How not to fix the NBA’s perceived image problem

, Monday, May 11, 2009 at 12:00 PM Comments (0)

I’m one of the people that wasn’t convinced the NBA had an “image problem” to begin with. I don’t watch the games because I think the players are good neighbors, always take their trash out, don’t let their grass grow too tall and dress like they’re in a J. Crew catalog. I watch the games because these are the best in in the world at the game I love. But I understand when you’ve got a team known as the “Jail-Blazers” and multiple players being involved with gun charges and carjackings that you might want to address those issues before you turn into the NFL and have teams like the Cincinnati Bengals.

But maybe, just maybe the image problem isn’t all about how the players portray themselves, but may also have something to do with the way the rest of the NBA community treats the players. 

There are plenty of NBA players that have built up a negative reputation. There’s no better example than Ron Artest. I don’t even need to go into how he got his reputation. But now he’s a reformed individual who by all accounts appears to be a model NBA citizen that has harnessed the intensity and anger to make himself a better player. Artest’s explaination of what transpired when he was ejected in game 2 of the Rockets vs. Lakers series is a perfect example of that. But when he was ejected in game 3 for a Rockets vs. Lakers series for a run-of-the-mill personal foul, it was plain to see that the officials still see Ron Artest as the same guy that flipped his lid and ran into the stands at Auburn Hills. They called that game like he was Zach Randolph or Sebastian Telfair.

Then there’s Kenyon Martin. Say what you want about his time at the University of Cincinnati and his roster of technical fouls. The bottom line is, the guy plays hard every play, every night. He doesn’t play dirty like a Bruce Bowen, Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry or Kendrick Perkins. He just plays hard, and doesn’t let you take any play for granted. But his reputation got him a flagrant foul call against Dirk Nowitzki in game 1 of the Nuggets vs. Mavericks series. And then the village idiot, Mark Cuban reared his ugly steroid-swollen head to claim his crown as the highest ranking buffoon in professional sports ownership by throwing one of his patented post-loss childish tantrums and then proceeding to call out Kenyon Martin and his Nuggets teammates as thugs and punks, to K-Mart’s mother no less. Martin, being the man that he is, vows to let it be as far as the media is concerned, and handle his personal matters off the court.

In situations like these, I always know I can turn to Charles Barkley for some advice.

You never wanna get in a fight with a guy that has a tattoo on his face. (referring to Kenyon Martin) 

That’s a good rule to live by. And Mark Cuban should listen up.

But until the NBA wakes up and starts addressing how the extended NBA family treats the players, the image problem will still remain. You can’t honestly expect a caged animal to act like anything other than a caged animal.

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