NBA and Gambling: Does League Have Major Issue After O.J. Mayo-Tony Allen Fight?

Jeff HicksCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2011

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 05:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies puts up a shot during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 5, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It is turning out to be another year, another gambling problem, for the NBA.

Earlier this week, a fight allegedly broke out on the Memphis Grizzlies team plane between guard O.J. Mayo and forward Tony Allen.

This is the second major reported fight within the last two seasons, and is now another black mark on a league that could potentially face a lockout following this season.

This also gives fans a clue as to one of the major issues surrounding sports as a whole: gambling.

Not only is it a multi-billion dollar industry legally, but illegally, it is even larger. It is not just for fans, either.

It has been reported and talked about by NBA columnists that gambling, such as on time flights to and from games, is commonplace.

This is not to say that it is always a bad thing, but it is another way for teammates to pass time and bond.

Fans do it, so why can't players?

The larger issue is what happens when gambling goes wrong. All too often, a person or party does not feel that they owe money due to how a bet was proposed, or the language involved was not clearly stated on how a payout would happen. This was the case in the fight between Mayo and Allen.

Fortunately, their instance was only a fight with fists. As most know, former Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton came to blows over gambling, and guns were brought by Arenas, and drawn in the locker room.

Obviously, it was not the smartest decision by Arenas, but he has since served a 50-game suspension, and moved on.

Crittenton had a similar suspension, and his since returned to NBA irrelevance.

Any way you slice it, issues such as this should never happen. Players are not supposed to push and shove over money. If you cannot take the heat that comes with betting, then do not do it.

Suspending players is a nice idea, but an overall statement needs to be made, especially when players' well-being is at stake. Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins banned gambling on flights, and all teams should at worst do the same as a precautionary measure.

The commissioner, David Stern, needs to make sure something happens.

Yes, Stern is not the model of great leadership, but when lives have been at stake over dice and cards, the proverbial foot needs to be put down.

This would be the culture change that Stern has been looking for.

As much as gambling between teammates has been a longstanding "tradition," some things need to change when that "tradition" goes out of control. How many guns were drawn over gambling debts in locker rooms in the '60s and '70s?

You get the point. The NBA has become so narcissistic that anything that threatens a player's individuality is considered a travesty and shame, when sometimes the law needs to be laid down.

As much fun as throwing bones and hitting the river card is, it cannot interfere with the actual moneymaker for NBA players. Make a change, and make it before something seriously bad happens.