The Most Controversial Sound Bites of the NBA Season so Far
Everybody loves a good NBA sound bite, especially if it’s controversial.
It seems like this NBA season has been marked by an especially high number of juicy quotations. That might have to do with the inherent controversy of some of this year's biggest early-season storylines; when the Los Angeles Lakers fire their coach two weeks into the year, there’s bound to be a strong vocal reaction.
Of course, the appearance of so many controversial statements might also be attributable to the extraordinary level of access we have to the NBA product. There are more cameras and microphones on the court than ever, so we see and hear more of what the players are doing in the heat of battle. And with the endless news cycle, no good sound bite goes unheard.
In addition to increased access on the court, players have extensive obligations to talk with the media as the NBA continues its effort to make its commodities (read: players) more accessible and marketable. When half the roster and most of the coaches are giving interviews after every practice, not to mention before and after games, there are just more opportunities for good sound bites to surface.
And let’s not forget the unprecedented direct access Twitter and other forms of social media provide.
In short, NBA players have more opportunities than ever to make their thoughts known to the public. Sometimes, we snooze through the usual “one game at a time” clichés. But in other instances (and these are the good ones), we’re treated to some eyebrow-raising controversy.
Brush up on your First Amendment knowledge, because we’re about to enjoy some of this season’s most hilarious, provocative and controversial free speech.
Zach Randolph's Hands
There were a lot of sound-bite options to choose from in the aftermath of the Zach Randolph-Kendrick Perkins dustup, and that’s without even counting whatever the pair of hotheads said to one another on the floor.
In the immediate aftermath of the altercation, which included Randolph trying to pay a visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room, there must have been some pretty harsh words exchanged. It’s a shame we’re not privy to those.
That’s fine, though, because we have Randolph’s analysis of whether he’d be able to take Perkins in a fight:
“I’m good with these hands, man. I’m a jackin’ dude. I’m pretty good with these hands.”
Now, it’s unclear exactly what a “jackin’ dude” is, but based on the context, we can safely assume it’s got something to do with Randolph’s pugilistic prowess. He offers up the fact that he’s been in 30 or 40 fights as evidence for his hands’ capabilities, even though it's unlikely that anyone was going to argue the point with him.
In addition to that, Randolph’s words are remarkable in their menacing matter-of-factness. He doesn’t say he’d be able to whoop Perkins directly, but because of the way he seems to be casually hinting at just how tough he is in a fight, we’re all left with the distinct impression that Randolph is not to be messed with.
Although this sound bite isn’t technically controversial (unless you’re in the camp that thinks Kendrick Perkins is sufficiently good with his hands to make a hypothetical throw-down with Randolph a real contest), it’s still notable for how much it says with so few words.
Zach Randolph is clearly a master of the veiled threat, and we thank him for an A-plus sound bite.
Doug Collins Isn't a 'Stats Guy'
Doug Collins isn’t the first old-timer to denounce the encroachment of analytics into sports. He’s just the most recent.
Mike Jensen did a piece on Collins’ Philadelphia 76ers for Philly.com on the eve of the season opener. In said piece, Jensen recorded Collins’ response to the question about whether he was an “analytics guy.”
Collins closed his copy of Reader’s Digest, turned down the episode of Matlock he was watching and lowered his bifocals to the bridge of his nose (figuratively speaking) before he answered. Here’s an excerpt:
"No. If I did that, I’d blow my brains out…There’s 20-page printouts after every game—I would kill myself. My analytics are here…" Collins quickly pointed to his head. "…and here." He pointed just above the white waistband of his Sixers sweat suit—to his gut.
Collins is entitled to his opinion on analytics, antiquated as it may be, but we’re also entitled to mock him for it. It’s easy to understand his trepidation about the sea of numbers that many franchises (at least the smart ones, anyway) are using to analyze their teams. The sheer volume of available metrics can be overwhelming.
But it’s basically impossible in this day in age to denounce the stat movement without sounding like a cranky senior citizen.
Needless to say, Collins' words made him the butt of jokes in the analytics community, and unfortunately earned him the derision of logically-inclined folks everywhere.
Reggie Miller Hates Pocket Squares?
Honorable mention in the “Dismissal of Math” category goes to TNT analyst Reggie Miller, who managed to sound even worse than Collins when he condescendingly denounced the good people at Basketball Prospectus, along with anyone else using advanced metrics to analyze NBA basketball.
Because it’s a little beside the point, we won’t even dig into Reggie for confusing pocket squares and pocket protectors.
What’s especially ridiculous about Miller’s statement is that immediately after calling the number crunchers “geek rats” for using analytics to determine that the Denver Nuggets should be a contender in the West, he actually uses numbers to point out that the Nuggets were a good team a year ago. Sure, he goes by points per game, assists per game and points in the paint, but the irony is mind-numbing.
The choicest morsel: “Those geeks…I’m telling you! Never played a game in their life.”
Presumably, Miller’s intent was to argue that one has to have played basketball to analyze it. There’s not enough room in this slide to fully parse out how illogical that assertion truly is.
Bad news, Reggie: the so-called “stat movement” isn’t really a movement. It’s here to stay. And anyone who dismisses it the way Miller and Collins did is essentially just revealing their own fear and unwillingness to actually learn something.
