The NBA playoffs were dealt a major blow when, in the midst of a 7 game series between the best two teams in basketball, it decided to suspend two of Phoenix’s best players for leaving the bench, despite the fact that they didn’t lay a hand on anyone. It was a gutless, thoughtless decision by the NBA, and Willie thinks it ruined this years playoffs. Here are his thoughts:
Believe it or not, I was actually proud of the National Basketball Association and its commissioner David Stern before Tuesday. I was really enjoying the action of the NBA playoff for the first time in years as the game appeared to be returning to its former greatness of the late 1980’s that made me love it initially. Although he would not admit it, Stern seemed to be acting in a kinder and more benevolent way, which I feel is certainly good for the game. It is like he once again understood the competitiveness and intensity of the playoffs. While last year we saw James Posey and Ron Artest be suspended for doing barely more than breathing on an opponent too hard, this year’s NBA seemed more committed to pleasing the fans and not taking away from the competition unnecessarily. It seemed to start when Stern admitted that the new ball was a mistake and thus changed back to the old one. Then, the league refused to kill the excitement of the NBA playoffs by not suspending Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and Bruce Bowen for physically borderline play. It seemed that the NBA had once again realized that this is the playoffs and to be overly strict on the players was to kill some of that natural intensity which the postseason breeds. Moreover, they seemed to realize what the fans wanted as opposed to forcing on them a corporate, watered-down product. I was actually proud of the NBA for a change, which felt weird but definitely good at the same time. For a moment, I had back the game I loved.
Unfortunately, the NBA threw all this progress away in one fellow swoop by deciding to suspend Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw each one game for leaving the bench after a cheap shot to Steve Nash delivered by San Antonio’s Robert Horry. Horry hip-checked Nash into the scorers’ table right in front of the Suns’ bench as Phoenix had just pulled off an impressive comeback to lead San Antonio by four with about half a minute to play. This caused much concern for the Suns, whose smallest and best player Nash seems to have had a bull’s-eye on his chest throughout the entire series. He was given a bloody nose at the end of game one by Tony Parker and was kneed in the groin by Bruce Bowen in game 3 after Stoudemire had stated that the Spurs were a dirty team. Stoudemire and Diaw headed towards the action while Raja Bell got in the face of “Cheap shot” Bob Horry, only to have Horry deliver an elbow and mouth. “You want to fight me, boy?” While Horry is known for hitting clutch shots, his uncalled for foul against Nash may prove to be the biggest shot of his career since it is the Spurs who are ultimately the beneficiaries of this act.
From what I can see, the NBA definitely felt the pressure of the mass media, who overwhelming believes in the blind enforcement of all rules. It all started with Shaquille O’Neal’s “You do the crime you pay the time statement,” and the sentiment was echoed from there all over ESPN. Shaq may see himself as this character who is the Superman of law enforcement or something, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that no one would complain and whine more than “Shaq daddy” if he were in the situation which Stoudemire and Diaw currently find themselves. Moreover, anyone who insists on being referred to as “the Big Aristotle” needs to offer more philosophical and intellectual thought than he did in this instance. This makes me question the education that he received from the University of Phoenix online.
I also firmly believe that there are few rules, if any, that there are no exceptions to. Unfortunately, most people have to experience the feeling of getting a raw deal themselves in order to realize this. To just do something because “a rule’s a rule” without ever questioning why or how it was put into place is an injustice within itself. If the rule seems fair, that is one thing, but to just blindly enforce it is another because history has taught us that not all rules are good rules. By this token, many of these black commentators who believe “a precedent had been set” and the Phoenix players should therefore be suspended should lose their jobs on the basis of their skin color. I mean, why should we have even had a Civil Rights Movement? America lived under the rule of “separate but equal”, and after all, a rule IS a rule. Also, “a precedent had been set” as a result of 200 years of oppression, so who were they to try and mess with that? This, not to mention the fact that many Supreme Court decisions have been overturned in our nation’s history show that there is no merit to this common argument that simply works to uphold the status quo.
I therefore encourage everyone who reads this to send the NBA a message and not tune into Game 6 between the Suns and Spurs, especially if you have a Nielson box. An ESPN sportsnation poll showed that 74% of those who voted believe that the Phoenix players should not have been suspended, so I guess the NBA is still out of touch with its fan base. Moreover, the only way they will learn to take the desires of their fans into consideration is if the fans place them in a situation where they have no choice. This league is supposed to be for the fans who fill the seats and/or watch their beloved commercials about beer and cars. Without the fans, nothing else would be possible. However, they feel that they have a fan base that will tolerate injustice and they are therefore not concerned about it. At the end of the day, these overly strict rules take away from the competition and intensity that makes the game great. It makes the game less intriguing to unfairly remove the best players, thus stripping it of its meaning. I would have tried to organize a protest, but it is no accident that I am silenced in the sports world. That is, with the exception of my buddy Johnny Goodtimes. Thanks, Johnny.