Boston Celtics

NBA's 'Tough Guy' Problem Is Bigger Than Rajon Rondo

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 28:  Kevin Garnett #5, Jason Terry #4, and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics get into a fight with Kris Humphries #43 of the Brooklyn Nets during the game after Garnett was fouled on a play on November 28, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries would each be ejected from the game immediately following the fight. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 1, 2012

As the NBA game has evolved, so have the players' egos.

It seems that everybody's a tough guy nowadays, and there are no physical requirements needed to qualify as one.

When Rajon Rondo went WWF on Kris Humphries, he was attempting to make a statement. One of those, "know your role" statements, if you know what I mean.

Humphries' crime certainly wasn't vicious enough to justify being tackled into the stands. This was about pride.

The idea of some unaccomplished nobody coming into his house and pushing down Kevin Garnett, a proven winner and by all means a somebody, was simply unacceptable. It would be like a stranger going into your refrigerator and swigging your milk out of the carton.

But that's just the way of the NBA.

The superior players and money-makers have beef with the inferior "seat fillers" who step out of line. And these lower-class players take issue with the upper-class stars who think they can do what they want because of their status.

It's the "Do you know who I ams?" against the "Who do you think you ares?"

Backing down only leaves a player vulnerable to being called the worst adjective in sports. The four-letter word that could stop traffic. I cringe just to the sound of someone calling another guy "soft." It's the ultimate sports diss.

Adrian Wojnarowski wrote an interesting column talking about Rondo's "combustibility." And he was right. Rondo clearly has a button that can be easily gotten to.

But his outburst was more reflective of the NBA's new culture, rather than one specific player with a temper.

The egos of athletes have reached an all-time high. Maybe we can thank social media for that. If I had 400,000 followers on Twitter, I'd be demanding people feed me grapes and shine my crown.

Also, there's no place to hide if you're an athlete. If you get shown up, you're getting shown up in front of the world. Little Billy is posting that video of you getting dunked on as we speak.

Maybe trying to relate the two is a stretch. Maybe this is just an isolated example of Rondo losing his composure.

Or maybe it's a reflection of the NBA's culture, in which egos are inflated, and everyone's a tough guy.

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