Has success spoiled rookie hazing? When first-year players make as much as $3 million a year, the time-honored practice of making them do chores and undergo humiliating rituals sometimes falls by the wayside. "Hazing? I think the rookies are running the league," says one NBA executive. Consider one of last season's prize newcomers, then 18-year-old Kobe Bryant of the Lakers. True, he acted in a training-camp skit. On a bus ride he sang (at then Laker Cedric Ceballos's command) a song made popular by Bryant's prom date, actress-singer Brandi. Along with fellow rookies Derek Fisher and Travis Knight, Bryant carried veterans' bags on road trips. But for the most part, Bryant escaped embarrassment. "I think [the veterans] had a certain amount of respect for him. He didn't get a lot of flak at all," says Fisher, whose duties included carrying Nick Van Exel's luggage and calling Van Exel's room to notify the veteran when the team bus was leaving for the arena.
Though hazing may be on the wane, it has its hard-bitten proponents. "The rookies should have to go through a ritual to be in our league," says Sonics coach George Karl, who, fortunately for the younger generation, has had only three rookies (James Cotton, Sherell Ford and Eric Snow) on his team in the past five years. Here are the kind of goings-on Karl would no doubt endorse.
?During Lakers training camp in 1990, rookie Elden Campbell had to bring James Worthy his water and newspaper every morning at 7:30. Worthy didn't wake up until nine.
?During the 1993-94 season, the Nets' Rick Mahorn once made rookie Rex Walters bring him an Israeli newspaper, a gallon of grape Kool-Aid and cigars—for absolutely no reason.
?Even being on the All-Star team as a rookie in 1994-95 didn't exempt the Pistons' Grant Hill from duty as a porter, carting bags around hotels. His performance was monitored by then 10-year veteran Joe Dumars. Hill was lucky—rookie teammate Bill Curley was in charge of cleaning the locker room shower.
?As a Magic rookie during the 1994-95 season, Brooks Thompson was required to sing Happy Birthday to You for teammate Nick Anderson in front of others at Denver's McNichols Arena, and on a team flight he was ordered by Shaquille O'Neal to crawl on all fours like a dog.
?Like most rookies, Shandon Anderson of the Jazz had to tote bags last season. He also occasionally had to buy hamburgers for the veterans. "He was a good kid, and he never complained," says Jazz forward Antoine Carr, noting that it wouldn't have helped if he had.