Kobe pain 2

Kobe Bryant's flip-flopping temper tantrum has succeeded in its initial goal: Embarrassing Lakers management and generating a heaping helping of public sympathy. But should we really feel sorry for Kobe? Aren't there other players who are more deserving of our sympathy? After all, the fans in every town that features a superstar on an underachieving team say the same thing: "[Player Name] deserves better...get him some help!" In some cases, this is a just and reasonable argument. In others, it's just a lot of whining and crying.

The following list describes the current group of NBA superstars who are in less-than-optimal situations and assigns them a Sympathy Score. The scores are based on a 10-point scale, where a 1 means you wouldn't walk across the street to pee on them if they were on fire, and a 10 means you might cut off a valued appendage just to ease their suffering.

Allen Iverson: The runner-up for "most sympathy ever received by an NBA player." Many people will tell you that The Answer flushed away a decade of his life crushing rocks on a 76ers team that gave him "no help." Yet he's played with guys like Jerry Stackhouse, Derrick Coleman, Tim Thomas, Theo Ratliff, Brian Shaw, Larry Hughes, Toni Kukoc, Bruce Bowen, Dikembe Mutumbo, Raja Bell, Matt Harpring, Keith Van Horn, Glenn Robinson, Kyle Korver, Andre Iguodala, and Chris Webber. Every one of those guys can play ball, and they've all proven they can be an active and integral part of a winning culture. And while it can certainly be argued that a few of those players weren't in their primes while sharing a locker room with Iverson, it can also be argued that Iverson didn't make any of them any better...which is supposed to be a hallmark of great players (and I'm not even going to talk about his practice habits). Well, he finally got his wish: to play on a team with All-Star-caliber teammates. That got him a sixth seed and a first-round playoff exit. Yes, he plays hurt and goes all out every time he plays, but I just don't feel that sorry for the guy. Besides, he's got an MVP and even made a trip to the NBA Finals. Sympathy Score: 1.2.

Elton Brand: He gave the Chicago Bulls everything he had -- which was 20 points and 10 rebounds a game -- and they still traded him for for Brian Skinner (who never played for them) and the draft rights to Tyson Chandler (who was traded after five disappointing seasons). I guess you could say that Brand had the last laugh, since the biggest hole in the Bulls' "NBA Championship Contender" resume is a low-post scorer. But does anyone get the last laugh after being traded to the Clippers? Anyway, Brand has kept on plugging away, churning out a consistent 20/10 for the hapless Clips. Last year, he and the Clippers got one brief reprieve: a 47-win season and a trip to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the Phoenix Suns in seven games. But this year it was back to business as usual for Brand: 20 points, 9 rebounds, 42 losses, and a trip to the draft lottery. And through it all, he never whines, complains, or demands a trade. This is a dude who really does deserve better. Sympathy Score: 8.7.

Jason Kidd: Kidd has overcome having a middle name of Frederick, a cluster of trades, a series of domestic disputes, a public and exceedingly bitter divorce, and the marksmanship of a palsied gunfighter to become one of the greatest point guards of all time. His greatest feat -- leading the once moribund New Jersey Nets to two straight NBA Finals -- went unrewarded (they lost twice, to the Lakers and then the Spurs, and Kidd got jobbed out of the 2002 MVP Award). This season, at age 34, he was third in the league in assists and actually led his team in rebounding (8.2/game) despite the fact that he couldn't jump over a nickle. He makes triple doubles seem routine (he had 12 this season and 87 over the course of his career). But the best testament of Kidd's career is that he flat out makes other players better (except Vince Carter). Like my buddy Statbuster likes to say, "Kidd is like Spandex; he can make any ass look good." I'd love to see this guy in a better situation (i.e., on any team other than the Nets. Or Clippers. Or Celtics. Or...well, you get the idea). Sympathy Score: 7.1.

