The NBA cares a lot about its brand, image, and public relations. You can argue they do a better job than any of the other sports organizations in the nation. Commissioner Adam Silver is just like his mentor and former commissioner David Stern in regards to discipline and keeping the NBA clean from scandals. With social media and a 24/7 news cycle, things can slip up and embarrassments can happen.
When no one sees the image how can anyone talk about it, right? Well, the NBA hopes new fans or future generations never see these photos otherwise they may think twice about the NBA that touts themselves as being squeaky clean. As a quick sidenote, one type of image we left off this list is mugshots because there are so many of them. From Hall of Famers like Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant, to journeymen like Jordan Hill, J.R. Smith, and Lamar Odom, and even legendary color commentator Marv Albert, there are just too many mugshots to list.
The images we did choose are on this list because of how it affects the image of NBA both short and long term. A lot of these photos have to do with embarrassment, but others are on a more serious level.
Either way, we hope you enjoy.
15 Guns and the NBA
The NBA hates guns and violence, as they should. That’s why one of best players to don a Washington Wizards uniform has been swept under the rug like nothing ever happened. In 2010, Gilbert Arenas was charged with a single count of carrying a pistol without a license. It’s a felony, but Arenas reached a plea agreement. The charge came about after Arenas got into an altercation with his teammate at the time, Javaris Crittenton.
Both argued over money while playing a game of cards. The incident heightened when both brandished guns in the locker room while other players were present. Arenas was never the same player and Crittenton left the NBA and is now serving a 23-year prison sentence for a shooting gone wrong. The photo of Arenas using his fingers as guns will never be seen in any NBA content. They won’t support a gun slinging lifestyle and it’s the right call.
14 Sexual Harassment
Isiah Thomas helped the Detroit Pistons win a couple of NBA Championships during his career and is considered one of the greatest point guards to ever grace the court. He then got into coaching and was pretty solid before moving to the New York Knicks, where he signed a deal with the team to become the President of Basketball Operations in 2003. It went all downhill from there as Thomas would never get the Knicks on the right track.
His failure to create a great New York Knicks team wasn’t the biggest disappointment during his tenure but the sexual harassment lawsuit involving Anucha Browne Sanders, a former New York Knicks Executive was. Sanders was awarded a $11.6 million settlement and the NBA would rather you forget about it.
13 The Curious Case of Michael Beasley
Michael Beasley was an absolute monster while playing for Kansas State during his time in college. He averaged 26.2 points, a nation high 12.4 rebounds, and double-doubles with 28. He would earn All-American honors and won both Big 12 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards. In the 2008 draft, he was selected by the Miami Heat with the second overall pick.
His storied basketball career would then spiral down from there. Beasley would never live up to the hype of where he was drafted and fell into obscurity. In 2009, he posted a photo of his new tattoo but like every photo that’s ever posted online, people examine the whole image. What fans found was a plastic bag filled with a substance that is banned in the NBA, known as marijuana. Not a good image for the NBA or Beasley.
12 The Decision
What happens when the hottest free agent in the history of the NBA has to make the choice of leaving his hometown team for greener pastures or sticking it out? You get an ego maniac that became the first sports athlete ever to get his very own hour long show about where he was going to decide to play next. The quote “I'm taking my talents to South Beach” will live on longer than when our bones turn to dust.
After he declared that he would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, Cleveland went into a state of emergency and every person who doesn’t like the Miami Heat would chastise LeBron for his decision. Most weren't upset about the decision, but rather how it was presented. We don’t think any other superstar will get his own show to declare which team he will sign for ever again.
11 The Crazy World of Dennis Rodman
In no way is TheSportster condemning anyone who wants to dress the way they want, however, it was a big blow to the testosterone driven NBA to see one of their ultimate bad boys wear a gown during his book tour for his autobiography “Bad as I Wanna Be.” Rodman is as flamboyant as they come, but no one thought his fashion sense would reach this level of crying out for attention.
The photo strips away from the perception that Rodman was an enforcer on the court and one of the greatest rebounders and defenders of his generation. This wouldn’t be the last time Rodman donned some flashy clothes. Even though this was pretty bad, it’s not as bad as what Rodman did next...
10 North Korea Basketball
What do the NBA and North Korea have in common? Both used basketball players to further their branding and public relations. In 2014, many former NBA players, including Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, Vin Baker, Doug Christie, and Craig Hodges, followed Dennis Rodman to the home country of a despot and psychopath. We would like to think this was a Saturday Night Live skit, but for some reason Rodman and the dictator Kim Jong-un have actually hit it off as friends.
Rodman decided to bring “basketball diplomacy” to the country and convinced a few former players to follow him. The NBA didn’t like that one bit. To be fair to the other players, they stated they came to broaden relationships and show two cultures with a profound difference can come together under basketball.
9 Best Friends
Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are like Batman and Robin, Bert and Ernie, Han Solo and Chewbacca or Simon and Garfunkel. They took a defected Dallas Mavericks team and turned it into a viable and productive franchise. Like all good things, it came to an end and in 2004, Nash left for the team that originally drafted him, the Phoenix Suns. Both players went on to have stellar careers.
