Scottie Pippen was slapped by Charles Oakley, Paul George got a new Disney Princess carrying bag, Bradley Beal was Trevor Ariza’s personal shoe tying guy, and LeBron James was Cleveland’s doughnuts guy. That’s the beauty of the rookie hazing. It isn’t discriminatory. It doesn’t care about your talent, your rookie scale contract, nor how important you are for the franchise.
Think of it as an initiation rite, something no NBA rookie is immune to. You’re either wearing funny backpacks, getting your car filled with popcorn, or participating in a dance-off with your teammates. Either way, there’s no way around the rookie hazing.
It’s a way of humbling the newcomers, showing them “tough love,” and letting them know that they’re not bigger than the team. But it’s all done in good fun, helping the young guys transition into the grown man league that is the NBA.
I had to bring Andrew Toney warm milk like 11 o’clock in the morning. I had to go through room service to get it. Dr. J wanted the newspaper first thing in the morning. It used to always piss me off ’cause I was like ‘why I got to get up early and get you a newspaper?’Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA
You were a rookie, Chuck, that’s why you were the paperboy. As I said, no one is immune to it. Well, not exactly no one. It turns out, even the rookie hazing rule has an exception, and it comes by the name of Shaquille O’Neal.
“First day I got there, Scottie Skiles was like ‘get my bags rook.’ I was like, ‘I don’t do that, I’m the franchise player,’ and I never got aced. I was like, ‘this is my team, bruv.’”Shaquille O’Neal, Inside the NBA
Shaq wasn’t cut some slack by the vets. He simply refused to participate in the whole hazing thing. The rationale he gave was of basketball nature, but I doubt that’s how he got away with it. I’m guessing it had more to do the guy’s size.
So I guess there’s a way around the rookie hazing. The recipe is simple – you have to be a 7-1, 300-pound giant. With that frame, no one will make you carry Barbie bags around, that’s for sure.