This is probably one of the most overused terms of all time, but pride does indeed go before the fall. It drives men to do great things, and foolish things as well. On the evening of January 7th Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics got into one of those old-school battles full of rough play and trash talk.
Sans a punch being thrown, the verbal scrum was almost reminiscent of battles like Bird vs. Dr. J, Barkley vs. Laimbeer and Jordan vs. Miller. But unlike those legendary brawls of old, this battle did not conclude in fisticuffs.
However, if their on-court combat was to be taken seriously, Carmelo Anthony appeared to have wanted to take it there. According to the New York Daily News, Kevin Garnett allegedly told Carmelo Anthony that his wife, LaLa, tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. Initially, I have to admit, I did chuckle when I heard that comment because of its ribald comic merit. Sports fans are well aware of Garnett's penchant for trash talk. But if what he reportedly said was true, it is the very definition of a low, albeit verbal, blow. Though he obviously got the reaction that he wanted out of Carmelo, Garnett's tact was noticeably absent.
Basketball is designed to be a non-contact sport but it is actually a pseudo non-contact sport in that physicality, though often penalized with fouls, is a very important part of the game. In addition, most sports are powered by emotion, confrontation and self-control under pressure. Also, like other sports, basketball can sometimes boil over into violence.
Though that "sometimes" is extremely rare, it still happens ''sometimes''. NBA.com is reporting that Carmelo wanted to talk to Kevin Garnett after the game. This would explain Anthony attempting to enter the Celtics locker room, and waiting at the their team bus afterwards. Though I cannot fault Carmelo's obvious disdain for the words and actions of one Kevin Garnett, I also understand the position of the NBA.
According to USA Today, executive vice president Stu Jackson had this to say about the situation: "There are no circumstances in which it is acceptable for a player to confront an opponent after a game," said Jackson in a statement. "Carmelo Anthony attempted to engage with Kevin Garnett multiple times after Monday's game and therefore a suspension was warranted."
On that faithful night Carmelo took a bullet in the name of honor when he was suspended one game by the NBA. I understand the spirit in which Anthony attempted to pursue Garnett after the game Monday night. It was in the spirit of chivalry. LaLa Anthony is his wife, and not a thing shall be said to disparage the name of a man's wife—especially not to his face during a game that was already heated and physical. The incident also brought to light the fact that LaLa and Carmelo are currently working through some issues, according to the New York Daily News.
Whether a man is happily married, or is "working through" some things, there is a line. If that line is crossed then the offending words immediately become the prime subject of conversation, trumping all others. Even winning a basketball game, apparently. That insult becomes the driving force behind the relationship between whomever the offending words were exchanged until the situation is resolved. It would happen in most countries of the world, throughout history, and across racial lines. You don't talk about a man's wife. Estranged or otherwise. People have been slapped for less.
How would you have responded to Kevin Garnett?
Nothing is off limits if you let rappers tell it. But most of society still operates by that rule. A man is liable to flip his wig if you mention his wife's name in the same breath as innuendo and intrigue. You can say what you will about "immaturity" and "self-control" but Carmelo's reaction was universally male, and understandable to a great extent.
Think not? Perhaps you should ask your wife what she thinks. In the New York Knicks' 102-96 loss to the Boston Celtics, a line was crossed. I understand Carmelo was at work, and should ideally leave his problems at the "door" upon coming to work. But this unfortunate level of disrespect took place while Melo was at work.
"I felt like we crossed a line, but like I said, we both had an understanding right now, we handled it the way we handled it," Anthony told USA Today. "Nobody needs to know what was said behind closed doors, so that situation was handled."
"It's over with for me. Whatever happened (Monday) night, happened. The words that was being said between me and Garnett, it happened, can't take that away. I lost my cool yesterday, I accept that, but there's just certain things that push certain people's buttons."
Certain things that push people's buttons...like talking mess about people's wives. I see you Melo, and I salute your resolve. Ok, the Knicks did lose a game they should have won, and Melo has been suspended for Thursday's game vs. the Indiana Pacers. But the price of chivalry has gone up these days.
Besides, who is to say the Celtics wouldn't have won even if Anthony (20 points on 6-26 shooting) had had a tremendous scoring night? Hey, you can't win them all and there are some things more important than a game—things like family and respect. There was a lesson to be learned that evening. It was a basketball lesson, and a life lesson as well.