The friendly side of NBA players

13 04 2011

I’m not supposed to become biased when covering sports. I work as a sports reporter (or writer or journalist or whatever else we’re supposed to be termed), which means I’m objective most of the time – at least when I report and write. And I think I do a pretty good job of doing that. I’m finding it’s tough to be critical of some players who I speak with, though.

This past NBA season was the first sports campaign in which I had locker room access before and after contests. I went to 12-14 games between the Nets and Knicks; each time I was in the home and visitor’s locker room pregame and most of the time postgame, as well. I had some experiences that weren’t pleasant. DeMarcus Cousins didn’t seem overjoyed that I graced his presence, although he wasn’t rude about anything. In fact, none were expect for a Knick who couldn’t bother to look up from tying his shoes as I spoke with him for 2 1/2 minutes. But I’m actually not a sensitive guy, and I don’t feel that I need to be respected. By that, I mean that if someone is in a bad mood, I really don’t take offense if they’re unfriendly. I understand.

What I found through my locker room access was that most NBA players are pretty friendly. Most of these guys aren’t the assholes sports fans and some sports media folks make them out to be, specifically the fringe guys. The players who understand their time in the League might be fleeting know how fortunate they are to be where they are – earning lots of money for playing a sport that they love, or at least like. Most of these guys are trying to make it in their life like any of us. They have dreams and goals.

Now, I can’t imagine how annoyed I would get if reporters constantly approached me and asked me inane stuff. I’m disappointed by some of the questions I hear in locker rooms. It’s like some of these reporters have never played basketball. (Actually, that shouldn’t surprise me.) And it’s as if they’re under the impression these athletes think totally different from the rest of the human population. Granted, pro athletes have a special degree of physical and mental resolve. They have to have it, given the competitiveness of their industry. But these guys are still people – they express joy, sadness, humor and focus just like anyone else.

I think reporters, and fans, expect too much from these guys. They’re supposed to entertain us, but that’s where I think it ends. I don’t need any of these guys to inspire me. I certainly don’t need them to be my friends. Yet whenever I go to “work” I feel it’s kind of critical to enjoy what I’m doing. It’s why I write about sports in the first place. I don’t want a “real” job. (Only kidding.) And so I’m happy to have met the NBA players I did. I hope to see some of them next season.




One response

20 04 2011
MetsMaize Jeff

Simmons wrote a nice piece about Tiger’s front 9 of the Masters in the final round similar to your closing sentiments. Too much is made out of athletes and their job to “inspire” or act like role models, instead of “only entertaining”. As a society, we can find plenty of examples of good character outside of professional sports.

“Work” doesn’t always have to be romantic, especially on bad days, even if you love what you do. Professional athletes playing their respective sport, on some level, is simply “work” and they are allowed to human before, during and after a hard day.

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