Players That Make You Cringe – Part 1

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:

Antoine Walker

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

The shimmy of a cringe legend

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.

Commence the Shimmy!


Milt Palacio

Who?

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.

Nope.

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

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.

The Ron Artest Shimmy

Despite all that however, Ron Artest currently epitomizes the All-NBA Cringe Team.

Consider this:

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

The List: Best NBA Writers

I am an admitted hoops addict.

I love playing basketball, buying basketball accessories with no immediate need for it (hello shooting sleeves!), and analyzing the sport. From The Big Lead’s comments section to fiercely debating with friends, I’m in my element when discussing statistics, legacies, and match-up problems.

I’ve been reading basketball analysis on a daily basis since I was in elementary school. Over time, I’ve transitioned from reading Doug Smith’s Toronto Star newspaper columns at the age of 9, to biographical books, and eventually, the internet. In the last twelve years, I’ve read the works of many writers who discuss basketball for a living.

Based on that knowledge, I’ve compiled a list of the writers that I consider to be absolute must reads for basketball analysis . While some of these gentlemen are excellent at weaving on-court drama with narratives, others are distinguished in their ability to provide detailed on-court analysis. Each of them have their own strengths and distinctiveness. They are, in my opinion, the best in the business.

In no particular order:

Roland Lazenby – Laker Noise, Hoops Hype

Lazenby is likely not very well-known to people who only read the big four names in sports journalism on the net today (SI, ESPN, Fox, Yahoo). Essentially, being familiar with his writing either means that you’re a hardcore fanaddict (yes, I just made up a word) of the NBA, or, more likely, a hardcore Bulls/Lakers fan. Lazenby is best known for writing about these two franchises and its players, with the pinnacle of his work being (in my opinion) Blood on the Horns: The Long Strange Ride of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (1998), which takes you behind the scenes into the last season of the infamous Bulls dynasty. You can currently find Lazenby’s work at Laker Noise or Hoops Hype. He also has a Twitter page he often updates.

Recommended reading: This will always remain one of my favorite articles on the web.


Bill Simmons – ESPN

The Sports Guy

There’s not really much left to say about Simmons that hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseam on the web. Chances are, if you’re a sports fanatic that cares enough to read about it on ESPN, you’re familiar with Simmons’ work. I started reading the Sports Guy around 2002 when I was just 13 years old, and have been reading him regularly ever since (though I was NOT prepared for his nasal voice when I clicked on my first podcast).

At this time, Simmons is probably one of the most popular sports writers in the world. Though the quality of his writing declined in the last year or so, he seems to have regained some of his vigor recently, as seen by his entries on Grantland (plus he gets to swear!).

I find him to be the perfect blend of pop culture and sports, and he seems to have (thankfully) decreased the amount of outdated TV and movie references in his columns. I think he’s done an excellent job connecting with his audience as he has progressed, especially his younger readers.

One thing that needs to stop however, are those morons typing “SIMMONS!” within the YouTube comments page after visiting links that Bill posts within his columns. The Sports Guy is an influential writer who has, over time, essentially transformed into the Tyler Durden of blog-based sports writing (seriously, find another sports writer on the web who has enough devotion from their followers to incite 50+ comments on a linked video simply proclaiming “SIMMONS IS GOD!“).

Simmons can obviously be read at ESPN and now Grantland.

Recommended reading: I won’t recommend a specific column because he’s had too many memorable ones over the years, but some of my favorite theme-based columns of his include the Vengeance Scale, as well the Reader Mailbag.


 

Charley Rosen – Fox Sports

Rosen can be found at Fox Sports, and readers seem to either really like or hate his writing style. To me, he is the Hubie Brown of basketball analysis. Rosen’s columns feature in-depth analysis that distinguishes itself from other writers due to his coaching prowess (he was an assistant coach to Phil Jackson’s CBA team in the early 80s), and it is evident in his writing. While most writers (specifically on ESPN) tend to pacify athletes and criticize them in a sugar-coated manner, Rosen (bless his heart) will detail the reasons why he dislikes a player on the court. His assessments are brutal to read if you are a fan of the player or team, but they are usually very objective and truthful. For example, while most writers were busy praising Shaq and fondly writing their memories of him in columns, Rosen also praised Shaq, but revolved his column around the premise that his fatness prevented him from being a greater legend. In his characteristically deadpan style, Rosen casually wrote that “even though the Lakers three-peated, Shaq continued to expand. At one point, he weighed so much that only a cattle scale could make an accurate measurement — approximately 375 pounds.

