You know who they are.
Whenever you’re watching your favorite team play, there is always that one player you don’t want to see having possession of the ball down the wire of a close game. Whether its irrationally shooting and over handling, or just making a dumb play with the basketball, these cringe-inducing players (who are otherwise decent players) give head coaches and fans their closest experiences to a heart attack.
You think McDonald’s is unhealthy? Try watching Ron Artest on the offensive end for 82+ games.
These players make fans scream “NOOOOO!” in unison at crucial moments of a game when they hold possession of the ball – you can even hear it in the crowd through your television screen if you listen carefully.
I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having to watch a lot of these players firsthand as a fan of the Lakers and Raptors. As such, be prepared to see a lot of former Lakers and Raptors in this series.
[Note: If you want to see a specific cringe-worthy player I haven’t featured yet, feel free to send me an email or message me on Twitter. I’ll add your suggestions to part II because – let’s face it – there have been enough cringe-worthy players in NBA history to warrant more than two blog posts. In fact, two might not even be enough.]
Without further adieu:
He was once popular enough to be on the cover of NBA Live ’99 (you know, back when NBA Live was relevant), but Antoine Walker’s career is more remembered for his shimmying, bankruptcy, and cringe-worthiness than his actual achievements. When playing for the Celtics and Heat throughout the early to mid 2000s, Walker was a constant source for cringe-tastic plays.
For example, he averaged a paltry 32% three-point shooting average throughout his career. However, as any Celtic or Heat fan will tell
you, Walker was never shy about chucking up wild off-balance three pointers the moment he caught the basketball. Mr. Shimmy never saw a three pointer that he did not like. In fact, when asked why he shot so many three pointers given his poor shooting percentage, Walker replied, “because there are no 4s”.
That quote alone makes Antoine Walker a permanent fixture on every NBA fan’s All-NBA Cringe team.
Common Cringe-Worthy Scenario
Pierce/Wade dribbles the ball at the top of the key in a tightly contested game with the home crowd on their feet. Pierce zips past the defenders and draws a crowd in the lane. As he leaps into the air, he kicks it out to the open man standing at the top of the 3 point arc.
As the ball travels through the air, millions of fans slowly and painfully realize what is about to happen.
Antoine Walker – he of the 3-11 shooting from the three point line for the game – is preparing to catch the ball.
The moment Walker catches the ball, he launches a shot without as much as a pause, while fans cringe (as opposed to anticipate) at the thought of the outcome. Off balance, his blubbering body there for all to see, Antoine shoots a leaning fade-away three pointer off one leg.
With the crowd screaming “Noooooooooooooooooooooo” in unison, the shot miraculously goes in, boosting Walker’s ego and justifying him to shoot 1-10 on three-pointers for the subsequent game.
I know the majority of you are scratching your heads, but Raptor (and Jazz) fans know Milton Palacio very well.
Palacio played for the Raptors from 2003-2005 (as Vince was going through his menopause-like career crisis), and he was one of the reasons that I stopped watching Raptors basketball altogether (the other reason being the incompetent boobery of our management and owners).
On the sorry Raptors roster of this time, Milt the Stilt had a tendency to do something that made me cringe and scream for murder every single time I watched him play.
Let me illustrate the picture:
Common Cringe-Worthy Scenario
The opposing team (let’s say – the Celtics) take the ball down court and rush into a three point shot (obviously launched by Antoine Walker). As the ball bounces long, Milt Palacio happens to grab the rebound.
However, unlike most point guards, Palacio doesn’t wait to slow down and gather the team into a half court set.
He sees the rebound as an opportunity to start a one-man fast break, much like Lebron.
Gathering all of his might, the 6-4 guard increases his speed and charges down the court like Lebron, tucks the ball to the side when he gets into the lane like Lebron, and bulldozes into the lane while two players await him near the basket (like Lebron).
Like Lebron however, Palacio throws up a wild shot with his head down, hoping to get a foul call in the process.
Unlike Lebron, the shot doesn’t even hit rim or generate a foul call; instead, it bounces directly off the backboard and into the hands of the opposing team.
It was already hard enough to be a Raptors fan – now imagine having to watch that four times a game.
Ron Artest, er, Metta World Peace, is the current King of Cringe.
Whether it’s struggling to catch a ball and finish a wide open layup or shot, or simply over-dribbling and wildly shooting the ball, nothing leaves Laker fans more bewildered than Ron Artest’s decision.
Yes, Artest was monumental in the Lakers winning Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Yes, he seems like a great guy who was worked hard to rebuild his image after the brawl that left an unfortunate chubby man in a Pistons jersey feeling the wrath of a flying Jermaine O’Neal punch.
Despite all that however, Ron Artest currently epitomizes the All-NBA Cringe Team.
Common Cringe-Worthy Scenario
The Lakers are down 98-90 with a minute left in the game. Off an inbound pass, Artest catches it on the Lakers’ own three-point line. With Kobe and Fisher covered in a full court press, Ron is forced to dribble the ball down the court to his the opposing three point line.
At this point, Ron can easily pass the ball to Kobe, who is calling for the ball at the top of the 3 point line. Instead, he continues dribbling and calls for a Bynum pick. Using the pick, World Peace dribbles in a semi-circle with his left hand and gets into the paint, only to be met by a big man and his original defender.
Now remember, there are four other players on his team who are capable of catching passes, including Pau Gasol, who is two feet away from Artest as he runs into the second defender.
Rather than passing it off to a teammate however, Artest continues to dribble the ball, and runs back out to the three point line with about 13 seconds left on the shot clock.
Most people would think Artest would pass the ball in this situation.
Most people would be wrong.
As he steps outside the three point line, Artest stops his dribble and is immediately smothered by his man.
Most players would give up in this scenario.
Most players aren’t Ron Artest.
Instead of sensibly passing the ball, Artest instead tries a shot fake, followed by jab steps (faking no one), before concluding this wonderful possession by launching an off-balance leaner that would make Antoine Walker shimmy in giddiness.
Oh, did I mentioned that there were still 11 seconds still left on the shot clock?
Sadly, for those of you who were under the impression that the entire scenario was fictional:
Covered in part II: Smush Parker, Kevin Willis (Raptors), Kwame Brown