it’s a black eye on that league and Commish Stern should have come out with a more severe punishment. Flagrant sucker punches like “Carmela” Anthony threw in that game should garner much longer punishments.
    (Actually, feminizing ‘Melo’s name is really an insult to women, because even little girls wouldn’t sucker punch like the cowardly little ‘Melo did. So ladies, I’m sorry.)
    If you knew that a punch would cost you half of a season, then there might be less fighting.
    The easiest way to address this whole issue is to address the flagrant foul. The NBA keeps forgetting that it was flagrant fouls which set off both of the past two ugly incidents, including the one with Detroit and Ron Artest.
    A flagrant foul has no place in the game, especially when you’re dealing with athletes who leave the ground and put themselves in peril while driving to the hoop. (Yes, I’m thinking about Kenny Smith and Derrick Phelps right now).
    Make a flagrant foul a disqualification and automatic 5-game suspension, plus FOUR free throws and possession. That might take care of any goon-squad antics late in games.
    Absent that, change the game. Give them sticks like in hockey and make the game more like that movie, Rollerball.
    I get choked up in Hoosiers, too, when Shooter’s son comes to see him in the hospital and, after leaving, Shooter starts hollerin’ to anyone who will listen that he “ran the picket fence at ’em” in the game where Coach Norman Dale intentionally got tossed.

  5. Bud

    As far as I’m concerned, you can replace “the NBA” with “professional sport” in your first sentence.
    As Beth noted, it ain’t just basketball, “…multi-multi-millionaires with tattoo-festooned necks offer(ing) unearned braggadocio in every interview…” (et cetera) now rule every sport.
    Include me out.*
    * with exceptions for the World Series, the Super Bowl and possibly the Stanley Cup finals if the ‘Canes are playing.

  6. Sam

    I can understand Ian’s opinion about the NBA but it’s not like they have never had fights in the past. Remember Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis? Like all pro sports, there are many NBA games that leave something to be desired in terms of intensity and competitiveness. However, the skill level and teamwork is there and can be fun to watch. To me, teams like Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas play a pass-oriented fast pace that is highly entertaining.
    One thing that strikes me about the media coverage of the Knicks fight is that there appears to be a subtle form of racism from the mainstream media. In baseball, when a pitcher beans someone and the hitter charges the mound, the players (typically white) are considered “feisty,”, “gamers” or “throwbacks.” In the NBA, writers label these guys as “thugs”….
    While we are on the NBA, how come the NBA gets such a bad rap while the NFL gets no bad press at all? In last night’s much hyped Monday night game, the Cincinnati Bengals had no fewer than 9 players arrested this year. There was much more hype about Peyton Manning’s losing streak than about the off the field behavior of the Bengals “role models.” The NFL consistently sets a new low for player behavior but their marketing machine seems to make their product bullet-proof.

  7. Ian

    I have often surmised that the American public and the NFL have come to an agreement: we want our football players to be freakshows, and figure they can go about it any way they want. By contrast, we want our basketball and baseball players to be “approachable” and exude finesse. I don’t know why there is that double standard, but you’re right, it exists.

  8. Kevin from Philadelphia

    I agree X 11-ty billion. It really is AL pro sports though. Stomping on opposing players in the NFL, brawls with other players AND fans (who, in effect, pay their salaries by buying overpriced tickets and individual players’ “gear”), NHL actually ALLOWS fighting, and you get, what, 2 minutes in the box to cool off afterward? Hockey teams employ players with no discernable stick or skating skills, but they are large and thugish, so their job is to find the opposing team’s star and put him through the board. Don’t even get me started on the feckin’ Yankees.
    For me, pro basketball died when the Sixers got rid of Stackhouse AND Pat Croce (Best. Team. President. EVER.), and brought in – was neck tatoo festooned? – Allen Iverson.
    Ian, I am with you. How about a “NO NBA NEED APPLY” law when Coastopia comes to fruition?

  9. kevin from NC

    I am not sure what to think of all this save don’t watch it.
    Hi Lance,
    remember me from The Spin Cycle in Cary,NC for the Jimmy V ride.. I still have the autographed worlds jersey in the store.