Rosen has a unique writing style that is very refreshing in comparison to other NBA writers due to his frankness and honestly. He is not trying to be soft in his criticism to get closer with the players and will criticize players on what he perceives to be weaknesses (e.g – “LeBron James must keep his mouth shut and dig deep inside his heart-of-hearts to find the wherewithal to shrug off the immense pressure and become a Jordanesque closer.”)

You can find his columns at Fox Sports.


Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports

A lot of people seem to dislike Adrian Wojnarowski (for the sake of my fingers, I’ll simply refer to him as Woj hereafter). It is very likely that those same people are also fans or supporters of Lebron James or the Miami Heat. As an admitted Lebron James “hater” (who cries himself to sleep nightly because I have to go back to my pathetic life after watching his continuous failures), I love Woj’s columns. To me, he expertly blends on-court drama with off-court narratives.

However, I will admit that his Lebron bashing is somewhat exaggerated at times. I dislike Lebron more than the average fan (I’ve been hating on him since it was cool to hate on him), but its gotten to the point that Woj’s shots at Lebron over the years are numerous enough to compile a list of them. I have not read any of his books (one of which was a best seller), but his penchant for pushing a specific narrative is, in my opinion, uncanny. For example, while he paints Kobe Bryant in heroic stances, Woj will often go the extra mile to discredit Lebron’s image through his writing. Again, as someone who does not care much for Lebron, I love it; however,  other fans might feel it displays a clear lack of objectivity.

One thing you’ll always notice about Woj’s columns are his inclusion of anonymous tidbits from NBA personnel, mostly used in columns about Lebron. For example, when discussing the Mavericks winning the 2011 championship, Woj cited an “Eastern Conference star” as saying that “right now all [Lebron] is doing is helping D-Wade get his second ring.”

How can any NBA fan not enjoy that?

Recommended reading: Woj covers a variety of NBA topics, but in my opinion, he is at his best when analyzing Lebron James. His clear disdain for the man is amusing at times, and ultimately leaves readers curious as to how badly Lebron must have wronged Woj for him to so demonstratively dislike him. Seriously, if you “hate” Lebron James, you should be reading every one of his columns and nodding along.

Woj can be found at Yahoo! Sports.


Matt McHale – Basketbawful, By The Horns

That’s bawful.

Basketbawful is probably the funniest basketball blog on the net, and as a result, McHale is the only blog writer I have featured on my list. I don’t read McHale’s work on By The Horns, but Basketbawful presents basketball analysis quite uniquely. The main premise of Basketbawful is to feature the lowlights of every aspect of an NBA game, from terrible post-game quotes, to terrible stats and on-court decisions. I mean, just look at the banner, which features a shirtless Peja Stojaković (as well as his hairy chest), Greg Ostertag, and a (presumably) fibre-depraved Yao Ming. The site also features a “Worst of the Night in Pictures” (a must-see), and McHale’s own “Word of the Day” section, which features basketball definitions such as a “Duncan face” (“a look of incredulous, googly-eyed mock surprise that is directed at a referee”), and a “Mario” (“occasions in which a player logs less than one minute of playing time and therefore fails to compile any meaningful statistics”).

You can also read Matt’s at By The Horns.

Recommended reading: In addition to making witty observations about the NBA, McHale also has blog entries on topics unrelated to NBA basketball. The Pick-Up Diaries, which feature Matt’s adventures and observations as a pick-up baller, as well as his summer series Livin’ Large (a must read: it even features a future NBA all-star) are some of the best writing I have encountered on a sports blog.


Honourable mentions: Chris Ballard (“The Art of a Beautiful Game” is a necessary book for every hoops addict out there) and Jack McCallum (ditto for “Seven Seconds or Less”).


Now that you’ve read my list, who do YOU think are the best NBA writers in the business?

Feel free to discuss in the comments section.

Memories of Vince Carter

With the off-season here, and a pending lockout coming, it is very possible that there won’t be much to talk about for some time.  As such, I’m preparing in advance by discussing pointless NBA related stories, varying from amusing to sentimental. Today, I look back on my memories of Vince Carter, and coerce a parallel between his career with his Twitter page. Apparently, that’s possible – or at least I hope so.


