Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dwight Howard and the League of (T)Hugs

This year's All-Star weekend seemed to mark a new era in the NBA. It seems as if every decade, the game reinvents itself. You had the Bird/Johnson era in the 80's; Jordan in the 90's; and then, well, whatever it was in the 00's. Players like Iverson and Marbury were recognized as the face of the NBA. Fairly or not, the NBA was perceived as the home of thugs and gangsters parading around the court with their big tattoos and poor fundamentals. But at the ASG, Iverson shaved off his cornrows, and Stephon Marbury wasn't even playing. Instead, the stage belonged to smiling, goofy Dwight Howard and his little buddy Nate Robinson. Dwyane Wade was busily trying to market his new band-aid (or whatever that monstrosity under his eye was). Chris Bosh was trying to establish an account on every Web 2.0 site known to man. The NBA had transitioned from surly thugs trying to keep it real and "street" to hugable, loveable stars who knew how to work the media and connect to an audience, right? Three cheers for the League of Hugs!

Not so fast! Just as the perception of the NBA as a shelter for thugs was wildly overblown (and racist, ahem), so today's perception of Lebron, Dwight, and Company as friendly giants is terribly mistaken. By any standard, Dwight Howard had a great play-off performance last night. He scored 24 points, grabbed 24 rebounds...and dished out one elbow right to the head of Samuel Dalembert, early in the game when the refs would be too intimidated by his star power to throw him out. Just look at this beauty:

A star has the right to dish out punishment as well as take it, and that's exactly what Dwight did. Dalembert was trying to send a physical message by pushing Dwight out of his established position. Dwight knew he could get away with an elbow, and did. It's not the type of footage that wins endorsements. It won't be used in the NBA Cares campaign, and the League of Hugs isn't proud of that moment. But as a fan, I'm frankly happy to see that some things never change, and that the play-offs still matter no matter how many marketing opportunities are available for a smile and a little camera showboating. I don't condone injuring other players, and quite honestly, if it was Dalembert doing it to Howard, he would have been ejected. But as a Cavs fan, I hope another friendly giant in Northeast Ohio was watching the game...

1 comment:

  1. this was a pretty honest post, sincerely great, not many people get to post these things... that was quiet a hit from dwight btw...