I only need to watch professional wrestling once a week. I have been satisfied doing so since I was a kid. I grew up idolizing The Rock; learning to raise one eyebrow, referring to myself in the third person perspective and constantly throwing armbands around my room before I delivered the People’s Elbow to my set of pillows.
I do not need to watch professional wrestling every time an NBA game takes place.
There has been a widely spread belief that the NBA and David Stern have a vested interest in the outcomes of games since, as the story goes, David Stern told a local restaurant to put an envelope containing the New York Knicks’ chance at top prospect Patrick Ewing, into a freezer overnight. Therefore, the next day when Stern reached into the bowl with every envelope, he was able to find the Knicks’ envelope by the cold touch.
I had never fully believed that the NBA was influenced by Stern until Wednesday night happened…and the story line would make Vince McMahon furious.
Prior to the Heat and Celtics playing their second game of the Eastern Conference Finals, I joked around with friends about the draft lottery, saying that it would be pretty funny if the Hornets, who are still owned by the NBA, were to draw the No. 1 pick in the draft and the rights to top prospect Anthony Davis. I then dismissed my fears by convincing myself that the league would never grant a league-owned team the No. 1 pick in the draft…but then it did.
If this event occurred on Monday nights, when the WWE holds Monday Night Raw, it would play out just as it happened, except with some metal objects involved. David Stern, who the fans believe was a face (the wrestling term for a “good guy”), would end up hitting Michael Jordan, the symbol of the Charlotte Bobcats and another fan favorite, with a steel chair when it was least expected. Suddenly, the crowd would mercilessly boo Stern, making him a top heel (wrestling term for a “bad guy”) of the company. As Stern got onto the microphone and told the fans how much he does not care about their opinion, and how he has to do what is right for him and his company, the fans’ booing would intensify. After his long promo, Stern would stand in the ring, raising his arms in defiance, as his new villain theme music blared on the arena sound system.
Am I the only one who actually believed that could have happened? How does an NBA-owned franchise get the No. 1 pick in the draft? Does that not seem EXTREMELY SUSPECT to anyone else? How about when an NBA-owned franchise vetoes a trade? I feel that if the commissioner of my fantasy basketball league vetoed a trade, I would immediately call his cell phone and perform one of the greatest expletive-laced tirades of my life…and that’s FANTASY basketball. Imagining if my league commissioner gave his team the first pick in the draft leads me to a scenario where I am withdrawing from my league so that I can get fair treatment somewhere else.
Somehow, that entire scenario is not even the most frustrating NBA-related event of the night. There was still a game to be played.
After the game, I knew I had to write this column, comparing NBA and its officials to characters in the WWE because the similarities are incredible. A friend of mine brought this particular similarity to light as a joke, but I’m sure he never thought anything like last night would happen.
I am tempted to simply give the world a stream of consciousness of every injustice that was performed in Wednesday night’s game. However, given my current anger level, it would not be very organized or fun to read. I’m going to try to make this as organized as possible – my argument, the common counter-argument, and, for comedy’s sake, a wrestling catchphrase.
Quip No. 1 – LeBron and Wade are refereed differently than everyone else in this series
Counter Argument – They take the ball to the basket more than the Celtics, who are jump shooters, so they must draw more fouls.
WWE Quote – “I lie, I cheat, I steal” –Eddie Guerrero
I truly believe that LeBron could walk up to someone and punch them in the face going to the basket every trip down the floor, and he will never foul out of a game. Right now, LeBron is averaging 1.8 fouls per game in 41.1 minutes per game. If you’re thinking that he’s a star, so he gets star treatment, just consider that Michael Jordan never averaged less than two fouls per game in the playoffs.
You know what makes me the most angry about LeBron going to the free throw line 24 times Wednesday night (by the way, the entire Celtics team went to the line 29 times)? I completely understand why Kobe Bryant goes to the line as much as he does. I understand why Dwyane Wade goes to the line as much as he does, too. They are constantly changing speeds, using shot-fakes and other moves to get their opponents off-balance and sometimes into the air. That’s why they draw as many fouls as they do – because defenders cannot stay in front of them.
LeBron James does not have those.
You do not see a defender up in the air because of a pump fake. You never see LeBron changing speeds. LeBron goes the free throw line as much as he does because he takes his 6’9,” 270-pound frame and charges the basket at full speed. There is no deception, there is no balance and there is very little skill involved. Players like LeBron do not work to go the line, they are constantly bailed out by officials.
Okay, so people want to say that he’s a star, and that stars have always gotten the calls. You would think that Paul Pierce, a definite future Hall of Fame player and one of the 50 greatest players of all time, in my opinion, would be considered a star, right? Wrong. Pierce fouled out of the game late in the fourth quarter. In fact, here are his fouls.
