7 NBA Players Looking to Rehab Damaged Images in 2012-2013
Every professional sports league has its share of players who make fans shake their heads with disgust. Whether it's trouble with the law, boorish behavior or underachieving performances, fans have been disappointed too many times.
Fans of the National Basketball Association often toss around a phrase that describes their feelings about player antics: Inmates are running the asylum.
The NBA has become a league in which many players are given too much control. Superstar players sign franchise crippling deals, earn millions in endorsements and become social media mavens.
In effect, they become more powerful than the teams that employ them. Players let that power go to their heads and teams can't afford not to put up with it. They have too much invested.
As a result players are allowed to do and say whatever they want, and still get paid. They might get paid, but their beloved image takes a major hit along the way.
Here are seven NBA players that, for different reasons, need a serious image rehab.
7. Michael Jordan
I know, he's not a player, but he's got some serious image rehabbing to do.
Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time. He was money when it mattered and dominated like no one else.
For that, he is almost universally loved as a player.
Unfortunately his playing days are behind him, and instead of riding off in the sunset, Jordan needed something to satisfy his competitive juices. He decided to try his hand at owning and running an NBA franchise.
It's been an utter disaster.
Jordan started with the Washington Wizards and it didn't end well. Then he became a part owner and "Managing Member of Basketball Operations" of the Charlotte Bobcats. Now he is the majority owner of the Bobcats.
That means that the NBA's current worst team—by far—is Jordan's baby. He created it and nurtured it and watched it finish 7-59 last season.
Jordan and the Bobcats are the laughing stock of the NBA right now. His reputation as an owner and GM is in the toilet and there's only one way for him to change that. The Bobcats need to win.
Can Jordan refocus his attention on winning, instead of the almighty dollar? If so, then his franchise might have a chance, and his reputation as an owner will improve.
6. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook hasn't had any notable off the court issues. He doesn't have a rap sheet. He hasn't feuded with management or made ridiculous demands. For all intents and purposes, he's a model citizen.
He's also one of the best young guards in the league and he helped his team to the NBA Finals last season. So why does such a player need to rehab his image?
Unfortunately he's been given the "selfish" label by some fans and several high-profile analysts.
It all started two years ago, during the Dallas Mavericks playoff series when his coach had to pull him out of the game and tell him to "pass the ball". His response was to curse and sulk on the bench the rest of the game.
The Thunder obviously lost that series.
Most recently, he was pounded for a terrible shooting half in Game 2 of the Finals by talking heads like Magic Johnson and Stephen A. Smith. Both of them referred it as one of the worst performances by a point guard they had ever witnessed in a Finals game.
That's pretty harsh. It's also made for T.V. hype. Westbrook shot too much and had a poor game. I don't remember anyone complaining when he shot 32 times and scored 43 points in Game 4. Or when he totaled 11 assists in Game 1. (ESPN)
Regardless of the facts, the selfish label has stuck and Westbrook, if he cares, will need to work to dislodge it.
5. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd might be a great floor general, but off the court he certainly has made some questionable decisions throughout his career.
In fact, has there ever been a player that demonstrated such intelligence on the court and a total lack of it off the court?
Probably not. He's got Hall of Fame credentials though, and that's why the New York Knicks signed him this offseason. They hoped his veteran leadership would help their two superstars—Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire—gel.
Kidd had actually repaired his tarnished image during his days with the Dallas Mavericks. An NBA Championship in 2011 didn't hurt either. For all his hard work the Knicks rewarded him to the tune of $9.5 million for three years.
He rewarded the Knicks by promptly getting arrested for DUI. Consider his reputation re-tarnished.
Good thing the Knicks got rid of that Jeremy Lin character. He was nothing but trouble.
4. Amar'e Stoudemire
Let's just say that Amar;e Stoudemire's reputation has taken a considerable hit. He's admitted that the previous year was the hardest of his career. Take a look back and that's understandable.
An athlete can get away with a lot in New York—as long as he wins. Stoudemire hasn't produced enough of those though. So many fans feel like he's not living up to his contract.
He certainly struggled to co-exist with his alpha dog teammate Carmelo Anthony last season.
