bill-swift - March 27, 2012
Every sport has its superstars. Without those guys the games would not be nearly as interesting. The Indianapolis Colts proved that last season when they had to play without Peyton Manning. With him the Colts were Super Bowl contenders. Without him they probably would have lost to most college teams.
Superstars are important, vital even to the success of most teams. So does that mean that professional sports leagues should afford special protection to their stars?
The question is an important one in light of the trouble that the New Orleans Saints are getting in for trying to injure players, but is even more relevant in the NBA after the hit that Jason Smith put on Blake Griffin Thursday night.
There is no question about the play (watch the video; it is ridiculous). Jason Smith, a forward/center for the New Orleans Hornets, flat out body checks Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. There was no attempt to make a play on the ball at all. The one and only purpose Smith had was to knock Griffin out.
Taking hard fouls has been the norm for Griffin of late. However, it isn't always because guys are being jerks like Smith. Often times it's because Griffin goes so hard all the time that when he does get fouled it looks pretty darn harsh; not always as bad as Smith's, but bad none the less.
It really would not be shocking if Griffin, one of the most exciting players in the NBA, was to suffer a bad injury from one of these hits eventually. Suffice it to say, without him the Clippers would return to being a cellar dweller of a team.
The NBA has a bit of a quandary here. Griffin is a major part of the product that it sells to fans. Without him the product suffers. Any other business would be expected to make a move to protect its product, but it is not that simple in the NBA.
Should Griffin get preferential treatment because of his stature? If the NBA were to do that what would that do to the overall product that is the game of basketball?
If the NBA were to cater to its stars the game would cease to be a truly competitive game; it would be more like basketball meets professional wrestling (could you imagine the Undertaker or the Big Show playing center?).
Smith has been suspended two games by the league for the flagrant foul he laid on Griffin Thursday night; punishment that is completely within the rules of the league. There has already been discussion about whether the suspension should be stiffer; some say because of who it was against.
That is where the NBA will need to decide what's more important—the integrity of the game as a whole or the individual players that generate the most money.
Article by Travis Pulver