When it comes to professional sports, we love athletes who can talk that talk. Boxing greats Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather Jr. had a bevy of colorful one-liners about what they would do in the ring and more times than not, they backed it up with their fists and nimble feet. Basketball icons Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant ranked among the best at both talking a good game, and playing an even better one.
But here’s the thing. Those athletes talked big game because at that time, they could deliver where it mattered most—on the playing field.
Which is in part why the back-and-forth verbal jabs tossed around this week by former NBA players Kwame Brown, Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson is just silly. Seeing their expletive-laced name-calling, finger-pointing and the way that they are throwing low-key and not-so-low key shade at one another, would be great theatre if they were still playing in the NBA.
As former players, it has been a sideshow on the cusp of the NBA playoffs that has garnered a lot more attention than warranted. But it’s not because of the intrigue or the viral nature the entire spat has taken on. It’s because their sideshow antics have become like that disabled car on the side of the road that brings traffic to a near-standstill because of onlookers gawking at something that they eventually realize isn’t worth gawking over.
But like the games they played in their prime that we watched, seeing them go at it on the not-so-mean streets of social media is farcical theatre. There is the opening act, followed by scenes of silliness that lead to a climax with the story line continuing to play out before ultimately ending with a denouement that wraps it all up in a nice, tidy, dramedy for those looking on.
But here’s the thing we have to remember.
This isn’t real-life issues that, to be frank, Black folks should be dealing with. These are grown men who have made millions playing a game they love. Brown has reportedly done quite well in terms of how he has managed his NBA salary through a 12-year career which reportedly earned him more than $62 million. Barnes and Jackson have one of the hottest sports podcasts in the country, in addition to the millions they each made during their playing days in the league.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Brown, a former No. 1 overall pick who was a solid NBA player but never lived up to the lofty expectations that come with being a top pick in the NBA draft, took exception to some comments made by [Gilbert] Arenas, Jackson and Barnes on a recent episode of Jackson and Barnes’ podcast, All the Smoke.
In response, Brown delivered a profanity-laced rebuttal on various social media platforms that centered around the personal lives of Barnes and Jackson
To be fair, some of the early portions of the monologue featuring Arenas, Barnes and Jackson, talked about the challenges Brown faced as a then-teenager entering the league while playing with the legendary Michael Jordan, and the negative impact that may have had on Brown’s growth and potential in the NBA.
But the conversation began to delve into areas that seemed to double-down on Brown’s basketball struggles, which led to a series of clap-back tweets, IG posts and facebook mentions from Brown.
On the surface, it looks and feels like it’s much ado about nothing.
But the talk has evolved to the point where Barnes has invited Brown to come on the podcast and, “tell his story” while adding, “if we gotta box before, during or after (the show), shake hands to get this (expletive) done, you know I’m always with the … just tell your story.”
By anyone’s definition, that’s taking this whole spat to a level that no one wants to talk about, let alone see come to fruition. While it’s true that Brown never lived up to the promise that, right or wrong, comes with being a top overall pick, the dude spent 12 years in the NBA. You don’t spend that much time in the best basketball league on the planet, and not have worth. More than anything, Brown’s only real crime was that he was taken with the top pick.
And yes, it’s understandable why he would be upset with folks still giving him grief about that. But this … this ain’t the way to respond to it. It makes for good theatre and certainly gives the streets of social media something to chat about. But eventually, just like that disabled car on the side of the road, folks will pause, look at the carnage, and keep going.And that memory of what they saw, will be the one that lasts. Is that what any of these guys want?