If you ever played a sport, you know that on-court banter is unavoidable and everyone makes a fool of themselves sometimes. Your teammates are there to make sure it is never forgotten. These moments are often pivotal in building chemistry. But the same as fights and arguments, they are bonding material because they don’t leave the locker room. You get to make fun of your teammate; others do not at least until Shaq made a popular tv segment about it.
I love a good joke and sulking if you were the joke of the day was a big mistake in my family. It would result in family members putting even more emphasis on it and if the sulking was bad, a punishment of some sort. Usually, I would be relieved of my cell phone for an extended period — pure agony for a teenager. So when JaVale McGee started to complain about his treatment on Shaqtin a Fool, my first instinct was to side with Shaq. It’s all fun and games, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Then his teammates stepped in, and it made me pause. This wasn’t your standard ”He’s our guy” stuff. Curry, Kerr, and Durant went after Shaq. Coach Kerr said this (via NBC Sports):
I don’t blame him for being frustrated,” he said Kerr. “Shaq’s been picking on him for years and years and years. And JaVale, rightfully so, probably gets frustrated. It never ends. And it’s one thing to just have a little fun, but you can go a little bit over the top. It’s one of those things. If you think about JaVale’s career, when you’re in this position where someone is on national TV making fun of you night after night, it’s not the greatest thing for your reputation. I can tell you, I had a preconceived notion of JaVale before he got here that turned out to be totally false. And a lot of that was because of what goes on with Shaq’s ‘Shaqtin’ A Fool’ thing.
KD was maybe most vocal and direct in defending JaVale and speaking directly to and about Shaq (Via NBC Sports):
“Everybody can’t be Shaq. He’s trying to make his money and enjoy the game of basketball, and his perception of him is that he’s a ‘dumb’ player because he makes mistakes on the court. Shaq was a sh—y free-throw shooter. He missed dunks. He air-balled free throws. He couldn’t shoot outside the paint. He was bigger than everybody. He didn’t have any skill. But he was bigger and stronger than everybody.”
Durant then turned his head and seemed to speak directly to O’Neal.
“He was still a great player, but you had your flaws too as a player,” he said. “And you played on five of six teams, too. So it’s not like you’re this perfect center. You had your flaws too. Like I said, I didn’t know cops could go on Twitter and threaten civilians like that. I’m glad JaVale challenged him.”
Then Shaq reminded us that as much as he is on TV, he is not a professional journalist and lacks the distance you need to have to objectively look at a situation and admit you went too far. With great power comes great responsibility and Shaq didn’t react accordingly.
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) February 24, 2017
This made me realize this was more than McGee not taking a joke. Shaq did mention JaVale a lot more than anyone else. He did have goofy plays and confusing plays, maybe even more than your average guy. But there is a power with media we don’t consider, or at least didn’t before Donald got elected. Saying something a lot of times on air creeps into your mind and unless someone makes you stop and analyze the facts, you develop biases.
It turns out the last part of Kerr’s quote was important here. Decision makers in the league started to take these clips into account when deciding about signing McGee. He is not a first ballot Hall of Fame kind of guy, but he has a place on an NBA team. In a recent interview with Kristine Leahy on Fair Game, JaVale gave his point of view on the matter:
I was hearing things that I’m dumb, a bad basketball player, low IQ, idiot. But, I’m not the person that’s reading comments like ‘Oh my God’, cause I really don’t care, it’s when a GM or an owner of a team starts thinking that ‘No, we don’t want to sign him’ cause that’s now affecting my livelihood and how I pay the bills and how I feed my family. That’s when I was like ‘It’s the last straw’
It was lowlights being shown on tv, but it came to the point where I was missing a layup and it was like ‘Oh my goodness’, and I was like ‘C’mon man, everyone misses a layup, a contested layup’; and I had to do what I had to do. In the end, it was canceled and I was never on a certain show again.
Goes to show, things aren’t what they seem at first glance.