The NBA has a lot going for it right now. It has a strong global brand with a heavy reach in large markets like China. It has had recent super-teams like the Big Three in Miami or the Golden State Warriors of recent incarnation. It has super-stars in LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant. Former stars from Michael Jordan to Magic Johnson to Charles Barkley to Shaquille O’Neal are all still heavily involved with leaving a large handprint on the NBA’s success. It has Pop and Phil and Pat still making their own headlines in leadership positions.
Its hard to believe that just a generation ago, the league had an image problem, headlined by stars that were perceived as thugs. and an on-court game that featured ball-stopping and isolation one-on-one offense. The game is back to being beautiful and the players are all over the celeb stratosphere in fashion and entertainment. Things are good, and the NBA would like to keep it that way.
With that in mind… here are 15 Things The NBA Doesn't Want You To Know About Their Biggest Stars.
15 15. Chris Paul Is The Reason DeAndre Jordan Almost Left The Clippers
Chris Paul, according to sources close to the situation, originally only made half-hearted attempts at keeping DeAndre Jordan when the big man verbally agreed to leave Los Angeles for the Dallas Mavericks in 2015. And all the Clippers’ star center wanted from Paul was a high five, from which he thought he was often left hanging during CP3’s interactions with other teammates while walking off court during time outs.
Jordan wasn’t the first to be off put of course by Paul’s leadership style, his constant intensity and barking at teammates and the refs. In Doc Rivers’ first season with the team, he worried about how his point guard reacted to failure. “When he has a game he doesn't like,” the Clippers coach commented, “he gets real hard on himself, and I don't know if I like that or not, yet, to be honest.”
Paul did end up joining teammates to convince DJ to stay, but it came perilously close to breaking up the Clips’ current core.
14 14. This Is The First Season In Five Attempts That Anthony Davis Has Played More Than 70 Games
Its bad enough that one of the elite players in the NBA is being wasted on a small market team that hasn’t won a playoff game in his five seasons with the franchise, but Anthony Davis is beginning to look like a player who may never stay on the court long enough to buck the trend. He was shut down at the end of last season for the final fourteen games with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and left knee injury. This after a medial collateral ligament sprain in the left knee in his rookie season and a right shoulder sprain in February 2015. He has also previously sat out for ankle, hand, finger, toe, groin, chest and back related issues.
By comparison, LeBron James has played less than 70 games only twice in fourteen seasons, Dirk Nowitzki four times in nineteen seasons.
13 13. Dirk Nowitzki’s First Fiancé Had Twenty Aliases
Speaking of Nowitzki, while he has been durable on the court, his decision making in his personal life has been pretty questionable. He was once engaged to a woman named Cristal Taylor only to cut it off after she was sentenced to five years in prison for a probation violation in Missouri, following being arrested in his home in May of 2009. Shortly thereafter, she claimed to be pregnant with his child, only to have a court ordered test asked for by Nowitzki’s legal team prove negative. A private investigation as a precursor to a prenuptial agreement (which those in his circle urged him to get), revealed outstanding warrants for Taylor in two states, and a reported use of more than 20 aliases, including “Crissy Travino”, which the St. Louis native used to convince Nowitzki she was of Brazilian heritage.
12 12. Derrick Rose May Have Won His Sexual Assualt Case, But He Lost Our Respect
In October of 2016, a jury found Derrick Rose not liable in a civil lawsuit alleging he and two friends had gang-raped his ex-girlfriend. But his testimony painted an ugly portrait that stood in stark contrast to the image of the humble kid who had returned to try to lead his hometown Chicago Bulls to glory. Among the nuggets that Rose gave us was a response to a question as to why he and his friends didn’t discuss why they were going to the accusers home. “We men. You can assume,” he replied. He added “in my mind, she consented every time we had sex. Why wouldn’t she do it that time?” He then proceeded to pose for photos with jurors just minutes after the verdict came down.
The New York Knicks’ free-agent-to-be recently suffered a season-ending meniscus injury after a mild bounce back season following three down years in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how his now questionable character plays in the market this summer.
