Pick almost any Los Angeles Lakers game and you will see Dwight Howard putting on an epically obvious display of bad body language—shrugging, crinkling a corner of his mouth into a sneer and throwing his hands up in confusion. Howard's certainly not the only notable NBA player failing to hide his emotions on the court, but his physical displays of bewilderment and disinterest might be the ones worthy of the most scrutiny.
Bad body language among NBA stars does not originate from any one particular source. Sometimes, it’s a product of personal disappointment. In other instances, it is the result of a player’s dissatisfaction with his team’s performance or direction.
In the case of Howard, it seems to come from a desire to communicate his acute arrogance and indifference toward his team’s struggles. It is as though he’s trying to physically show everyone watching that none of the Lakers’ embarrassing failures really bother him all that much.
Because of its many underlying causes, bad body language manifests itself in a number of ways. We are all familiar with the sulking of players like the Sacramento Kings' Tyreke Evans, marked by downcast eyes and slowly shuffling steps.
There is also the distant stare of Kobe Bryant, who cannot hide his frustration over what is looking like a brilliant individual year being wasted.
There are plenty of varieties of bad body language to choose from, but the one commonality between each of these NBA stars is that they are all letting their emotions show through a little too clearly this year.
Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant only earns honorable mention because his bad body language takes place in front of the media instead of on the court.
Through a variety of facial tics, including narrow-eyed squints, clenched jaws, raised brows and exhausted scowls, Bryant has been communicating his barely-contained frustration over the Lakers' disappointing early season in every interview he conducts.
Bryant might be deserving of some kind of award for his ability to keep his emotions in check while being forced to answer the same grating questions after each successive Laker failure. Certainly, it is obvious from his posture and expressions that he is seething on the inside, but at least he has improved his emotional repression skills over the years.
Instead of icy, measured verbal responses, the guy used to punch chairs. So it is safe to say he has taken a step in the right direction.
You will forgive Evans for displaying some of the league's worst body language this year. After all, if your career was in a four-year slide, you would probably find it hard to contain your disappointment, too.
As Evans' skills have eroded, his frustration has continued to bubble to the surface, resulting in the all-too-familiar sight of the former Rookie of the Year numbly staring at the floor.
The Sacramento Kings' fourth-year man has had a rough time in his tenure with a franchise that does not seem to have a clue where it is headed. Based on Evans' failure to improve on the court and his "woe is me" physical bearing, it seems like all of the losing and lack of organizational direction have weighed on him.
It certainly feels as though the only way for Tyreke to rediscover his game (and fix his attitude) is to part ways with the hopeless Kings.
Michael Beasley is frustrated, and the Phoenix Suns' forward is letting it show on the court.
Bad body language has always been a part of the package for Beasley, whose undeniable talent has forever been overshadowed by his unwillingness to defend and his selfish, shoot-first attitude.
Recently, though, he has been labeled "toxic" by a source within the Suns' organization and his on-court demeanor this year matches up with his apparently troublesome off-court influence on his team. The combined effect of Beasley's poor production (he's averaging career lows scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage) and bad attitude puts Phoenix in a tough position—the organization might have to start looking to cut loose its $18 million investment in the first year of a three-year deal.
Watch any Suns game and you will see Beasley sulk after misses and trot back on defense after turnovers. You had better do it fast, though, because he may not be around much longer.
Considering the flashes of stunning quickness the 6'11", 270-pound Cousins shows on the court, it is truly amazing how long it takes him to saunter off of it.
No player in the league takes his time quite like the Sacramento Kings' man-child, especially when it comes to making his way to the bench during stoppages or after he has been subbed out. Cousins saunters to the sideline at a pace best measured with a sundial.
Slow walks to the bench aside, Cousins' all-star immaturity tends to produce some of the worst expressions and body language in the league. Whether he is pouting after a foul call or whining to an official, the big man's face seems to be in a perpetually pained state.
O.J. Mayo, recent recipient of a low blow that earned Cousins a suspension, weighed in on the source of the big man's issues:
That guy has some mental issues, man. He's a talented player. He has an opportunity to be the face of that organization, but I don't think he wants it...He's immature, man. Big maturity problem. Hopefully, he'll grow up out of it and become great. He definitely has the talent to.
Cousins clearly has to grow up, and the process needs to start with his terrible body language.
Easily the most entertaining entry on our list, Rasheed Wallace might be the greatest "bad body language" player of all time. The included video is really an excellent summation of his talents. It features a scream, a scowl, a menacing stare, wild gesturing, pointing and a leisurely walk that would make DeMarcus Cousins proud.
Unlike Cousins, though, Wallace's body language is unique on this list in that it does not seem to negatively affect his team.
Everyone knows what they are getting out of him (a high basketball I.Q., a floor-stretching shooter and a terrific post defender), and the players who have shared the same uniform seem to accept Wallace's faults because of his league-wide reputation as a great teammate. Sure, he is bound to earn the occasional technical with his mouth, and his general demeanor is not always the cheeriest. But that's just part of the bargain with 'Sheed.
The best part of Wallace's antics is that he never even tries to hide them. His bad body language is deliberately obvious, and for that, he earns the No. 2 spot here.
Dwight Howard's body language in 2012 has been of a particularly team-killing sort, because in the midst of one of the most disappointing early-season failures in recent memory, the Los Angeles Lakers center's demeanor gives off the impression that he believes he is above it all.
When he airballs a free throw in a tight game, he just laughs it off.
When his team tries to give him advice, he turns it down.
In addition to Howard's apparent lack of concern, it certainly seems like we're seeing him shrugging, turning his palms upward and making a face that says "hey, what am I supposed to do?" more often than ever.
The man believed to be the Lakers' defensive anchor simply is not anchoring anything right now. Instead, Howard's confused, disinterested appearance is a key reason his team is utterly adrift.
After last season's trade soap opera revealed that Howard's only loyalty was to himself, it is extremely difficult to interpret his nonchalance in a positive light. The carefree attitude that once endeared him to so many fans now feels selfish and arrogant.
The only thing worse than not caring is not caring with a smile.