This is a continuation to the "Message to NBA Player Twitter Users," regarding being politically correct and always saying the right answer. Fading fast are those players who simply don't give a lick what you think about them and they are going to do their own thing no matter what. Inspired by Slam Magazine's article in issue 131 page 34 titled "Final Answer?"
AI brought the hip hop culture to the NBA, and according to him, is the reason David Stern came up with the dress code. AI always wore what he wanted to wear with plenty of chains, du-rags to cover his cornrows, and baggy clothing. He did his own thing and didn't care what others thought about it.
It was AI, the rookie, who signaled a new period in '96-97, when he crossed over MJ and said, "My heroes don't wear suits." Like he'd say years later regarding the dress code, "just because you put a guy in a tuxedo, it doesn't mean he's a good guy. It sends a bad message to kids. If you don't have a suit on when you go to school, is the teacher going to think you're a bad kid? I never wore a suit going in any park I ever went to when I was coming up."
-Dave Zirin, Slam Magazine
Famous is his "practice" press conference in which he honestly felt it wasn't a big deal that he missed practice (in his 76ers days). Again, he was himself in the press conference and let his point be known without giving into the constant questions about his practice habits. This post isn't to defend AI about his practice habits, it's to show that he isn't afraid to let his real thoughts be known.
The NBA stars now are always saying the right things in press conferences, interviews, and the like. How many times have we heard after a game, "They played great defense, but we were able to come out on top thanks to some great play by our guys." One of the biggest stars to do this is Kobe Bryant. It seems like after every game, he always says what the player is "supposed" to say after a game. Here he is after Game 1 (win) of the Finals in the press conference.
"We need to forget about this win and move on."
"We had to work hard, we were very active."
"This team is extremely resilient." (The Magic)
"It's one game. No big deal."
Last question: "Do you feel like you can take advantage of this guy (Courtney Lee) at any opportunity that you so choose?"
"No I don't think so, I think that's doing him a tremendous discredit, cuz even though he's a rookie, he's a very very solid defensive player."
Here's Kobe after an exhibition win over Russia.
"We played with more energy."
"Just taking shots when they're there"
"I enjoy the challenge of guarding him, he's a great scorer"
Same kind of answers that almost any news article after a game quotes from any player. Granted, Kobe has been in trouble in the past and knows that every word he says and every move he makes is being watched by almost any fan or hater. That doesn't take away the same kind of answers that any other team's star says.
Lebron James after game 4 win over the Hawks last playoffs.
"Delonte was awesome. He's our glue to our whole team."
"You can't lose focus at any time"
"Certain fans think it's a great idea for them to get out of control sometimes."
"Celtics or Magic? Who would you prefer?" "We're looking forward to the challenge" (What NBA player has ever said they would prefer one team over another when they have to wait for the outcome of another series? Seriously, comment if someone has.)
"We were able to stay poised, this is a really good team" (The Hawks).
"Why should we celebrate? We're playing for a championship"
You see the similarities at least in approach to the questions being asked. Always being politically correct, always giving credit where it may not be due. Is Delonte really the glue that holds the team together? I think that credit goes to the speaker. And of course, probably any player would not take credit for himself, but the other questions where he carefully decides how he's going to phrase it shows that he knows he's being watched and knows how he must present himself. So goes the price of being one of the top super stars in the league.
But there are stars in the league who do have fewer filters and make for more enjoyable interviews where the fans can see how a player really feels and acts around a team regardless of whether or not there are cameras around.
Rasheed Wallace for the past decade seems to always speak his mind and not care what the media or fans have to say about it. Also doing his own thing with his free dress before the dress code, but more well known for what he says both on and off the court. No matter what, he's going to say what he wants to.
Here's Rasheed Wallace after a Piston win over the Mavericks:
Q: "Chauncey was getting his buckets as well tonight..."
Sheed: "'Bout time! Chauncey ain't hittin no damn shots, sike nah..."
By the way, Chauncey in his previous 4 games had shot 5-16, 5-17, 3-10 and 2-10. This win over the Mavs, he shot 8-14.
Q: "Looking forward to going home tonight and playing in front of folks tomorrow?"
Sheed: "Nah cuz now I gotta handle all these damn tickets."
Sheed was telling the real story and was candid and real about it. It is who he is to simply tell things how they are/how he sees it.
After a loss when he was a Blazer, and dealing with the usual open ended questions that any player would probably hate to answer after a tough loss, Rasheed did what any player wants to do after a loss and sidestep every question with the ultimate politically correct response, "Both teams played hard" and wrapped up with "God bless and good night."
Outside of the press, Sheed is known for being loud and obnoxious, and being a trash talker. He doesn't care how he's seen by the media. He's going to do his thing just like he's always done it. Whether it's trash talking to his teammates and the opposing team, trash talking the fans, or trash talking the refs' calls, Rasheed will make sure his real thoughts are known, which is becoming less and less common around the NBA. He also has fun with the TNT crew.
Great defensive player, great competitor, doesn't care what you think about him. Shaving Tru Warier, the Rockets logo, or the Kings logo in to his hair, openly giving out his phone number on twitter, supposedly announcing that the Lakers needed to be hoodalized, are all components that make Ron Artest one of the few that don't care what you think about him. He's going to say what he wants to say, and do what he wants to do.
Made infamous for his charging the fans in Detroit a few years ago, he has since calmed down but hasn't censored himself in interviews. Here he is after getting ejected for getting in Kobe's face during the Rockets-Lakers series this past playoffs.
"I KNEW I was gonna get a technical."
"The point was to hopefully let the refs know that I'm pissed."
"I went there with the intention to tell Kobe you gotta relax, you're hitting the wrong person, don't you know you're hitting Ron Artest."
"The series has been physical, I don't know how much more physical it can get."
And even the TNT crew praises his candid answers. No sweet answers like "I over reacted and I deserved to get ejected." He instead let his point be known and lived with the consequences. Real, candid, Artest.
Even more candid is when he takes us back 5 years later to his point of view of what happened that night at the Palace:
Ron just giving you his thoughts for you to digest without caring what you think about him. He's living his life however he wants to, telling his story, saying what he wants.
Read between the baselines:
It's not like these guys are all talk with no game. AI has been an MVP and 2 time all star MVP and leading scorer of the league. Rasheed Wallace was a main part of the Detroit Pistons that beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the championship in 2004. Ron Artest is an all defensive team defender and has a Defensive Player of the Year award as well. They have the walk to back up their talk.
Granted, these aren't the awards that Kobe Bryant has, nor are they the player that Kobe is or Lebron is, who are always being taped, watched, and listened to. But Iverson has had his share of #1 jersey sales and his own shoe line. He has things to lose, but it is his image that he's lived that sells jerseys, shoes and tickets. These big three are REAL both on and off the court, and that's something that sets them apart from the rest of the league and gives them their own image.
But it seems that the new batch of players from Brandon Roy (no Kobe is way better), to Dwight Howard (Free throws weren't falling) to Dwyane Wade (Leave it all on the floor) are saying the "right" thing to say in interviews and post game press conferences. AI, Sheed and Ron won't be around for too much longer, and while appreciating their game, maybe we should appreciate their candidness and their willingness to be themselves.
Those are the facts, and that's one way to read between the [base]lines.