I’m pretty sure half the reason I enjoy following the NBA is for "tele-novelismo" that encompasses the sordid behind-the-scenes story arcs of the players' lives. This isn’t a new realization at all, but it didn't occur to how absurdly deep my knowledge was until I shared this Dream Team II photo with a friend the other day. With just a quick 10-20 second glance of this photo, each player’s face brought to mind a story, a scandal, or some kind of fall from glory. The fact that I could recall each one with such instant brevity was somewhat astonishing... or maybe embarrassing. Either way, suddenly I felt that much closer to understanding how the mind of Dustin Hoffman’s “Rain Man” character functioned.
That said, here are those rapid-fire memories, supplemented with fun internet links!
During the summer of ’94, after playing hoops with a kid who owned the Kemp DTII jersey, I begged my mom to buy me LJ’s Dream Team II jersey. It was the only time I ever made my mom splurge on some kind of expensive clothing item for me. After that I was relegated to whatever closeout NBA jerseys I could wrangle up at the nearest Ross Dress-4-Less, including a Bobby Hurley rookie-year Kings jersey (ouch!) and a Chris Weber Golden State Warriors jersey.
While Catholic guilt has me feeling like a little jerk for begging my mom for that damn jersey, I soon realized it was actually the most cost-effective jersey purchase ever. Since Magic Johnson wore the same number on the first Dream Team, you could switch it up and tell your peers you were sporting a Magic Johnson jersey, which I was prone to do. Essentially, it was two jerseys for the price of one! Brilliant! Thus my accountant mother should be proud of this purchase.
My one NBA career-related thought regarding Larry Johnson, however, corresponds to Alonzo Mourning. A few years after parting ways as teammates on the Charlotte Hornets, they would face each other in one of the nastiest, most gully playoff rivalries ever, between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat. During one of the most brutal moments from that series, Mourning and LJ got fucking crazy and tried to swing on eachother. The fight ended with Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy trying to break up the fight and inadvertently creating one of the most memorable NBA Playoff moments ever.
Note Van Gundy, in the background, desperately running to stop them.
Note Van Gundy in the foreground, trying to stop the fight by desperately clinging on to Alonzo Mourning’s leg, looking a lot like a small child throwing a tantrum because they'd rather not go to school.
Isiah Thomas. Nobody likes Isiah Thomas. The end.
Seriously, though, dude was snubbed from the original Dream Team due most of the players involved hating him, as Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler recall in this brief interview-
Even worse, his post-NBA career has been muddled with terrible coaching stints with the Pacers and Knicks, and an infamous trainwreck of a stint as President of Basketball Operations with the Knicks. His time managing the Knicks saw them devolve into a NBA joke, a team who lacked chemistry but had an abundance of egotistical, overpaid players (see: Stephon Marbury). Oh, don't forget about the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a Knicks executive which had him settling out of court for a couple million. Ouch, dude.
I have no interesting memories of Steve Smith, or "Smitty" as everyone endearingly refers to him. He was always a solid All-Star player who kinda bounced around from team to team, spending his best years with the Atlanta Hawks, doing his baller Steve Smith thing. He was just kind of like Mitch Richmond, in that he carried his team but never got superstar famous. As I understand it, he actually got a championship with the Spurs in the early 2000s. Now he’s an on-air analyst for TNT’s NBA programming, and I guess he runs a charity as well. Legit dude.
Shawn Kemp is the NBA’s reigning king of fathering illegitimate children, which certainly gives new meaning to his nickname, Reign Man. Also, dude’s infamous for squandering a great career on (one can only assume) lots of nachos, weed, Miller High-Life, and cocaine.
Also, he notoriously showed up high-as-shit to his Cleveland Cavaliers team photo shoot:
(Okay, I can’t substantiate that claim at all, but this infamous Kemp picture doesn't help prove otherwise.)
Tim Hardaway hates gay people. In 2007, when asked how he would feel about having a gay teammate he told a radio show host the following,
”You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known," Hardaway said. "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
He has since apologized, recanted, and now advocates for gay rights, but still, that shit really killed Tim Hardaway for me, which sucks considering dude was 1/3 of my favorite Golden State Warriors team, the legendary RUN TMC:
(Dudes were also intense Cosby fans.)
Dan Majerle, assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns, and owner of "Majerle’s", a chain of bar and grill restaurants popular in the metropolitan Phoenix area.
I don't think they serve the Thunder bar.
In 2008, Majerle’s former Phoenix Suns teammate, Kevin Johnson, was elected Mayor of his hometown city, Sacramento, CA. Here he is with the former King of Sacramento, Arnold Schwarzenegger... or is that Dan Majerle!?
He also runs non-profit that lost their Americorps funding for mishandling Americorps funds. Hmm.
Joe Dumars’ post-NBA career is the exact inverse of his former Pistons teammate, Isiah Thomas. Dude has been the President of Basketball Operations for the Pistons since 2001, and has been ridiculously successful up until the past two seasons. He singlehandedly orchestrated everything that made the Pistons the dominant Eastern Conference team of the mid-2000s. I personally hate the Pistons, so that couldn’t have been more infuriating.
As a Pacers fan, I (irrationally) cast blame on Joe Dumars for this.
Yo, did you hear about the time Dominique Wilkins engaged in fisticuffs with a former NBA referee who claimed Wilkins owed him money?
No!? Well I’m pretty sure this guy did!
Much like Shawn Kemp, Derrick Coleman was also afflicted with a love for nachos, and drinking and subsequently threw his career in the shitter after disowning exercise and hard work.
However, unlike Shawn Kemp, and despite earning Rookie of the Year honors, this dude never took any of his teams very far, and he is frequently looked upon as having overall one of the most disappointing NBA careers in the history of the league. (Hence the name and theme of the discontinued blog I took the above image from, The Derrick Coleman Awards.)
Hey, remember when Shaq had funny little sideburns as pictured above? I do.
Yeah, Shaq’s pretty run of the mill in terms of being a scumbaggy sports star who cheated on his wife a bunch. But did you know this dude was embroiled in some weird four-way love melodrama that involved his ex-wife banging Gilbert Arenas, while Shaq was involved in some tryst with Arenas’ wife, who also happened to be Shaq’s former personal assistant? Sadly, I do know this.
Reggie Miller, a true basketball great, my favorite player ever, and, like any rich, divorced 40-something, a dude who likes to party hard with young, attractive women.
Well, it looks like too many repeat viewings of Bill Bellamy’s “How To Be A Player” finally caught up with him.
Basically, he was harassing some rich neighbor guy’s fiancé who he found immensely attractive. In turn, rich dude used his riches to have this banner flown over a beach in Malibu, where Millers lives. Classic.
As for Mark Price, I hear he’s quietly shooting free throws somewhere.
Oh, and he’s also the titleholder of “Whitest NBA Highlight Video on Youtube”. Soul Asylum? Seriously?
Your 1994 USA FIBA World Basketball Championship Team!