  10. Sean Williams

    I know, I always call you racist. I guess this is more classist. Every single major sport has fights all the time. The dugouts clear, the white hockey players slug each other, the football players cheap shot and spit, etc.
    The NBA is the most elegant of the professional sports, and the beauty of the foreign players, which you malign as “boring”, is the fact that they play team ball, team defense and they can shoot as well as pass. Kirilenko, who plays for the hated Jazz, can fill up a box score that would make Dean Smith proud. Blocks, rebounds, assists, steals… everything.
    There are bad people everywhere, and when bad people get control, bad things happen. Isiah Thomas is a piece of shit, and he’s got the flagship franchise in the NBA.
    But scoring is up, overtime games are way up, artistry is up, the constant whining and bitching is way down, and the parity in the league has reached a really lovely point where almost any team can win almost any game. NFL can say the same thing *this year*, but most years it’s just awful.
    I understand that you love the amateur game, but it’s shocking to me, with your well-established love of celebrity, that you embrace the little guys and the unknowns in college and malign the wealthy and celebrated. At least the NBA players who are lauded have numbers and wins behind them, most of the famous actors out there are just good looking and lucky.

  11. craighill

    agree with you on all points. i have bobcats season tix (mostly b/c of felton and may) and can hardly bear to go. when i don’t go it’s next to impossible to give the tix away, and they’re great seats.
    im my opinion, most people don’t like hip hop and certainly don’t want to pay $150 a ticket to be surrounded by it – on and off the court.

  12. emma

    I am in complete agreement with you although I can’t put it into words. As a girl who has never played a basketball game (other than HORSE), I can just say I enjoy watching college basketball. I will watch, cheer, bite my fingernails, and cuss yet I have never been able to sit through an entire professional basketball game. For me, it does not transcend all professional sports, I enjoy watching MLB. So, I can’t explain it – I can just tell you what my gut tells me, i.e. College basketball good; NBA bad.

  13. yaytee

    now i’m not saying you’re racist or prejudiced (well, you are actually definitely the latter, as we all are), but i love how you respond to potential charges of racism with a variation on the old “some of my best friends are black” theme. now where have i heard something like THAT before?
    i’d love to write more, but i gotta go watch footage of the ever-classy european soccer fans hurl racial epithets and bananas at players of african descent for no reason at all except that they’re black, and NHL players beating each other’s asses on the reg (pardon me, that’s inner-city slang for “on a consistent basis”)(and matt, nice attempt at justifying their stupidity, but you get an F/U) i fear that they may not be getting the proper level of attention, what with all the demonization of certain kinds of NBA players going on …

  14. tbruns

    So right my friend. My friends pulled the race card when I declared i too would not watch another NBA game, but now they are also fed up and done with the shennanigans. I love the college game and nothing compares with March in Ohio, but the NBA is ridiculous. I too will not watch another game

  15. Ian

    yaytee, I was afraid I might come off like that. The “some of my best friends are ____” defense irks me as well. The alternative is to make no disclaimers at all, I guess, and I just wasn’t willing to let it dangle.

  16. Andy

    As one of about 12 NBA fans left in this country, it’s getting harder and harder to defend. There have certainly been worse fights and worse plays in the NBA in the past. Think Kermit Washington and Rudy T. I agree with whomever said this has been blown way out of proportion. However, I also agree that there is a racist undertone to the media’s coverage. To me, this is very similar to what happens in baseball all the time. Pictcher hits a batter; the batter’s team is now expected to go out and throw at the other team to get them back. In baseball, the media says this is “the unwritten code” and “part of the game” when it’s basically having your teammate’s back. Yes, Melo punched a guy and then ran like a girl across the court away from the action but wasn’t he actually just sticking up for a teammate (JR Smith) in the heat of the moment? How is that all that different? I could make the argument that the baseball incident is worse because it’s premeditated.
    As for the UNC connection of the Nuggets/Knicks thing, don’t forget that Phil Ford and Dave Hanners are still on the Knick’s coaching staff.
    When it comes to being a fan of the NBA, I just have to be more selective in the teams I choose to watch. I always follow the UNC alumni by watching or at least seeking out a box score. I will also go out of my way to watch Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah, Dallas, and a few others because they play a team-oriented style.
    As for the person that bashed Iverson above, I have to disagree. Not to ride Bill Simmons’ coattails (who wrote a great piece last week about AI) but Iverson plays hard every single minute of every single game. Don’t be quick to judge him by his looks and the “practice” comments from the past. The dude is a gamer. Same thing with Kevin Garnett. Again, though, it’s a shame you have to look hard to find guys like this.
    My biggest beef with the NBA is that there are too many teams and too many games. The talent level is diluted to the point where it’s damn near impossible to get more than 2 really good players on each team. The rest of the guys, while good, are relegated to setting picks, boxing out and mostly getting out of the way. 82 games in a season means that about 40% don’t mean a thing in the big picture. 95% of the players know this and play accordingly. Too much money also certainly has a lot to do with the product on the floor but I think it moreso has to do with the fact that most regular season game just don’t matter.
    I’m not giving up on the NBA yet because of this one incident but I certainly don’t follow like I did 10 years ago. There’s still some very good ball being played but you just have to sort through a lot more crap to find it.

