Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why is the NBA's Maturity Level Plummeting?

The way things are supposed to work is that as you age, you get smarter, you get more mature, and you certainly use better judgement. Now this principle is normally applied to life in general, but it can also be easily applied to the behavior of athletes. One would think that by this "age" principle, college sports would have a lot more situations where the athletes exuded immaturity than in the pros. Well...if you look at the NBA and the on-court behavior of many of its players in the past year, then I think you'd find something wrong with the correlation between age and maturity. The incidents that I'm mainly referring to have occurred in the last few years; the incidents have seemed to increase in amount and intensity, though, in this 2009 postseason.

Until a few years ago, I don't think many people even knew about the technical foul/flagrant foul limit in the playoffs. The rule is that if a player racks up a total of 7 technical fouls in the playoffs, then they have to sit out one game. In the past, the rule was hardly the subject of any conversation, it just didn't seem to come into relevance. But this year, there were a number of players including Dwight Howard and JR Smith that were really testing their luck. Some of the fouls in question were hard, physical fouls and others were called because of players getting in each other's faces or complaining too much to the referees.

Now before I go on about how ridiculous some of these confrontations were, I have to concede one thing: the officiating has been a lot tighter in recent years. Ever since the brawl between the Pacers and Pistons at the Palace in Detroit, David Stern has made a point of telling officials to be a lot more strict in an effort to proactively limit the escalation of tempers that cause the brawls, fights and such. So, and it's a fair argument, the number of technicals and flagrant fouls could be partly related to the referees' buckling down on foul calls.

But this is where it gets interesting...the more strict calling of flagrant/technical fouls was clearly meant to be a deterrent with the idea that players wouldn't want to deal with the consequences (the consequences being easy points for the other team, fines, suspensions, etc) But players just DON'T seem to CARE. I would guess that maybe 80-90% of playoff games this year have involved some sort of skirmish, shoving match, or ultra hard foul. I'm not a supernatural being, so I can't watch every game, but it seems that every game, no matter who is playing, contains at least one if not many blatant moments of immaturity and thuggery (it's a word...look it up).

Rajan Rondo put on a show in the Bulls/Celtics series, Kenyon Martin has done his part throughout the playoffs, Dwight Howard and Rafer Alston have chipped in an elbow or two, Derek Fisher and Kobe have had their moments, and JR Smith showboated his way through the postseason. For most of these players, it isn't their first rodeo so to speak, and so its disappointing to see the immaturity coming from all of their dirty plays. And the aforementioned players represent only a fraction of what has been wrong with the behavior this postseason mainly and in the last few years as well. From what I've seen, I would label most of the college basketball players in this country more mature than a lot of the pros.

I understand that the battle for an NBA title brings out the highest degree of passion and desire amongst the NBA players, and for the most part it makes the playoffs a lot of fun to watch. But there is no room for a lot of the bullshit that we've seen. These men are not only grown-ups, but they're role models to millions of aspiring youngsters. And don't even get me started on LeBron walking off the court and shunning the media in the wake of their elimination from the Conference Finals. Say what you want about his explanation (a lot of people liked it oddly enought), but I don't buy it. LeBron, Dwight and Co. may still be very young, but they've been exposed to the spotlight long enough to know how to act. Hey...the playoffs have been very entertaining in my opinion, but entertainment isn't always the best thing for the game, especially when you have grown men acting like their playing "no blood-no foul" streetball half the time.

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