According to ESPN's stat department, Stoudemire dropped his scoring average by eight points per game and his shooting percentage fell by nearly 20 percent last season. That's no way to endear yourself to the MSG faithful.
His image was sullied by off the court issues also. During the playoffs, after the Knicks' Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire injured his hand taking out his frustrations on a fire extinguisher. He sat out the next game because of the injury.
Without him, the Knicks lost, which essentially sealed their fate as they went down 0-3 to the Heat. He was—not surprisingly—blamed for the playoff exit.
Most recently, Stoudemire delivered an angry tweet containing an anti-gay slur and other unsavory language to a fan who was critical of his play.
Again, not a great way to endear oneself to the fans.
To his credit, Stoudemire apologized for the Twitter rant and has worked hard this offseason to improve his play. Training sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon to improve his post game should help.
It's clear Stoudemire's image needs work, but at least he's making an effort to clean it up.
3. Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom was brought to Dallas to be Dirk Nowitzki's primary backup and help them defend their NBA title.
Odom had been an integral part of two championship Lakers teams and was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year when Dallas traded for him. At the time, it seemed like a good move for the Mavericks.
It turned out to be an Albatross. He pulled a no-show and eventually quit. His numbers were worse than pedestrian. They were embarrassing for a player of his stature. He averaged career lows in every category.
There were hints that Odom was struggling with some significant personal issues. He lost a family member, was involved in fatal traffic accident and his father was ill.
Those would be hard for anyone to deal with, but there is a limit to how much time you get to deal with "personal issues". When that limit is up, it's back to work. That's what professionals do.
Dallas was eventually left with no choice but to cut him, which was understandable.
Too bad they still had to pay him.
Like many fans, that fact didn't sit well with Charles Barkley. In fact, Sir Charles called it "a joke". Odom sulked, didn't play hard and was rewarded for it. Dallas had to pay him his annual salary plus a $2.4 million buyout in June.
That's the NBA for you.
Now that he's back in L.A., with the Clippers, we'll see if he returns to form.
2. Andray Blatche
On July 17th, ESPN reported that the Washington Wizard's waived their center Andray Blatche, effectively designating him their amnesty player.
It was a not so subtle message: Take your $23 million and don't let the door hit you on the way out.
It sounds harsh, but the Wizards had every right to do it. Blatche was the worst kind of investment for a franchise to make. He had no positive return.
Not only did he miss a lot of games, but when he played he underperformed. He was also a toxic personality in the locker room, alienating teammates and disrespecting coaches.
He was also involved in numerous legal issues, including soliciting sex from an undercover officer, which gave the Wizards franchise a black eye.
I won't go into detail on every one of Blatche's transgressions. The ESPN article I reference above makes note of most of them.
The point is this: Blatche has yet to find a team to sign him and, due to his disruptive history, it wouldn't be a surprise if there were no takers.
He is saying the right things now that he's team-less. Slamonline.com reports that he's working with John Lucas II and has dropped some weight. He even recently said that he'd be willing to play in the D-League.
That might be what it takes for him to start over.
1. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard used to be a poster-boy for the modern-day NBA superstar. He was a media darling, had a million dollar smile and he wore a Superman cape when he won the slam dunk contest.
How could anyone not love him?
That seems like an eon ago. During his last season with the Orlando Magic his star fell like the Berlin Wall and just as many people rejoiced watching it happen.
Howard had it coming. His love of the media worked against him as he sulked and whined about playing in Orlando. He talked too much—often throwing his franchise, fans, coaches and teammates under the proverbial bus.
Fans and the media ripped him and they had every right to do so.
He ultimately got what he wanted when the Magic were forced to trade him for peanuts to the Los Angeles Lakers, but that won't repair his image.
Everything might be smiles and rainbows right now in L.A., but that won't make anyone forget his behavior in Orlando. Magic fans certainly won't forget.
LeBron James was once Public Enemy Number One for similar "Me-First" behavior. He conquered the deserved negativity by (gasp!) changing his attitude. He stopped talking in the third person, learned how to really be humble and won games on the court—not in press conferences.
Howard should press rewind and study King James' climb out of the abyss. He might learn something.