Half-Man.

Half-Amazing.

Vince Carter was one of my favorite players from 1998 until around 2002. This past year, people were enamoured with Blake Griffin’s dunks (which were undoubtedly awesome). However, at 6-7, Vince not only had Blake’s dunking power, but also had a greater arsenal of creativity in his dunks, in addition to being a more complete player. Whether it was dunks (one of my favorite unheralded dunks of all time), game-winners, three pointers, or passing ability, Vince was undoubtedly a franchise player early in his career. With his presence alone, he managed to infuse life back into a franchise that had finished the season before his arrival with a 16-66 record.

Being from Toronto, I followed Vince’s career very closely during his time here. From scoring 39 over Duncan and the Spurs in 2000 (and dunking over The Admiral), to dropping 51 in the Raptors’ first ever nationally televised game against the Suns, Carter was my hero at 11 years old. I even imitated his free throw shooting routine when I played basketball.

Likewise, Toronto loved him, and many probably still do (we boo cause we love?). I still root for him to succeed as a player because he truly put the Raptors on the map and largely defined my childhood in the process. No, we haven’t seen a franchise player like him since (Bargnani and Bosh were never franchise players), and no, the Raptors haven’t been the same since his departure. To deny Vince’s impact in Toronto is to fail in understanding that we booed him because like Cleveland with Lebron James, he had a profound influence on the city.

Of course, injuries piled up, and Carter’s laziness and lackadaisical attitude to the game of basketball ultimately took its toll. Somewhere along the way, Vince Carter went from being a likely certified HOF player, to likely concluding his career as one of the most underachieving players in the history of the NBA. He had the tools to become better than Kobe Bryant. I say that because there was a time, specifically in his second and third seasons, that Vince was better or equal to Kobe Bryant. Check Carter’s 2001 numbers of 27 points, 4 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1 block, and 1.5 steals per game – he was an MVP candidate. However, Kobe continued to rise his game and was driven to be the best in the league.

Carter, meanwhile, never reached up to the potential that WE saw in him. My only guess is that he didn’t see it in himself. More sadly, for one of the most gifted athletes in the history of the league – someone who had the potential to be the best player of his generation – basketball was likely just a means to an end.

Which brings me to this post. After he got traded to Orlando, I really thought Vince would finally redeem himself and show the world what I had seen in him all those years ago in Toronto – a greatly gifted player who was largely misunderstood.

He did not.

Instead, the Magic traded him after one season for Hedo freaking Turkolgu, who was essentially the laziest player on the 2009-2010 Raptors and a waste of cap space.

Now in Phoenix, VC is essentially in NBA purgatory (sorry, Steve). After a career filled with disappointment, he has even gone from the classic #15 jersey that I’ll always remember him by to an ugly #25 (seriously, just look at it) that seems disconnected, out of place. Likewise, he went from being that dude who sold out arenas to rocking an awkward-looking beard and being a largely irrelevant player in the NBA.

I reached out to Vince on Twitter the other day, telling him that he was my favourite player growing up and that I thought Toronto should retire his jersey.  I said it because I believed it, and because he was huge reason (along with Bryant) that I became the hoops junkie that I am). He never replied or retweeted my post, which is understandable – I’m sure he has tons of other posts to attend to (Hilarious side note: most of Carter’s tweets are directed at rap-video models with cool names like CINNABUNNS and Scarlett.Who can blame him? Half-man Half-Casanova!).

I’m not here to judge Vince Carter on who he tweets or what he tweets about. Through his Twitter page, however, all I wanted to see was that Vince at least has some passion left in him for basketball (and not just hitting up women). You’ll notice it with pretty much every other NBA player’s Twitter feed – the words “gym”, and “shooting” always appear, as does general basketball observations.

Vince’s Twitter feed, surprisingly, seems less like that of a basketball (especially dunk) legend and more of a guy who has lots of time on his hands. No tweets about hitting up the gym, no tweets about the NBA Finals. Instead, there’s lots of tweets to video vixens.

Unfortunately, that realization essentially sums up Carter’s career as a basketball player. The talent was always there, but the passion essentially eroded after 3 years and one major setback (his “jumper’s knee” injury in 2001-2002).

Just before I was about to close his Twitter feed however, I saw this, and it concludes what I always thought was true: it seems that VC misses the glory years of limitless potential just like the rest of us.

Thanks for the memories, Vince.