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UPCOMING S.I. SAYS NBA'S "BAD ACTORS" THREATEN LEAGUE
Published January 25, 1995
In the January 30 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which hits the stands today, NBA-beat writer Phil Taylor takes on the NBA's "Bad Actors" -- the "pouting prima donnas" whose actions are "threatening to infect every team in the league." Nets guard Rex Walters: "We've got one millionaire who won't tie a 10-cent pair of shoelaces when the coach tells him to, to an even richer millionaire who complains he doesn't want to wear a tie on a plane." In his piece, Taylor warns, "Don't look around the league, because you won't like what you see. The NBA has more whiny youngsters than a day-care center at nap time." Knicks coach Pat Riley says the "self-centered, greed-oriented, defiant attitude" is "so rampant it is going to bring down the league one day." NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, although less "troubled by the misbehavior," did say, "It would be foolish to say we don't have any concern about it." WHAT'S BEHIND IT? Taylor outlines examples and possible explanations for the current state of the game. For the players, the "lucrative" guaranteed contracts "can profoundly warp their view of life in the league," making them more important and less expendable than their head coach. The immediate pressures to preform and turn around sagging franchises. In this area, longtime veteran Danny Ainge blames expansion, arguing had it not been for the new teams, young stars would "be going to teams that are already established and you could give them more time to mature." Taylor writes "many believe that the league's discipline problems mirror those of society" while others "blame the league's marketing strategy for encouraging selfishness." Pacers coach Larry Brown: "The bottom line is that this is the greatest team game going, and we're doing everything in our power -- from the rules to the publicity to the image we're creating -- to make it an individual sport. There's very little talk about team. We don't sell that. We try to establish stars, and this (prima donna syndrome) is what you get." Bulls guard Steve Kerr: "It used to be, 'Wow, did you see that Lakers-Celtics game?' Now it's more like, 'Did you see the latest video game or commercial?' They've created a different image than what started this whole boom" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 1/30 issue). STERN RESPONDS: Commissioner David Stern was not quoted in the piece, but responds this weekend on the SITV-produced "From the Pages of Sports Illustrated" on ABC's "Wide World of Sports." Stern says the media is a source of some of the problem: "There are always a half-dozen players out of 350 who have a particular thing going on. But those (players) also happen to be the lighting rod for the media." Stern noted Hakeem Olajuwon, Pat Ewing and John Stockton as positive examples (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED).