Bizarrely over the last 2 weeks a different kind of ball has become prominent in the NBA news cycle. A type of ball, you would think should have very little to do with a game of basketball. I am of course talking about testicles.
Draymond Greens altercations with the nether regions of both Steven Adams and LeBron James have earned him a suspension for tonight’s game 5 of the NBA finals. In the Warrior’s previous series against the Oklahoma City Thunder Green, for lack of a better expression, punted Adams square in the nuts, a passage of play that was laughably described by some as incidental contact. Watch the incident here and make up your own mind. For me it is a reckless play which could have caused Adams serious injury had Green connected with a less fleshy part of the body like a knee or hand. Then on Sunday Green reacted to LeBron James stepping over him and apparently dragging his balls across Green’s head, taking a swipe at James’ groin. Again watch the incident here
After the game the NBA issued Green with a flagrant 1 foul, a basketball equivalent of a yellow card, meaning Green had committed enough flagrant fouls to warrant a 1 game suspension. For me it is fairly clear what James was trying to do, he knew Green was a single lapse in judgement away from a suspension and he baited him into doing something stupid. Green, as he is prone to do, fell for it hook line and sinker and now the Warriors will have to do without their defensive leader for game 5.
There has been ill conceived outrage on social media that Green has been suspended for this offence rather than the kick on Steven Adams. This shows a lack of understanding of the reasons for his suspension, it is not simply for the latest incident but for combination of incidents throughout the playoffs. Yes you can argue the kick on Adams was worthy of a suspension in isolation, but just because you get away with one incident doesn’t make you immune in the future. The opposite in fact.
What I have found fascinating is those springing to Green’s defence on the basis that James had disrespected Green and that his reaction was completely justified. The idea that whilst you are playing a sport it is imperative to defend your honour at all costs is one that I find faintly ridiculous. Surely what is important is to do whatever you can to maximise your team’s chance to win the game. For the majority of this remarkable run the Warriors have enjoyed Green’s style of play, which has always toed the line between competitive and overly aggressive, has been of huge benefit. It remains to be see whether this latest indiscretion will cost the Warriors, with a 3-1 lead and game 5 at home it probably won’t.
The issue I have with the disrespect argument in defence of Green is that it breeds exactly the kind of insecure alpha male attitude that plagues elite sport. Why is there such a burning desire to need to be respected? To me it seems infantile, surely you should be able to take pleasure from winning basketball games rather than griping about some perceived slight against your masculinity. The rhetoric coming from both the Cavs and Warrior’s players is purely based around the fact that it is a Warrior’s player being suspended. If it were a Cavaliers player, then the roles would be reversed with Cleveland talking about lack of respect and Golden State claiming an overreaction. What this shows is the idea of respect in the NBA is in reality just based around defending your own teammates, not about a sense of brotherhood with your fellow man. What it shows is that on the court it needs to be about playing the game and you can sort out all this respect nonsense after.
An interesting side plot to this saga is that last week was the 15th anniversary of Allen Iverson stepping over current Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue in game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals. This moment is celebrated as an iconic moment in NBA history and Iverson is idolised for it. Watch it here. I fail to see the difference. The difference in reactions may be based in the different eras that the incidents happened, in 2001 there was no twitter to go in to meltdown. However, it does seem inconsistent that one player can be celebrated and another castigated for what was essentially the same act.
Like I said the whole story has made very little sense so far.