10-31-2002, 10:31 AM
Basketball is a game, but sometimes is a life concern topic, like Read to Achieve, or this picture:
Harvesting Goodwill: Arvydas Sabonis gets a hug while serving meals at the Blazers Community Builders Harvest Dinner on Monday.
Base Line Guy
10-31-2002, 11:00 AM
I saw this earleir today, it is a great pic. It's at some charity thing or a shelter in POR.
10-31-2002, 12:23 PM
A more cynical perspective...
SPORTS OF THE TIMES
What Counts Lies Under the Facade
By SELENA ROBERTS
THE freedom of the road: it's a top down, untethered state of mind for many people, and an escape route from the conscience for some basketball players.
As another pro season begins, so does the seduction of independence. Whether a player is giving in to a midnight plate of fries at the Indianapolis Steak 'N Shake or mulling over a delicious dish at the Men's Club in Houston, temptations are everywhere.
As one married Knick said not many seasons ago, a "wedding ring is optional" on the road. But while players can levitate like hummingbirds at the rim, and perform spin moves choreographed by cyclones, their desire to engage in a marital game of risk is no more pathetic than a salesman trolling the barfly scene while his wife sits at home.
It's the ramifications that differ. Superstars with manicured images are vulnerable to million-dollar shakedowns when someone seeks to expose an alternate reality.
If what Michael Jordan claims in a recently filed lawsuit is true, the woman he once paid $250,000 in exchange for her silence about their relationship a decade ago is trying to extort an extra $5 million. Jordan is not discussing it, but his pals can understand the predicament.
"It's every player's worst fear," Jordan's former Chicago mate Scottie Pippen said after Blazers practice in Portland, Ore., on Monday. "If someone wants to get at your wealth, they have nothing to lose. You're the one under scrutiny."
Yet the burden of upholding a pristine image is so unnecessary. After years of expensive image maintenance, Jordan has apparently come to recognize the nonstick coating on his persona. Instead of striking a deal with the woman, he went public with the lawsuit, exposing himself to innuendo about his character by declaring his legal action.
And why not? If fans refused to rebuff him for his ties to underworld types like James Bouler, if using his family as a prop at retirement farewells didn't leave folks feeling hoodwinked, if an all-night gambling binge described in The Washington Post this summer didn't affect his Q-rating, why should a tryst?
These days, fans are either numb to player indiscretions or indifferent to superstar dirt. Even so, the charade continues. Players hire image consultants and cuddle up to the cameras, all prompted by a league bent on engineering false perceptions.
In a standard contract, a player is required to make a number of appearances to promote the league in an attempt to create a cozy relationship between the home team and the public. But if the athlete lives in a house designed for Liberace, and the community is being threatened by downsizing, how meaningful is a concocted bond?
Is it charity if giving is mandatory? Is it quality time if a player is on a cellphone at the soup kitchen?
Imagine if the facade were peeled away. There would be no more awkward juxtapositions, like the one on NBA.com a few days ago. Three weeks after Kurt Thomas was arrested on charges that he assaulted his wife and endangered the couple's child, he was mugging with kids at a Knicks reading group.
Imagine if there were truth in advertising. Instead of a player's all but claiming to be a member of Up With People in a soft-lens bio, he could fully disclose his likes (girls named Candy) and dislikes (Salt Lake City).
What about the financial savings to players? The athletes could laugh in the face of a high-heeled extortionist and ask, "I may be slime, but what are you?"
What about the release from guilt for players who feel pressured to wear a W.W.J.D. bracelet on their shooting wrist? The last thing some guys want to do after a game is ask themselves, What Would Jesus Do? He wouldn't be headed to Thee Doll House.
So, take away the clutter of whipped-up images, remove the suggestions by personality gurus, and the truly selfless players would stand out based on their pure motives, not mandatory photo ops.
The air would be clear enough to see Dikembe Mutombo's effort to build a hospital in Africa, to realize that Steve Smith has financed a building at his alma mater, to appreciate Shaquille O'Neal when he plays Santa on impromptu visits to the L.A. 'hoods.
The public doesn't have to know, and most likely doesn't care, if a player gives in to a buffet of temptation on the road, as long as it's legal. But people shouldn't be played as suckers for manufactured altruism. As Jordan has finally discovered, the truth doesn't have to hurt; it can be cost effective.
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