By David “D-Wil” Wilson
The time has come for the NBA League offices to take a step back and enter into a period of self-examination.
Kobe Bryant’s one-game suspension for unintentionally – at least that’s what all parties involved stated publicly – landing an arm-elbow across the bridge of the San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili’s nose clearly illustrates the need for David Stern and his office employees to look inward.
Why was Bryant suspended? Stu Jackson, NBA vice president of basketball operations and resident disciplinarian, told Greg Anthony of ESPN that Bryant’s move was an “Unnatural, non-basketball move that was intentional.” Since there is no rule penalizing Bryant’s action Jackson had to ascertain that Bryant, with .02 left in a crucial game, would chance receiving what would be a flagrant foul and allowing the Spurs to win the game at the free throw line. Additionally, because of Ginobili’s injury, the Spurs could choose their shooter to enter the game to make one of two free throws to win the game.
Though Johnny Ludden of the San Antonio Express-News wrote that, “Ginobili and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich both said they thought Bryant didn’t intend to hit Ginobili. No foul was called on the play,” ESPN’s Greg Anthony, in his conversation with Jackson reported vastly different news concerning how the incident came to the attention of the NBA League office’s attention:
“This wouldn’t even get on the League’s radar if the team in question, the Spurs, didn’t notify the NBA League offices about the incident.”
So, apparently Gregg Popovich lied to the press, not an unusual move for coaches or players, except in a case that concerns arguably the best all-around player in the Association. Since this case concerns Bryant, Popovich’s move is both unusual and stupid. However, Jackson failed to fully review the case. He failed to take into account the veracity of the Spurs public versus private statements and failed to query players and the referees directly involved with the game. This resulted in levying a suspension in an all-time record speed of less than 24 hours.
The crux of the case, though, lies in Jackson’s statement to the Associated Press:
“Some of the determining factors were the fact that there was contact made with Ginobili above the shoulders and the fact that this particular action by Kobe was an unnatural basketball motion. Following a shot, he drove a stiff arm in a backward motion and struck Ginobili in the head. “We did not view this as an inadvertent action.”
So in addition to Jackson’s other failures in properly reviewing this case, he failed to take into account the game circumstance I previously mentioned.
But even more important, is Jackson’s fast-and-loose interpretation of Bryant’s actions and how it can be construed in other cases. I’ll pose these cases as questions:
* If a player fakes a charge, flops, falls backward, and “drives a stiff arm in a backward motion” striking an opponent behind him in the face, will he get a one-game suspension?
* Or how about the same circumstance where said flopper falls and drives his stiff arm into the knee of an opponent and blows out the opponent’s knee? Does this player receive a remainder of the season suspension?
And since you had time to review the video, why didn’t Ginobili receive a fine for flagrantly following through after his block in an unnatural basketball motion and hitting Bryant in the head? Did you ever stop to think that that was the reason Bryant flailed his arms to draw the referee’s attention in the first place?
And of course the whispers of impropriety begin. They sound like this: Kobe received the suspension because David Stern wants the Knicks to make the playoffs. If you don’t want to hear this kind of stuff, in this case nonsensical as it may sound, then stop it. If you don’t want to hear that your actions appear to be a purposeful effort to decimate the integrity of the game and render it an NHL-class citizen, then stop.
Stop the overreaction to imaginary problems – or real problems, for that matter. Regain your sense of self (if you truly had one in the first place) and present an assured, measured, and reasonable image to the NBA and sporting world.
Start, David Stern, by looking in the mirror – because the League is a reflection of you.
If you want to read more of David’s writing check out his blog Sports On My Mind.