  17. Annie

    It’s very odd to read this post after attending my FIRST NBA game mere days ago: Bobcats vs. the Magic. Though a Tar Heel lover, I am not the most seasoned bball spectator and yet I found myself thoroughly riveted throughout the game. Maybe it was only because my favorite Tar Heel Sean May kicked ASS the whole game long (32 points!). Maybe it was our $100 seats (craighill, my bf and I will take your tix next time if we can make it to Charlotte!) Maybe it was because Reddick played like SHIT the whole game long (4 points) and got booed every time he touched the ball. And maybe it was because the Bobcats played a fantastic team game and brought home an earned win.
    I never thought I would say something like this, but the Bobcats’ new arena was really fuckn kool and there was an amazing post-game drum corps featuring a breakdancer and various little kids and drunk women doing amateur dance solos.
    I just had a great time! And I bought a Bobcats hat!

  18. noj

    hmmm…the powerhouses of the last few years play a brand of basketball i think is classy, unselfish & highly-skilled. dallas, phoenix, detroit, san antonio. these teams are strong because they are fundamentally sound. they can shoot, pass and play sum guldurn defense (well, phoenix doesn’t really play defense…). they’re all focused on team vs. individual accolades. i don’t see what’s not to like about these teams.

  19. CP

    how can someone not want to watch lebron or ben wallace or dwayne wade?
    and by the way, the knicks were right. they were getting shown up in their house and felt like they needed to do something about it. I echo the NHL and MLB arguments from above. the NBA is pissed because it hurts their image which in turn costs them money; shit like this being bad for business. NBA fans don’t seem to like thugged out looking brothers/big black guys brawling, especially in light of the ron artest incident. why? that’s right, NBA fans, it threatens your sense of security. you feel on a subconscious level like you could get hurt. (then perhaps feel guilt about the racist/classist undertones of this, and subsequently lash out at the players.) unlike baseball and hockey where a) the players tend to look more like the fans and b) there’s more of a barrier between the field/ice and the stands. now, this theory might be kind of out there, it’s perhaps a misguided and simplistic way of looking at the world, but there also seems to be an undercurrent of truth to it. (as for famous actors being merely goodlooking, I’d argue that’s perhaps a misguided and simplistic way of rationalizing how unfair the world can be.)
    fighting’s part of sports, folks. simple as that. whether you label it scrappy or street or canadian, it’s all the same thing. all unsportsmanlike and unnecessarily violent but so are unjustified wars and action movies, and a lot of us (americans, not commenters) don’t seem to have a problem with them.
    ps — hoosiers is great and all, but I’ll take slap shot over that sappy horseshit any day. (I guess I’m just feisty.)

  20. Ian

    Hey gvb (and “ybt” and “cflg” among other pseudonyms you’ve used):
    For the love of god, can you please say something funny and original? All you’ve done is fire off sardonic, disdainful sentence fragments from the comfort of your jammies. Your brand of easy, anonynous sarcasm is pure cowardice.
    Why don’t you write your own fucking blog, if you’re finding my viewpoint so tiresome?

  21. TREGEN

    Once again, turn off and throw out your TV… it’s not just basketbal, it all sucks. Us netflix to get your kicks and stop kidding yourself that any of the sports you are watching on TV are anything other than a cleaned-up, fancier version of professional wrestling.

  22. Annie

    Wow, funny. “sgr” has a job that’s WAY too important for him to WRITE a blog, but he sure has plenty of time to read and comment in this worthless, waste-of-time blog. I guess it really doesn’t take as much time, energy, focus, or dedication to just read someone else’s blog and fart out tiny chunks of unimaginative sarcasm.
    (sgr struggles for a pithy comeback that will expose my own dime-store sarcasm)


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