Judge for yourselves which ones can actually be considered fouls.
Anyone who has seen Pierce play knows that he scores not with athleticism, but with changes of speeds and directions. He is the greatest scorer in Celtics’ history, and one of the best scorers in the league. The player that guarded him, LeBron James, had two personal fouls called on him the entire game. For another reference, Scottie Pippen, who is considered to be one of the greatest defenders of all time, averaged almost three fouls per game in the playoffs in an era where you actually had to foul someone to get called for a foul.
In today’s game, fouls are constantly called on the softest of contact, and LeBron, who is an extremely aggressive on-ball defender, is averaging less than two fouls per game.
To completely blow up the counter argument, just consider that the Celtics attempted 25 shots at the rim, and the Heat took 26 shots at the rim. For those who do not excel in math, that means that the Heat took one more shot at the rim than the Celtics. To say that the Celtics did not attack the basket would be false. Here’s more proof – the shot chart from Wednesday night.
How about this point to bolster my argument – in the last ten years, only three players have taken 24 free throws in a playoff game. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of them.
Quip No. 2 – Let’s look at this play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhpSzuWeYas&feature=player_embedded
Counter Argument – Can there really be any arguing this?
WWE Quote: “What??” – Stone Cold Steve Austin
I cannot keep my composure while discussing this particular play. How do you not call a foul on one of the most blatant shots to the face that I have ever seen? After calling touch fouls on the Celtics the entire night, you let this one go? In overtime? Not rewarding a player who had been attacking the basket the entire night?
It should not have surprised me. The Heat only committed 18 fouls, while the Celtics committed 33 fouls. The Heat shot 47 free throws (35 by Wade and James alone), while the Celtics took 29. Five Celtics committed four or more fouls, while one Miami player committed four fouls. Pierce and Ray Allen combined for seven free throws and eight fouls.
How about in the second quarter, with the Celtics leading by 11, Rajon Rondo dove onto the ground going after a loose ball. LeBron James dove for the same loose ball, after Rondo, and landed on top of him. The result of the play…LeBron James took two free throws for his efforts, even though he landed on top of Rondo.
Even better than that, in the final five minutes of regulation and of overtime, the Heat took 18 free throws. The Celtics took two.
What is truly sad about Wednesday night’s performance is that even though Rajon Rondo had one of the greatest playoff performances of all-time – 53 minutes, 44 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists on 16-for-24 shooting – I will be remembering Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals because of the terrible officiating that took place.
Quip No. 3 – The NBA has been pussified.
Counter Argument – The league is protecting its players
WWE Quote – “Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions.” -Rowdy Roddy Piper
The league has gone from this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7r6vXeOfyQ) being a two-shot foul, to this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbTZ5TS0YbE) being a foul. How about this classic moment (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srl2Bwh6A3I). How many technical fouls is that in today’s NBA, if this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksnYSc6QHXE) is considered a technical foul nowadays?
However, there is an upside to this pussification. The WWE went through the same phase.
During the mid 1990’s to the early 2000’s, the WWE was in the midst of what is now known as the “Attitude Era,” which was trademarked by stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and the stable of superstars known as Degeneration-X. The common trait of the most popular stars – a shift from family-friendly content to edgier forms of entertainment. Swearing, controversy, and nudity laced TV, while the younger demographic was engaged more and more.
Since that point, the WWE has shifted its TV rating from TV-14 to TV-G, marked by a more kid-friendly brand of professional wrestling. The top-pushed stars in the industry right now are all clean-cut, superhero types who do not swear.
That is what the NBA has become. If you follow me on twitter (@eddydsays), you’ll see that I recently posted that I would love to see LeBron play in Jordan’s era. There were consequences to driving to the basket like LeBron does, without the fear of suspension. I crack up every time I think of LeBron driving to the lane against the likes of Charles Oakley, Karl Malone, Alonzo Mourning and the rest of the real tough guys in the NBA.
Now that officials have become so trigger-happy, and all NBA players are buddies with one another, there is no real tension in the playoffs. If there is, it is immediately quelled by a ref and a suspension.
The last step of this process, you might ask? I believe that when LeBron wins his first title, we’ll finally see the NBA come full circle. LeBron holding his trophy, while “No Chance In Hell” suddenly blares on the arena sound system. David Stern walks out to the stage, staring down LeBron with a serious face. The crowd goes silent, wondering what the confrontation will bring. Suddenly, LeBron and Stern smile at each other at the same time. The crowd becomes stunned with confusion. As David Stern grabs LeBron’s hand and raises it in the air, the crowd bursts into boos. The rest of the league looks onto the stage in disgust and wonder, thinking to itself, “how will we possibly stop them now?”
The answer to the question, “what makes the NBA and the WWE different?,” is that the WWE is real.