I'm a little late posting this but last Saturday October 15th Yahoo NBA writer Marc Spears tweeted the news that Kansas University draftees Markeiff and Marcus Morris will begin training with former NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp. Initially I had a hard time seeing this as positive news, but a few quick Google searches and my fears of Markieff hanging with the 'Reignman' eating Krispie Kreams and listening to prison stories were abated. Jump to hear why.
Let first get this out there - when I heard the name Shawn Kemp my thoughts were immediately? The 'Blimp'? Doesn't he have a billion kids? Didn't he go to jail for drugs and stuff?
Yes. He made a lot of stupid personal decisions as an NBA star. He currently has 9 children with multiple women (one of which, Shawn Kemp Jr. is a 6'10" scholarship Freshman at the University of Washington) , he famously ballooned up during the (irony ahead) 1998 lockout and his play suffered and he suffered emotionally as well. He abused drugs - was arrested twice (2005 & 2006) for drug and weapons charges and ended up serving time in prison. Just begin typing his name into Google and the instant result function shows a little of his reputation...
His NBA career ended with multiple failed come-back attempts due to 'personal matters' and his final come-back attempt marred by an injury sustained while training a short time before signing with the Washington Wizards.
Right now he's training our first round draft pick Markieff Morris. Cool deal huh?
That's what I thought at first. But remember this, Shawn Kemp is a 6x NBA All-Star (which might not mean a whole lot...) but during the prime of his career and before the weight issues Kemp nearly averaged a double-double for 8 years. He could dunk, and he was 'aight' at rebounding, and he could dunk. I mean he could really dunk a basketball and not just donuts.. okay I'll stop.
Then I read this article out of Seattle where Kemp has returned to make his permanent home.
Supposedly - Kemp has turned his life around, he's in much better shape and is looking to help people because of his life experiences. Here's the biggest take-away from the article,
"Look, I've made mistakes, and I'd like to say that I wish I could change things, but in the end what I've learned and what I know now, it's a lot. And I think, because of that, I can help a lot of people."
I'm going to be blunt. My expectations for Markieff Morris aren't very high and they won't change knowing he's the grasshopper of Masta Kemp. I see any help as good help.
Earlier this summer It was Garret Siler and Marcin Gortat who were learning the ways of the Jedi and seeking help from Hakeem Olajuwon, now it's Markieff Morris and Shawn Kemp. Whatev. I'll be excited about this tutelage if and only when Markieff Morris contributes in a special way and credits his instruction from the Reignman. Until then - I'll hide in my cave until Basketball is real again.
BTW - Lockout UPDATE - the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe have been meeting in the castle for 9 hours 35 minutes and 45 seconds.
The host of HBO Real Sports, Bryant Gumbel had some choice words for NBA commissioner David Stern. The comments, which can be found here not only offer scathing criticism, or well, let's be honest, accusation of racism and even slavery, but address an issue that hasn't been discussed much since the lockout began.
"The NBA's infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hell bent lately on demeaning the players than on solving his game's labor issues."
"His efforts are typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern-day plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys. ... His moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place."
This is the first acknowledgment I have seen of what we all see and know to be true: the NBA is made up primarily of African American players. According to the Institute of Ethics and Diversity in Sport, in the 2009-10 season, 77% of the NBA was made up of African American players. During the same year, whites made up 98% of majority ownership in the NBA.
Based on the numbers, and based on what we've heard from Stern and the players, does Gumbel have any leg to stand on with his assertion of "slaves and plantation owners?"
While Gumbel may have a point, once again we are left with a reality that he is ignoring: the millionaires and billionaires are fighting and we middle-classers are left paying the price. Correct me if I'm wrong but don't things work like this:
Gumbel and his assertions have some merit in my view. The numbers don't lie, a minority is partially controlling a majority-and the majority makes the sport a money maker. But would things be different if Stern was an Afro-American or Hispanic? What if white NBA players made up 77% of the population and ownership was 98% African American? I doubt anything would be different.
The simple fact being dealt with here is money, greenbacks, cash, bank, paper, currency. Everyone wants it, regardless of race.
What say you all? Do you agree with Gumbel's assertions?
Now that we're over three months into the NBA lockout, we've discussed the motivation of both sides at length, and criticized each appropriately. I've been hesitant to state a preference for either position from the beginning and continue to believe that there is plenty of blame for both the players and the owners.
But one thing I find difficult to ignore is that the players have tin ears when it comes to stating their case to the public. Their Twitter campaigns of "stand united" and "let us play" have bombed, and the reason is simple: for the most part, NBA players are unable to speak the language of the fans, and are too detached from our experiences to make an effective case.
The players aren't "fighting the power"; they are the power. That is, when you compare them to us fans.
In December of 2010, a fruit vendor in Tunisia sparked a regional uprising when he would no longer accept being victimized by his government. Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire late that month, in protest of yet another instance of corrupt Tunisian government representatives attempting to steal from him. Bouazizi died weeks later, and became a galvanizing symbol for the fight against oppression. The governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya fell in subsequent uprisings in the "Arab Spring."
I don't intend to bring politics into this conversation, but current events are not the same as politics, and current events are relevant to this discussion. In the last few weeks in the US, Occupy Wall Street has brought uprising to America: the 99% vs. the 1%, protesting against the growing income and wealth disparity between the top 1% of wealthy Americans and the rest of us.
When NBA players attempt to reach fans with slogans such as "let us play" and "we stand united", it might seem as if they will win support from the general public given the current environment of uprising. But, here's what they miss: the players are the 1%!
They aren't stealing from us. They make their money legitimately and with our consent. We watch the games and buy the merchandise. Yet still, players are overpaid by any objective measure.
The mean average NBA player salary for the 2010-2011 season was $5.15M. The median household income in the US, as of 2009, was $50K, as per the US Census. So the average NBA player's annual income is 100 times the average US household income.
We as fans don't normally resent this too much. Our entertainers entertain us in ways that aren't quantifiable. They should be paid more than the rest of us, we reason. No problem there. But when we see ourselves in the current situation, where players are fighting to hold on to the great riches they have, while the rest of the country struggles with unemployment and a struggling stock market that compromises the value of our retirement accounts, it's hard to find support for them.
An NBA player holding strong in the lockout to maintain his and future players' income where it is instead of, say, an average salary of only $4M per year does not equate to the struggle of a laid off worker or that of a person who has had his home foreclosed. That NBA players don't seem to understand this is a bit insulting.
Is it fair that owners are pushing players hard to accept cuts in a mostly successful business? Probably not.
Is it fair that a player's skill of performing at a sport earns so much more money than what is made by teachers, firefighters, doctors and policemen? Absolutely not.
In the fight against unfairness, NBA players can take their place far in the back of the line.