Nowitzki would win a championship against a powerhouse Miami Heat team in 2011 and Nash would become a multiple time league MVP. Both are great community guys, awesome leaders, and best friends for life. That’s why it’s not all too shocking to see a couple of photos of them getting more than a bit tipsy, something the NBA would rather you didn't see.
8 A Boozy Legend
For those that practice the religion of Jordanism, their savior can do no wrong in the public eye. Regardless if he owns an NBA franchise, is considered the greatest basketball player ever, and has brought more attention to the game than anyone else ever could, the NBA still rather not see pictures of him inebriated popping up on the web.
This image that’s been floating around depicts Jordan in a very rare and personal moment, as he’s in a very relaxed state of mind. Alcohol can turn the most peaceful people into ragging lunatics, but that’s not that case here as Jordan is in his fun zone and enjoying life. We wonder how many shots it took for Jordan to reach this state of euphoria.
7 The Punch
One minute Rudy Tomjanovich was running to his teammates and the next he was waking up with the left side of his face completely shattered. It’s knowns as “The Punch Heard Around the World” and it involved Tomjanovich and Kermit Washington during a Houston Rockets and L.A. Lakers game in 1977. With more television sets in family homes across the country in the 70s, many were able to witness arguably the nastiest punch ever thrown in the game.
Tomjanovich was running like a freight train to help out a teammate in a scuffle and on the way Washington’s fist landed on his face causing a fractured skull, broken jaw, broken nose, and spinal fluid leakage. Tomjanovich almost lost his life, but both players made up and put the past behind them.
Social media went from a local bush fire to an all-out state of emergency from its birth until now. Every prominent athlete, team, and organization use social media tools to hype up their brand, image, and public relations. It can also be a double edge sword as New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony found out when he tweeted, “"I got 5k for whoever see @ihatekatstacks and slap the sh** out her pigeon face a**. Real talk. U f***ed with the right one now!"
The NBA doesn’t like it when their Superstars issue a $5,000 bounty on Twitter and they rather you not see the tweet either. Melo did say his twitter was hacked but the damage was already done when it went viral. A word to athletes, don’t put a bounty on Twitter.
5 R-Rated Green
This photo is too graphic to even be seen on TheSportster, that’s how bad it is. Draymond Green my not have the same name recognition as his teammates Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but he’s certainly one of the top NBA players in the league. What many athletes of this caliber have to consider is their personal lives are under constant surveillance by the public, especially on social media.
In July, Green accidentally posted a picture of his junk on Snapchat. Insert LeBron James getting his privates smacked by Green joke here. At first he claimed he was hacked, but then admitted it was an accident on Twitter. We wonder how many seminars or memos the NBA pumps out to their players about the bad publicity one can receive from a simple post gone wrong.
4 Jordan and the MLB
This is one sports conspiracy theory that will never go away. During the prime of his career, Michael Jordan left the NBA to pursue his passion for baseball. He played one season of Double-A ball and before making his way back to the NBA. The theory is that Jordan was issued a secret one-year suspension by former commissioner David Stern for gambling.
Author Richard Espinosa claims Jordan lost millions to him in his book, “Michael & Me.” Regardless of the conspiracy theory, the one thing we’re sure about is the NBA hated seeing their greatest player ever wearing a MLB uniform. It’s like if Ronald McDonald quit on McDonald’s and brought his talents to Wendy's. If the NBA has their way, any image of Jordan in a baseball uniform would be disintegrated on the spot.
3 Corrupt Officials
This isn’t about just one picture, but every and any piece of media content that shows Tim Donaghy referring a NBA game. If you're unaware, Donaghy was a veteran official in the NBA for 13 seasons before being ousted for manipulating games due to a gambling problem in 2007. The FBI concluded that for the last two seasons of his career, Donaghy did affect the point spread in those games.
Now we know a lot of sports fans like to blame the officials and it’s mostly just coming from frustration, but now we have proof that some officials do have shady sides. What’s even scarier is that Donaghy said every NBA ref gambles. No other officials had ties to the scandal and the NBA would rather forget the whole thing ever happened.
2 Racism in the NBA
This photo has probably caused the top executives in the NBA to consider pouring bleach into their eyes. As we noted in the intro, the NBA has done a great job with their branding and marketing. They really care about their image and what kinds of players represent the organization. That’s why it was shocking to hear the (former) owner of the LA Clippers spew racist comments during a private conversation that was recorded.
The woman in the photo was Sterling’s mistress, V. Stiviano. Sterling wanted his girl to stop associating with people of color. It’s a little ironic that he owned an NBA team that has a great deal of black employees who get people to pay for tickets. Or maybe Sterling thought of himself as an old school plantation owner.
Whatever the case may be, the NBA hates to be reminded that one of their very own owners is also a racist.
1 Malice at the Palace
It’s arguably the most embarrassing moment in NBA history and it all took place on a live ESPN broadcast in front of millions watching at home. In 2004, the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers were locked in an epic rivalry in their division. The game took place in Detroit and with less than a minute left, players started shoving each other. A fan then through a cup at Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest) while he was relaxing on the scorer’s table.
All hell then broke loose, as Metta World Peace would lunge after the fans in the stands, causing a massive brawl between players and those attending the game. The incident was one of a kind and created a fire storm of disciplinary action. Ten players were disciplined because of their actions.