His defense never rests (cont.)
Posted: Friday February 9, 2007 10:22AM; Updated: Friday February 9, 2007 2:34PM
Amaechi spent millions of his own dollars developing a youth center in England for children to play basketball. Maybe it was because there was always so much to discuss with him on such a wide scope of topics other than the NBA that it never occurred to me that he might be gay. I realize that I look na´ve, but it never crossed my mind.
But those days are done. Now that Amaechi has outed himself, everyone is going to wonder about other gay players currently in the league. There is going to be more aggressive reporting on the subject, and more players are probably going to be outed, whether they consent or not.
Amaechi's declaration has created an opportunity for the league to address this topic directly. A former NBA team president suggests that every franchise should deal with homophobia among its players and coaches right now, in an attempt to create a more hospitable climate for gay players than exists today.
This former executive believes that a majority of players wouldn't like being around a gay teammate. The fact is that they have no choice in the matter. They need to grow up and get used to it. Now is a better time to grow up than the inevitable day to come when a player is outed in their locker room. The league needs to deal with intolerance now, in order to prepare for the kind of sensational event that brings out the worst in ignorant people.
The epitaph on Amaechi's NBA career will be that he is remembered for something other than basketball. That, I would imagine, is the way he always wanted it.
3. The biggest surprise of the first half of the NBA season has been:
(a) the outing of John Amaechi
Actually, it's the fact that the Portland Trail Blazers are 20-30.
I always knew that Iverson could wind up in Denver, I assumed that there were gay players in the NBA and that one would eventually come out, and I wasn't knocked off my feet when the NBA reverted back to the old ball. You still have to wonder, though, why the league had to mess with the ball in the first place. Of all the working parts and people in the NBA, the only one that did what it was supposed to do each and every night was the ball. So you'd have to call it mildly surprising that when the lawyers and marketing people who run the NBA got together, the one thing they decided to fix was the ball, which turned out to be the one thing that didn't need fixing. The silver lining is that when you watch games now, you don't take the ball for granted. At least I don't.
But the biggest surprise that I never could have imagined was that Portland would have 20 wins less than four full months into the season. The Blazers were the consensus pick to be the worst team in the league, by me and others who didn't know what we were talking about, yet they are much closer to making the playoffs in the West than they are from earning the most Ping-Pong balls at the lottery.
4. Want a single ticket near the court for the All-Star Game in Las Vegas? It could cost you:
(a) $1,000 to $1,800
That was the going rate this week, according to ticket brokers in Las Vegas. Are they really getting that much? There's only one way to find out. If true, it's more than the average player was earning for an entire NBA season 40 years ago in the era of Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
5. Why do star players think that Bruce Bowen is dirty?
ANSWER: Ray Allen and others complain that Bowen puts them in situations that could lead to injury, that, for example, he will slide his foot under them as they're landing from a jump shot. (The Mavericks' Josh Howard, who is Bowen's defensive heir, is beginning to hear the same kind of accusations.) Bowen denies the charges, while admitting that he is always trying to distract opponents from putting the ball in the basket.
When I hear these kinds of complaints, it reminds me just how friendly players have become with one another. In the 1980s and earlier it was assumed that they would do everything they could get away with to beat each other -- and if they didn't, then they weren't earning their money. But now an approach like Bowen's is unusual. Of course, Allen has every right to complain if he feels that an opponent is dirty, but it's easy to single out Bowen because so few players are as ambitious defensively.
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