The NBA has arguably devoted more attention and funding to clean up their brand image than any other sports organization in the world. From banning certain types of clothing to being part of epic charity events, the NBA wants to give the world the impression that it’s all roses and candy in their organization. That’s far from the case and no sports organization is perfect in this crazy world we live in.
The NBA of today is very different from the NBA of decades ago. Situations and events that happened in the past may not have been looked down upon at the time compared to today’s standards in the sport. You may ask yourself what’s the big deal with this image? Well, if it involves two legends fighting, then it’s a big problem for a squeaky clean NBA.
Other images may represent an entire situation instead of just one moment in time during the game. This would involve a racist owner or official who loves to gamble. An image can say a thousand words and that’s why the NBA is so involved in their public relations department. With that said, we hope you savages enjoy these photos the NBA doesn’t want you to see.
15 Immaturity On The Court
Lance Stephenson was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2010 and by 2014 he worked his way into an excellent role on the team. His ability as a defender was top level and he could make the open shot, giving him an excellent path towards greatness. His defensive prowess earned him the right to cover the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James, and did he ever disappoint.
His immaturity showed throughout the night as he would try to flop his way to a call and eventually blew in LeBron’s ear. His antics and hijinks in the game didn’t sit well with the NBA and the entire league. It was petty, bush league stuff and his career hasn’t been the same since. What Stephenson did isn’t basketball and the NBA would rather you not see it.
14 Jeff Van Gundy's New Ride
Once upon a time, the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat were the hottest rivalry in the NBA. It wasn’t just the amazing nail biter games or east coast trash talking rights, but the physicality every time they met that made it such a great rivalry. In Game Four of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Heat’s 6’10” Alonzo Mourning got into a fight with Knick’s 6’6” Larry Johnson. As these two huge players clashed, a 5’9” head coach of the Knicks, Jeff Van Gundy, tried to break up the fight by holding onto Alonzo’s leg.
Never before had the NBA seen a head coach try to break up a fight the way Gundy did and it was truly embarrassing for the NBA. With Mourning suspended, the Knicks would win the series and everyone would ask the question: "Is Gundy biting Mourning or holding on for dear life?"
13 Rodney Stuckey Collapsing
What happened to Rodney Stuckey is a firm reminder of how precious our lives are and that even if you’re a professional athlete, you’re still susceptible to the dangers of life. In 2010, Stuckey collapsed on the Pistons’ bench during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After collapsing on the court, EMTs put him on a stretcher and applied an oxygen mask. Stuckey’s vital signs were stable by the time he reached the hospital and he’s had a solid career ever since. Why might the NBA not want you to see this?
The NBA builds their image and brand on indestructible athletes and basketball being a safe sport. For fans to witness something like this live in the arena and on television could seriously hurt the business. Let’s not kid ourselves, basketball players have died on the court before. Boston Celtics’ Reggie Lewis collapsed and died in a practice and collegiate player Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount University died during a game.
12 Willis Reed Versus The Lakers
When most basketball fans hear the name Willis Reed, they’re reminded of him limping onto the court in Game Seven of the 1970 NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks’ center didn’t contribute much in the stat lines with just four points, however, he gave them the confidence, energy, and determination to win their first title. What many basketball historians do know about Reed and the Lakers is an infamous brawl in October of 1966.
Reed was banging with Lakers forward Rudy LaRusso before things reached a climax in the third quarter. Reed would fight with LaRusso, but it doesn’t end there, as he would literally fight the entire Laker bench and whoop them. Fortunately for fans, footage has been found of the famous incident. As for the NBA, they would rather you didn't know one of their legends fought in such a crazy manner.
11 Brawling With The Dream
The NBA playoffs are an incredibly tense and high pressure environment. That’s why it’s no surprise player’s pop off on each other while the season is on the line. One of the more famous brawls in the playoffs involves the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. In the 1986 Western Conference Championship, Rockets’ standout center Hakeem Olajuwon mixed it up with Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak. A few punches were thrown and Olajuwon was choked and thrown to the ground.
The game ended with the Rockets winning and facing the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The NBA may have enjoyed the brawl because it brought more media and attention to the playoffs, however, by today’s standards, the NBA would absolutely hated this. They rather you didn't know a Hall of Famer caused one of the most massive brawls in playoff history.
10 Alpha Versus Beta
The NBA wants their legends to compete on the court in a very physical way, however, the last thing they want is their number one star fighting with an up and coming stud. In 1993, the Chicago Bulls were playing the Indiana Pacers in a regular season game when Michael Jordan hit Reggie Miller with a haymaker. Jordan is very physical and aggressive, but no one has ever seen him like that night. What’s crazy is Jordan wasn’t ejected from the game while Miller was.
The MVP and scoring champion was later suspended one game and fined $10,000 for his actions. Miller received a $6,000 fine, but was never suspended. The NBA hates fights, especially when it involves the best of the best. Jordan took the slap on the wrist and went on to win his third straight title.
9 Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King Day is supposed to be a day of coming together and praising the Baptist minister and social activist who was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. The NBA makes a big deal out of this day and always puts on great games for the families at home. In 2001, the New York Knicks faced the San Antonio Spurs on MLK day and everything was going fine until Knicks’ Marcus Camby wanted to fight Dan Ferry.
It wasn’t bad that it just was a fight, but involved a white man and a black man. The imagery of this fight is the exact opposite of what the NBA was trying to do on MLK day. It also doesn’t help that Camby hit his own coach, Jeff Van Gundy, when he tried to get into the middle and break it up.