In a couple of years, this sound bite will have gone from being controversial to being an example of how silly the “anti-stat movement” really was.
Andray Blatche on the Washington Wizards
Somebody should tell Andray Blatche that the Washington Wizards are still paying him. Maybe then he’d quit burning them in the media.
Andray Blatche to reporters in BKN locker room: "Anybody seen how the Wizards are doing?"— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) November 26, 2012
Ouch. Blatche knew when he made the inquiry that the Wizards hadn't won a single game.
Apparently, collecting $23 million to not play for the Wizards isn’t enough to ease some of the pain of Blatche’s departure from Washington.
Looking at it objectively, Blatche might have a gripe against the fans for the constant booing he endured, but because we know that he basically mailed it in during his time as a Wizard, his status as a pariah feels earned.
“I was out of shape,” Blatche told Kristie Acker of the New York Daily News. “I 100 percent admit that. And that’s 100 percent on me. But my thing is, I’m not necessarily blaming it all on the injuries because it’s other things I could’ve possibly done. I could’ve did a lot more workouts…I could’ve done a lot more of that.”
Blatche’s shot at the winless Wizards was funny, but coming from a guy who quit on them and was then paid to leave, it stirred up quite a bit of controversy.
Sean Elliott vs. DeMarcus Cousins
We can all agree that San Antonio Spurs analyst and former player Sean Elliott is an unabashed homer, can’t we? It’s understandable—the guy won rings with some of the players he discusses on TV broadcasts.
Of course, DeMarcus Cousins might argue that sometimes Elliott can take things too far in defense of his Spurs.
After observing Cousins chirping at Tim Duncan during a Nov. 9 game, Elliott lit into the Sacramento Kings’ big man:
“That’s why some humility is in order. You think you’re dominating Tim Duncan, you get it stuffed right back in your face…Don’t start talking and flapping your gums against one of the greatest players ever. He’s going to make you pay. Tell me who got the best of this exchange.”
Cousins returned to the court after the game to discuss Elliott’s overreaction. It’s unclear exactly what Cousins said or did, but we do know that the NBA subsequently suspended him for confronting Elliott.
At this point, nobody’s really surprised by Elliott’s homerism (or Cousins’ questionable decision to confront him about it), but the whole incident made the rounds in the media because of how bizarre it was.
Let’s hope they can both sit down and watch a highlight video of Tim Duncan to patch things up. I’m sure Elliott has a few.
Kobe Bryant Prefers Autonomy...and Curse Words
If you're Mike D'Antoni, you might want to consider keeping things as free flowing as possible on offense. Because apparently, that's what Kobe Bryant wants.
After Bryant's L.A. Lakers kicked Mike Brown to the curb, Kobe weighed in on the reason for the team's subsequent two-game win streak under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
Kobe on Bickerstaff: "He's good. He's getting the f--- out of the way."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 12, 2012
No successful coach just tosses the ball out there without a plan, although Don Nelson used to come pretty close. That means Kobe and D'Antoni are going to have to meet somewhere in the middle, which shouldn't be too hard. There's lots of room between the rigid Princeton offense and pure pickup basketball.
For his own sake, D'Antoni's system had better be closer to the latter than the former, though.
Shaquille O'Neal Loves Brook Lopez
It seems like Shaquille O’Neal only understands about half of what makes a good basketball pundit in today’s confrontational point/counterpoint media. The idea is to say something controversial.
What Shaq failed to do was to make sure the controversial opinion he spouted off was one he could defend with a straight face.
“Dwight Howard, who’s a pick-and-roll player, some people say he’s the best center in the league, but me being an old-school center, I’m going to go with Robin Lopez and Andrew Bynum because they play with their back to the basket.”
Shaq’s fellow TNT analysts, obviously flabbergasted by what he said, asked if he meant Brook Lopez, not the inferior Robin.
“Brook. Same thing. They’re brothers,” he responded.
It’s hard to know where to start with this. Is it controversial? Sure it is. But it’s also so utterly ridiculous, and so obviously motivated by a deep personal bias that there’s almost no point in dissecting it. And in another sense, how seriously should anybody take Shaq when he can’t even correctly name the Lopez brother he believes is better than Dwight Howard?
There may never have been a real likelihood of anyone taking Shaq seriously as an analyst, but after this kind of absurdity, we can say for certain that nobody ever will.
David Lee Advises Blake Griffin
Because it’s important to be topical, we close with a sound bite that touches on one of the biggest areas of focus for the 2012-13 NBA season: flopping.
When the Golden State Warriors played the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 3, the action was intense. The upstart Warriors were giving it to the Clippers in L.A., and Blake Griffin had been flailing all over the place (which he’s got a reputation for doing) whenever anyone in a blue jersey touched him.
David Lee, fed up after a particularly Oscar-worthy acting job by Griffin on a rebound attempt, gave the Clippers’ dunk artist some very simple advice.
Thanks to some excellent lip reading by Warriors play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald, and the legion of cameras that caught every angle of the action, we very clearly saw Lee scream “Stop flopping!” right in Griffin’s face.
The content of the sound bite itself may not be all that controversial—everyone agrees Griffin is prone to exaggerating contact—but it definitely generated plenty of buzz.