Is Kevin Garnett dirty? Is Carmelo Anthony thin skinned? Is this what the game of basketball that I grew up loving has now come to? The shoving match that ensued Monday night as the Boston Celtics took on the New York Knicks stirred up quite the media frenzy and got all NBA fans buzzing. After some physical jockeying for position by both players in the post, Garnett reportedly took a step across the line, a verbal attack on Anthony’s wife, LaLa Vazquez. A physical altercation broke out and both players were given technical fouls. With Carmelo’s pride obviously reeling, and tempers flaring, Anthony attempt to get into the Celtics locker room to confront Garnett. When this attempt was halted, Anthony pulled the cliche high school move and waited for him at the team bus. According to Anthony he just wanted to talk. Sure you did.
This got me thinking about whether today’s NBA has the same class, integrity, and gamesmanship as it did in the generation before. The answer… a resounding yes. The following is a list of altercations, prior to the year 2000, and brief descriptions of what transpired:
Dec. 9, 1977
In the midst of a brawl involving the Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Rockets’ Kevin Kunnert, L.A.’s Kermit Washington wheels and delivers “The Punch”, a crushing blow to the face of Houston’s Rudy Tomjanovich. Tomjanovich suffered severe fractures of the face and skull and was hospitalized for weeks.
April 24, 1983
During a first-round playoff game between the Celtics and Hawks, Boston’s Danny Ainge takes exception to a Tree Rollins elbow and tackles the Atlanta center. With both players on the ground, Rollins bites Ainge’s finger, earning a five-game suspension.
Nov. 9, 1984
In an early-season showdown between Boston and Philadelphia, two legends who were normally on good terms — Larry Bird and Julius Erving (Dr. J) — shocked fans when they exchanged words, pushes and choked each other leading to a bench-clearing brawl.
April 20, 1990
Although Detroit’s Bill Laimbeer was involved in many famous fights — including throwdowns with Larry Bird, Bob Lanier and Robert Parish — his most famous probably came in a playoff game against the 76ers. Laimbeer and Charles Barkley, two of the biggest, meanest players in the game, came to blows and were fined $20,000 for their actions — the biggest fines in NBA history at the time.
March 24, 1993 Normally mild-mannered Suns guard Kevin Johnson punches New York’s Doc Rivers, precipitating a bench-clearing brawl that gets uglier when an out-of-uniform Greg Anthony races in to begin throwing haymakers at Johnson. Anthony is suspended five games for his role in the fracas.
Nov. 10, 1995
In an unprecedented move, the NBA suspends 16 players for fighting during the Pacers-Kings game in Indianapolis. Forward Dale Davis of the Pacers and Michael Smith of the Kings received the greatest penalties — both received two-game suspensions without pay and $20,000 in fines. The pair fought with 2:43 left in the third quarter of the Kings’ 119-95 victory. Kings center Duane Causewell was suspended for one game without pay and fined $7,500 because he left the bench and did not try to break up the bench-clearing brawl in which punches and choking took place. The 13 other players, including Pacers star Reggie Miller, received one-game suspensions and $2,500 fines for leaving the bench areas.
These are just a small sample of the physical play and intense confrontations that occurred in the days prior to the year 2000. When one reads a little further into this list it seems there is an alarming trend. The Boston Celtics players and future coaching staff are involved in many of the examples given. This trend seems to have continued on into today’s modern game.
Boston’s Rajon Rondo, drafted in 2006, has been involved in more than his share of altercations, including with his own coach during the 2011 NBA playoffs. Following a loss to the Miami Heat, Rondo reportedly threw a water bottle, breaking a TV screen when coach Doc Rivers attempted to calm him down during a tirade calling out fellow Celtic teammates in what can only be described as temper tantrum. Rondo immediately stormed out of the facility and was subsequently prohibited from re-entering the premises. More recently Rondo’s physical play has over stepped lines of ethics in a hard foul of Dwayne Wade in November, a fight with Nets big man Kris Humphries resulting in a 2 game suspension, and most recently bumping an NBA official whose call he did not agree with, also resulting in a suspension.
With Kevin Garnett as a teammate and role model type figure, is it a wonder that with Garnett’s declining skills and rising age that KG has resorted to some of the same juvenile tactics that have plagued the NBA from the Celtics franchise in the past? The answer is no. Its not a shock. Garnett, arguably one of the best power forwards in NBA history however, has always been known for his fiery attitude and competitive nature. Always one to walk the line, Garnett’s play in the last couple of years has, to me, taken a shift in the wrong direction. As a leader and veteran on the team it is up to KG to set an example the rest of the Boston Celtics should strive for. Also, Demarcus Cousins, the much maligned yet talented big man from the Sacramento Kings, is being talked about in possible trade rumors. If this is the example being given to the younger players on this team, and a possible incoming Cousins, don’t be surprised to see an all out brawl between this Boston team and another NBA franchise before the close of the season.
With all of the jawing and questionable antics, it leaves one to ponder whether or not the NBA of today is carrying on the legacy of players past. But yet the facts say it’s just more of the same. The Reggie Millers of the world have been replaced by the tirades of players like Danny Granger. The Charles Barkleys replaced with guys like Kevin Garnett. The Isiah Thomas’ replaced by Rajon Rondo. But one thing has remained a constant. When a team or player can’t physically beat a another player or team within the confines of the game, they turn to dirty tactics to bring the competition down to their level. Just as MLB pitchers still throw at opposing team’s players, and just like NFL players still twist, bite, and scratch at the bottom of piles, NBA players will continue to throw elbows, commit hard fouls, and talk about other player’s wives if it means getting a “W”.