In a story about Carmelo Anthony's polarizing career, Elle Duncan from ESPN said that being a Hall of Famer "doesn't really mean much with names like Dražen Petrović there." thus continuing the age-old tendency to speak before you think (and research). As a huge Dražen fan, I decided I need to calm down and give her story a fair chance.
European players have always been primarily underappreciated in the United States, and it seems Elle Duncan still didn't get the memo. For years international players were either not drafted or drafted and then underutilized and in general, passed over for the sake of athleticism. Just to name the most obvious examples, Dražen, Ginobili, Nowitzki and now Luka are proving international players can lead teams and be competitive in every sense of the word.
There are many articles that support this claim. We wrote about the time Dražen met Dell Curry, who he would later become friends with and become an inspiration for his son Steph. There is also the story of Dražen scoring 112 points in a game at age 21. Later he would move to Real Madrid and rule the courts there before reaching his best years playing for the Nets.
After watching the video, at first, it truly seems she thinks Dražen doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. The implication is that his membership there proves that the standard is too low for it to mean anything - meaning he wasn't good enough. Before we engage in a meaningful discussion with Ms. Duncan, as much as I vehemently disagree, we have to allow the possibility she has a valid case to make. Maybe Dražen shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. If that is a case I would love to debate her on that.
Unfortunately for her, we have Twitter to try and find out what did she mean by that? Right after posting her story people started commenting that the Dražen reference was unfortunate, to say the least.
Did she know Dražen died?
"I said that's what made Melo so Fab." First of all, this is why Twitter sucks. You can't elaborate in 140 characters, and you tend to use unclear statements. We really could use the definition of "that" in this sentence, but to give Ms. Duncan the benefit of the doubt, let's assume she was referring to the list of achievements she named in this part of the story. Such a response is what we call a non sequitur. A non sequitur is a conclusion or reply that doesn't follow logically from the previous statement. HoseaFuel is referring to the Dražen part, and she is responding to Melo's achievements. The criticism was pointed at the Dražen Hall of Fame reference. NBA twitter 1, Elle Duncan 0.
Secondly, the "how is that disrespectful" part implies that she did not know Dražen was dead. It is at least in poor taste to use an example of a dead man to make the point. If she does believe the Hall of Fame doesn't have a strict enough standard, there are other players, still alive, she could've used as an example. This was also noticed by Ryan K. NBA twitter 2, Elle Duncan 0.
Did she mean it or was it performance?
That part of the story is a conversation between Elle Duncan - apologist and Elle Duncan - hater, a sketch that is supposed to portray two extremes of the Melo discussion. The apologist and hater parts both refer to Melo, so it wasn't Elle Duncan saying Dražen was not good enough, it was the caricature of the Melo hater who said that.
Let's say I believe this, then the logical response of someone who acted and realized the performance was poorly understood and has the knowledge of who Dražen was would take the opportunity to explain in an assertive, non-confrontational way. Let's see what Ms. Duncan did.
NBA twitter 3, Elle Duncan 0. It's a sweep because she did not respond in any way after this.
What can we learn?
First of all, I support the idea of such a piece on Melo, trying to weigh two sides of an argument and exploring it in depth. I hope Ms. Duncan gets more time and opportunity to do such stories; we need more of this and less of hot take bonanza. I agree with most of what Elle Duncan - hater says throughout the story and understand the attempt of the sketch.
This just seems like an ill-advised joke that was a result of lack of knowledge and/or awareness and then making every PR mistake in the book. Just saying "You guys are right, my point didn't come across because I used a bad example, Dražen was a great player, and I apologize to anyone offended by this" and you are off the hook. 4,5 million Croats and many other fans around the world calm down, and some of them check out your story. Problem solved.
This does prove that international players are still underappreciated by a significant number of people covering the game. A tweet by Jakari L goes out to the heart of the issue.
When you are the biggest kid on the block, there is a natural consequence of not learning as much about others. Every European fan knows American stars, and it is not vice-versa. As many have noticed on twitter, this looked like picking a Euro from the Hall of Fame list, as they generally supposedly didn't deserve to be accepted. This is the implication I have the most issue with.
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame states its mission is “To honor and celebrate basketball’s greatest moments and people." Not NBA's, not America's but basketballs. Read any book about Dražen, and you will learn just the things he did in Europe qualifies him to be in the Hall of Fame. There is a reason why Dražen is one of the few athletes in history to have his statue in the Olympic Park in front of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. He was a transcended player, spectacular scorer and most of all a man who significantly influenced basketball culture and community in Europe and especially former Yugoslavia, the greatest hub of NBA players after the USA.
It's the same arrogance that leads to calling MLB or NBA champions "World Champions" even though it's a US competition. I may be mistaken, but in Athens 2004 Argentina won gold, Italy silver, and USA bronze. LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, AI, Duncan, and company lost to Argentina led by Ginobili, Scola, Delfino and Nocioni. The Dream Team in any edition is a clear-cut favorite if they are taking "the rest" seriously and respectfully. That goes for journalists as well.
Even if you look at NBA, the most dominant performance in NBA Finals history (and the most beautiful, pure basketball played) featured a French point guard, Argentinian shooting guard, American small forward, French point forward and a center from the Virgin Islands. The bench featured an American, Brazilian, Italian and Australian. 60% of all minutes played by the Spurs in the playoffs were played by international players (73,5% if you count Duncan in).
I don't think Ms. Duncan had bad intentions; this was a mistake that was handled poorly. It's OK to make a mistake; it is not OK to stubbornly not admit it and dig an even deeper hole. We have more than enough of that these days.
I hope Ms. Duncan owns up her mistake and if she ever wants to visit Croatia, I am sure Dražen's mother Biserka will gladly take her around his museum in Zagreb and give her a tour of his hometown Šibenik. Until then, here are a few people speaking about Dražen.