Jermaine O'Neal: I have mixed feelings about O'Neal. On the one hand, he's wildly overrated; he draws favorable comparisons to Kevin Garnett, even though he's not nearly as good: he doesn't rebound as well as he should, he prefers to fade away rather than take it strong to the hoop (hence his career field goal percentage of 46 percent...just awful for a "big man"), and he doesn't have a clutch bone in his big body. On the other hand, he's a gamer who works hard, plays great help defense, usually says the right thing, and appears genuinely dedicated to winning. He's just more of a second banana than a franchise player, which isn't entirely his fault (in fact, it's more the Pacers fault, as an organization, for failing to realize this). I'd like to see him on a winning team -- especially if it's the Pacers -- but I'm not losing sleep over his disappointments. Sympathy Score: 5.6.

Joe Johnson: This guy willingly walked away from the Phoenix Suns -- who were coming off a 62-win season and a trip to the Western Conference Finals -- to be The Man on the Atlanta Hawks. Good call, Joe. His scoring improved a little (from 17 PPG in 2004-05 to 20 PPG in 2005-06) but his shooting dropped off (46 percent to 45) and his three-point shooting went to hell (48 percent to 35). More importantly, his new team went 26-56 in 2004-05 and 30-52 last season. But he got a $70 million contract out of it, I guess he's fine with it. And so am I. Sympathy Score: -2.4.

Kevin Garnett: Nudged out Iverson to become the hands-down winner of "most sympathy ever received by an NBA player." Year in, year out, K.G. is lauded as one of the best in the game. Yet after logging 12 seasons and over 35,000 minutes, all he's got to show for it is one trip to the Western Conference Finals and an MVP award, both of which are partially due to the fact that he was playing with a very motivated Sam Cassell. Garnett usually gets a free pass because he's never had great teammates. Or is it that he just doesn't make his teammates great? After all, current teammates Ricky Davis and Mike James were statistically superior before teaming up with The Big Ticket. The fact is, Garnett doesn't make the game easier for his teammates the way, say, Tim Duncan does, and his back-to-back $100+ million dollar contracts haven't made it easy for the front office to build around him. I certainly don't question his intensity, his desire to win, or how much of his mind, body, and soul he gives on the court. But he's shares a good chunk of the blame for his team's failings. Sympathy Score: 3.9.

Kobe Bryant: I'm supposed to feel sorry for this guy? Last time I checked, he'd won three world championships -- back-to-back-to-back -- while playing caddy for an unstoppable Shaq. Yet, and make no mistake about this, he was willing to blow it all up because he wanted to be The Man. I don't care that it was supposedly Jerry Buss' decision to light the torches, hoist the pitchforks, and run Shaq out of town. Everybody and his brother knew that Shaq and Kobe couldn’t co-exist on the same team anymore. Phil Jackson even said so in his book, The Last Season. Now that three years have passed, Kobe's finally come forth to "clear the air," claiming that he didn't really want Shaq gone? Whatever. You'll notice that, in the description of his conversation with Buss, Kobe didn't make any kind of argument for the Lakers to keep Shaq, despite the fact that he had the bargaining power to do so (Buss would have sold his grandmother to a horde of rampaging barbarians to resign Kobe). So sure, he may not have pushed Shaq out the door himself, but he was standing there holding it open. And let's not forget that he publicly threatened to kick Karl Malone’s sinewy ass for harmlessly flirting with his wife, and that led to the Mailman's premature retirement. I'll be the first to admit that the Lakers' brass (Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, and Mitch Kupchak) have all contributed to this mess, as did Phil Jackson (for running Jerry West out of town) and Shaq (for playing hardball in his contract negotiations), but Kobe gets credit for co-authoring this dramady. No peace for the wicked. Sympathy Score: -4.8.

Paul Pierce: He's living a nightmare. A total, absolute nightmare. The Celtics are such a hopeless mess that it's unlikely the team will improve significantly during his career, maybe even his lifetime. He plays hard, he plays hurt, and he's a lock for 25/6/5 every night. You simply can't question his toughness or desire to win. He once got fouled by Amare Stoudemire, hit the floor face first, broke several teeth, and didn't miss any time. And let's not forget how, prior to the 2000-01 season, he was stabbed 11 times in the neck and back outside a Boston nightclub. He almost died, yet he played in all 82 games that season. And through it all, despite the fact that his team is a twisted, dysfunctional mess, he very rarely takes his complaints to the press, and even when he does they're relatively mild. Sympathy Score: 9.7.

