A league of grumps and a fanbase with issues of its own | Opinion

You know what I don’t get about James Bond? He’s got women throwing themselves at him, he’s got a license to kill, he’s got all these cool cars and gadgets … how ’bout a smile? —Jerry Seinfeld

You know what I don’t get about NBA players? They’ve got more money than the president (and a cooler job), they play a game for a living, they don’t have to sit in front of a computer screen eight hours a day (unless it’s to play video games), they have fame and fortune, people fawn all over them…

How ’bout a smile?

Instead, we get scowls and surliness; we get serial grumps. We get John Wall, Russell Westbrook, james hardenAnthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and The King (of grumpy) Lebron James — perpetually angry, irascible, malcontented, thin-skinned. They’re grumpier than Kevin Costner on screen. They appear to have a permanent case of heartburn.

Who wants to watch that?

Remember those guys in the opening scene of “Les Miserables” (the musical version)? They were having more fun than NBA players. The Lakers play the game as if they are pulling a shift at the coal mine.

Remember those guys in the opening scene of “Les Miserables” (the musical version)? They were having more fun than NBA players. The Lakers play the game as if they are pulling a shift at the coal mine.

There are a few exceptions. Steph Curry plays the game with a certain joie de vivre, and the Phoenix Suns seem to be having fun. “It feels like a college team sometimes,” Deandre Ayton told ESPN, “but we get so much money for this.”

“We have a real team,” Jay Crowder said. “We have camaraderie. We play for one another. We’re all on the same page. I think that keeps us connected.”

Just for that, wouldn’t you like to see those guys win the championship?

But the Suns are the exception. Most NBA teams are about as fun as a colonoscopy.

Players can’t get along with one another. They’re surly toward fans and media. They put their way out of perfectly legitimate (rich) contracts. They spend half of every game complaining about calls, always up in arms about something. They obsess over social media and strike back against any criticism.

Even if they’re in a (chronic) bad mood, couldn’t they just fake it? Isn’t that what performers do when they perform?

The fan-player relationship has probably never been worse and has been a big topic of conversation this spring. Players are not tolerating things they once ignored, and fans are acting with increasing aggression toward the players.

Michael Rosenberg wrote a story in Sports Illustrated this week titled, “Recent NBA Fan-Player Incidents Highlight Disconnect Between League and Its Players.” The deck headline explained: “The NBA has seen how ugly player-fan altercations can get. Together, the league and its players need to make sure they don’t get that ugly again.”

In no other sport are players and fans packed together in such close quarters, which creates a uniquely intimate connection between them. That arrangement is not working anymore.

Irving and Draymond Green made obscene gestures to fans (with both hands). Fans are giving players the same salute.

Joel Embiid and Paul have complained about fans, and not without justification. Toronto fans directed an obscene chant at Embiid (the same one directed at the president).

Paul recently screamed at Mavericks fans who reportedly tried to give unwanted hugs to his family. The 2021 playoffs were marred by several incidents: a fan spit on Trae Young, another fan threw popcorn on Westbrook, Utah Jazz fans were banned from the arena for taunting the family of Memphis Grizzlies start Ja Morant, fans threw a water bottle at Irving.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted that the league has placed tarps over the corridors where players enter and exit the arena because of such incidents. That’s what it’s come to?

The fans are wrong, but what has triggered such antipathy toward players — after all, fans pay a lot of money to attend games, presumably because they like the game and the players — but, also, why are players so grumpy and thin-skinned ?

Maybe it’s as simple as what Silver observed three years ago in a conversation with Boston.com, “When I meet with (the players), what surprises me is that they’re truly unhappy. A lot of these young men are generally unhappy.”

Or maybe it’s just that everybody is angry these days. The NBA arena is a microcosm of society as a whole, where there is no civil debate or interaction, only threats and violence and people eager to be offended and to give offense.

That will take a lot more than an NBA commissioner to fix.

AP22111087299355.jpg

Boston Celtics fans shout and gesture as Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving makes a free throw during Game 2 of first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Boston.

Michael Dwyer, Associated Press

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