8 Saying High, New York Style
As we mentioned earlier, the New York Knicks and Miami Heat had a great rivalry in the 90s. Knicks shooting guard, John Starks, decided to give the Heat fans a big thank you in 1997 when walking back to the bench during a game. Pretty much everyone got to see the finger and it surely made for a great moment.
However, the NBA would rather their employees not insult their consumers and this type of behavior is a big no-no in today’s world. Starks is one of the only players that could shoot his team out of an NBA Championship in Game Seven of the 1994 NBA Finals and still be loved by the city. Every true Knicks fan knows the Knicks wouldn’t have gotten to the big dance without him. This is why Knicks fans love Starks.
7 Dr. J Versus Bird
The NBA wants you to know about two legends of the 1980s, Larry Bird and Julius Erving. Both Superstars contributed to the resurgence of the sport in the 80s and will forever go down as basketball Gods. The NBA wants you to know about the high flying dunks coming from Erving and the extremely poised shooting of Bird.
What they rather you forget is both legends literally grabbing each other by the neck. Today, many Superstars are great friends and you would never see this, however, in the 80s, Superstars hated each other and it definitely made the sport that much better for fans. It’s a violent image the NBA rather not share and we don’t blame them for their reasons.
6 Rated R LeBron James
Sometimes a camera may catch a moment it wasn’t supposed to. You really can’t blame the camera guy in this situation, as he was trying to film the Cavs bench. Regardless, Lebron’s manhood was exposed on live television during a huddle in the 2015 NBA Finals. As the Cleveland Cavaliers discussed a game plan during a timeout, LeBron is seen adjusting his shorts.
The high camera angle basically shows his goods and now the entire world can see the private parts of the greatest basketball player of this era. We’re pretty sure ABC felt embarrassed for the exposure and we’re definitely positive LeBron wasn’t happy about it. How can he be? He never got paid for the tease. Fortunately, the rated R image didn’t take away from a great NBA Finals.
5 The Punch
It was considered the most devastating punch in the NBA at the time and that claim can still hold up today. On December 9th, 1977, the Houston Rockets faced the Los Angeles Lakers in a regular season contest, however, by the end of the night, this contest would be anything but regular. After a scuffle started between Rockets’ Kevin Kunnert and Lakers’ Kermit Washington, teammates began to run to the action to help their teammates.
Rudy Tomjanovich ran from the other side of the court only to be dropped by Washington with a violent punch. The punch was so ferocious, Tomjanovich suffered a broken jaw, broken nose, fractured skull, other facial injuries and leaked spinal fluid. Even though Rudy lost consciousness and the left side of his face was smashed in, he buried the hatchet with Washington and continued his career in the NBA.
4 Dennis Rodman... Enough Said
Dennis Rodman started with the 'Bad Boy' Detroit Pistons and took that mentality with him after he left the team. In a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the then-Chicago Bulls star would destroy the groin area of cameraman Eugene Amos because he got in the way of a hustle play. Rodman was clearly in the wrong and the kick led to Amos being carried off on a stretcher.
Rodman’s 15 rebounds that night didn’t matter anymore, as he would be suspended 11 games and lose $1 million from the incident. Rodman wouldn’t learn his lesson and continued his persona as a bad guy for the rest of his career. It’s one thing for players to attack other players, it’s another to inflict violence on an innocent person at courtside.
3 A Dirty Official
It’s not just one in-game image, but every NBA image taken with Tom Donaghy in the shot. That’s a lot of images for an official who started his career in 1994 and ended in 2007. If you forgot or don’t know who Donaghy is, he was the NBA official who got caught by the FBI for gambling and shaving points in games.
In 2007, The New York Post broke the news that the FBI was investigating Donaghy for betting on games and controlling the point spread. The investigation proved Donaghy spent thousands on bets during two seasons (2005-07) and had been contacted by the mob to work on more schemes. Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in 2008.
2 A Racist Owner
In 1981, Donald Sterling bought the San Diego Clippers for $12.5 million and proceeded to have one of the worst franchises in the history of the NBA until they drafted standout Blake Griffin and traded for All-Star Chris Paul. Things were looking up for the franchise until a scathing private phone call between Sterling and his mistress was made public in 2014.
The conversation was full of racist quotes and Sterling’s legacy would begin to crumble. Sterling’s comments affected a majority black league, especially the players on the team who had to perform in the playoffs with this hanging over their heads. Sterling’s wife would sell the team for $2 billion and would later sue the NBA over the sale of the team. Half of that $2 billion is in an escrow account managed by the NBA pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
1 Malice At The Palace
It was just another ordinary night in the NBA on November 19th, 2004, until a scuffle between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers turned into a full-fledged riot. It was the first time these two teams met since the Eastern Conference Championship the year before and the tension-packed the Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons legend Ben Wallace gave Metta World Peace a hard foul and the two teams got into a pushing match. Peace decided to relax on the announce table while officials broke up the brawl. However, things would spiral when a fan threw a drink at him.
This enraged Peace, as he literally ran into the crowd and started swinging at consumers. Peace’s teammate, Stephen Jackson, joined in the assault before other players and team personal could settle them down. At this point, fans sprawled onto the court and started fighting Pacer players. The entire chaos is one of the darkest stains in professional sports. When it was all said and done, ten players were suspended and Peace would sit out the remainder of the season (86 games).