Ray Allen: Is Ray-Ray really a superstar? I don't know. But he has a funny-shaped head and he chose to sign an $85 million contract extension with a slightly above-average team (which promptly became a slightly below-average team). I just get the feeling like winning isn't the most important thing in Allen's list of priorities. Meh. Sympathy Score: 2.0.

Stephon Marbury: Bwahahahahahaha!! Sympathy Score: N/A.

Tracy McGrady: T-Mac has become the NBA’s foremost tragic figure. He fights hard every game, plays through injuries, and you can just tell how desperately he wants to win. I mean, the dude cried during his post-game press conference when the Rockets got eliminated by the Jazz in this year's playoffs. No matter what he does, he can't get out of the first round. His teams have given up 2-0 leads, 3-1 leads, lost seventh games at home. The words "best player in NBA history to never get out of the first round" exist only because of Tracy McGrady. In many ways, this was his best season. Early on, he sacrificed his scoring numbers and deferred to Yao Ming. When Ming went down with his yearly injury, he upped his scoring and assist numbers to lead a group of so-so role-players to a 20-12 record. The Rockets even earned the 4th seed in a very competitive Western Conference. Didn't matter. The results were the same: Another first round exit. McGrady is cursed, I'm sure of it. Sympathy Score: 9.5.

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Blogger Al James said...
What about the tragedy of Steve Francis? From starter to bench warmer, and he wasn't even injured.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
If this 2002 or 2003, I might include Francis. But he hasn't been a superstar in quite some time.

Anonymous caseta said...
"he chose to sign an $85 million contract extension with a slightly above-average team (which promptly became a slightly below-average team). I just get the feeling like winning isn't the most important thing in Allen's list of priorities"

Well, if you replace 85 with 59 and "Allen" with "Pierce" the statement still is valid. So why the sympathy for Pierce and none for Ray Ray ?

Aren't you a little biased cause it's the Celtics !? (You are a Celtics fan, aren't you ?)

I'd give them both a 4. True Pierce got stabbed, but what the hell was he doing in that club ?
You'd think millionaires would hang out in some places where the odds of them being stabbed or shot are close to zero instead of acting ghetto.

As for McGrady, well he didn't exactly play hard in his last season with the Magic. And he kinda comes out of shape in November. It's a pity he never got out of the 1st round and what he did (especially with the Magic when he carried the team) but him failing this season had something to do with him not taking the game over when he needed to. I'd say an 8 would be more appropriate.

PS: And why the hell is Marbury on a list of superstars ?!?!
Remove Marbury, put Nash on the list and give him a 10. Hell, give him a 20. Busted nose and balls and he still takes the Suns from 20 down in game 6 and almost took the game into overtime.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Re: Karl Malone: harmless flirting?


And T-Mac/Pierce [at this point in their careers] should both be 10s.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Kobe's wife was probably upset that Karl was just hitting on her. She used to just getting raped Kobe-style.

I know that was inappropriate, but Karl make through DECADES of an NBA career without real character problems (maybe an occasional faux pas or seventeen). I'll take his word over the greatest settler (in court) that Colorado has ever seen.

Blogger Warren said...
Wasn't it TMAC's choice to be The Man in Orlando? I'm not actually sure, but wouldn't that have been his fault instead of building a team with Carter before he started sand bagging in Toronto? Although, we may have never seen the McGrady we see today if he didn't decide to take over a team either...

Blogger Ben said...
This is the FIRST time I've
ever STRONGLY disagreed with
something from your blog.


Doesn't this just make you
sad as a basketball fan?

The man is all heart.
Please please please have him in a
Suns uniform next year.

Though the rest of rating
hold pretty true to what I
personally believe.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
ben...okay, I will admit that K.G. is as passionate a player as you could possibly ask for. He wants to win as badly as anyone, and he leaves everything out on the court.

Maybe it's just all the stories, year after year, about Garnett's struggles juxtapposed to the $200 million in salary he's received...maybe those things have jaded me towards him.

That said, I would love to see him on the Suns next season. I mean, LOVE.

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