It’s tough to be a fan of the NBA these days.
With Jordan gone and the Celtics’ dynasty all but buried, it’s tough to adjust to the new face of the NBA. It’s even tougher to get used to the players’ personalities.
Players have always lived “the life.” Some lead a life most of us will never know. Like the players mentioned in a criminal charge at a strip club. Players from the New York Knicks (and other teams) were linked to a criminal investigation last fall involving a strip club. The players were allegedly given in-house money (like the tokens at Chucky Cheese) to buy dances, drinks and anything else at the strip club.
Yeah, you can relate.
There’s probably nothing illegal about it. It was just a club owner trying to keep famous clients coming so stargazers would be more inclined to frequent his club.
It’s not unusual. Players at all professional teams are coddled — or at least could be if they wanted to live the easy life.
But players in the NBA have taken spoiled to an entirely new level.
Take the Charlotte Hornets’ Anthony Mason (please). During the player strike in the fall of ’98, while the players were on strike over salary issues, Mason made an appearance at a charity game.
He wasn’t playing. He was on the sidelines — in a fur jacket with his number emblazoned on the back.
Mason was with the New York Knicks back then.
Things haven’t changed much in Charlotte.
Mason was busted last Saturday for a fight outside a bar in New York — at 4:30 a.m. Mason and four other men with him were in a fight with three other men Saturday. Mason refuses to discuss the incident.
“I didn’t do anything I wouldn’t do for anyone,” he said. “I’m not going to run and hide.”
What was he doing up at 4:30 in the morning? The last time most humans were awake at 4:30 a.m. probably involved getting up to go to the bathroom and tripping on a cat.
The NBA is full of guys like Mason — guys who live the life. Stephon Marbury moved out to New York, his home stomping ground, at least partially because Minnesota was too dull.
There are others. Names like Iverson, Shaq, Jayson Williams and Rider spring to mind as less-than-stellar examples of professional athletes.
You can’t expect players to be role models. Charles Barkley had it right — he’s not a role model. But as a fan looking for something to root for in the league, it’s tough to cheer for someone you know is out brawling, carousing and partying.
Locally, things are a little brighter. Kevin Garnett seems like a respectable enough man. He doesn’t whine about playing in Minnesota; he just gets the job done on the floor.
Kids love him. And why shouldn’t they? Garnett hasn’t kicked any photographers in the crotch or made any recording debuts — he just plays basketball.
And so do the rest of the Timberwolves. We haven’t heard about any basketball-player exploits since Isaiah Rider left town. Even Marbury didn’t make the news for any wrongdoings.
But it’s not so simple in the rest of the league.
It’s not impossible to find a player or a team to root for in the NBA; it’s just gotten a lot tougher. Would Magic Johnson or Larry Bird wear a fur jacket with their numbers on the back? No. They probably wouldn’t have even played with a man like that.
Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]