Everyone's still processing the events that took place in Washington D.C. Images of a mob storming the Capitol, taking over, and then taking selfies with law enforcement shook the country and the NBA. Players contemplated not playing, decided to do so in the end, and sent a strong message after their games.
“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King has said, that there’s two split different Americas. In one America, you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your backyard. And then in another America, you get to storm the Capitol and no tear gas, no massive arrests, none of that.”
Jalen Brown, MLG Highlights
Chuck, Shaq, Kenny, and Earnie are our most beloved NBA analysts, not just because they bring a lot of comedy and basketball knowledge to the table. What really puts them into the Pantheon of sports TV is that the knowledgeable jesters that entertain us on a nightly basis speak with wisdom and nuance in difficult times. Honest and authentic, whether they are cracking jokes about each other or following protests around the country. Last night, Charles Barkley made an important point.
“I sat and watched, and I was in shock. Like 'Wow, this is the United States, and they're storming the Capitol.' And I blame everybody in the Capitol. That's who I blame. I blame that fool up there in DC who's president first and foremost, but these politicians have divided this country.”
Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA
The magical power of sports is the fact it brings people together. An activity that's competitive in nature that puts us in an adversarial position against another person or group is proven to increase tolerance amongst fans and players. There are rules, referees to keep those who try to bend them in line, and at the end of the game, you shake your opponent's hand.
That's what's missing in society today. The ability to shake one's hand after a round of competition and learn from the experience. It's not an accident Wilt, and Russell were close friends. The first person to call Magic after his announcement was Bird, who said that was the only time in his life he didn't feel like playing basketball. There was no one they wanted to beat more, and no one they respected more the moment the final whistle blew.
So it's no surprise an athlete doesn't see the current President as the person to focus on. Barkley's point is clear - he's a bad symptom that will soon be gone. His presidency left consequences, and Barkley spoke up on those too.
The main cause of the problem is the divisive mentality people in society have about almost every issue. For that, Barkley holds those in the Capitol most responsible. Things became black and white - we have that problem in basketball as well. Instead of spending most of our time enjoying LeBron, Steph, KD, and other superstars, we get entrenched in arguments on who's better, which leads us to spend most of the time diminishing the opposition.
After his monster 62 performance, one of the first guys to congratulate Steph was Damian Lillard - a guy who's lived in Steph's shadow and lost quite a few games playing against Steph. If only we could learn to do the same.