11 11. Jimmy Butler Stopped Trusting The Bulls’ Front Office Long Before This Season
In one of the NBA’s biggest markets Jimmy Butler has established himself as one of the few Eastern Conference stars who can go mano-a-mano with LeBron James and company in Cleveland, leading the Chicago Bulls to an unparalleled 4-0 record this season against their rivals. Unfortunately for the three time All-Star, his dysfunctional supporting squad went 34-39 against the rest of the league as of this writing and looked to barely sneak into the playoffs.
It is not surprising that Butler, subject of many trade rumors this season, is reportedly “as good as gone” from the team this summer, but apparently the tension between him and the front office goes back to even before he was a star. Following his third year with the Bulls, in 2014, after rejecting a lowball early extension offer from the club, a member of the front office apparently threatened to replace Butler in the rotation with Tony Snell if he didn’t sign. He hasn’t trusted them since.
10 10. Carmelo Anthony is a “user of people” according to a coach who knows him best… and its not Phil Jackson
Everybody knows that Carmelo Anthony, while unquestionably one of the best scorers in the NBA going on fifteen years, has a reputation as a ball hog and only trying on the offensive end of the court. But George Karl, Anthony’s coach for six seasons in Denver, took it a step further in his description of his former star player in a recently published memoir. “Carmelo was a true conundrum for me in the six years I had him,” Karl wrote. “He was the best offensive player I ever coached. He was also a user of people, addicted to the spotlight, and very unhappy when he had to share it.”
Phil Jackson has gotten much of the blame this season for taking shots at his star, including even having his former Hall of Fame player Scottie Pippin siding against him, giving Melo credit for “being very professional” during their very public recent feud. Perhaps Anthony has grown up a bit, but the fact remains that the man who may be a top ten all-time scorer in the NBA by the time his career is done has accomplished little on a team level besides making enemies with those above him.
9 9. Dwyane Wade Had A Child With Another Woman While With Gabrielle Union
While the celebrity couple was allegedly on a break due to both’s busy schedules, Wade was with a woman named Aja Metoyer, and she became pregnant with his third son, Xavier. To make matters worse, Metoyer than wrote a letter, published on BlackSportsOnline, addressed to Union, stating “I will send you a pictures of the bags your man left in the hotel room” during one of their rendezvous which she claims happened while the Wades were still together.
“My #WCW My #Beautifulblackqueen,” Wade wrote on Instagram shortly thereafter. “My life mistakes gave me you and my life mistakes almost made me lose you but your love has conquered all and I hope to spend the rest of my life with you…” Wade’s family affairs are certainly complicated, as he had to petition a judge to have his other two boys, Zaire and Zion, be allowed to move to Chicago with him, away from their mother, Siovaughn Funches. We hope that his “union with Union” provides some much needed stability moving forward.
8 8. Kyrie Irving Believes The Earth Is Flat
Its not that Kyrie Irving hasn’t traveled before. He was actually born across the globe in Australia. But, as he puts it, “I’ve seen a lot of things that my education system has said that was real that turned out to be completely fake. I don’t mind going against the grain in terms of my thoughts.”
Irving certainly did just that when he told Cleveland Cavaliers’ teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye on their podcast titled “Road Trippin’ with RJ and Channing” that “the Earth is flat.” He elaborated, “I’m telling you it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.” To make matters worse, current and former NBA stars Draymond Green and Shaquille O’Neal respectively came out in support of Irving’s assertion, as did WWE Wrestler AJ Styles.
7 7. Isaiah Thomas’s NBA Star Moniker Comes From A Failed Bet
While many assume that Isaiah Thomas is the son of the Pistons’ Hall-of-Famer, its quite the opposite, if there can be an opposite to such a thing. “My dad is from Inglewood, California, so he was a big Lakers fan growing up," Thomas revealed to the world during the pre-draft camp in Chicago in 2011. "He had a little bet with his friend that if Detroit beat the Lakers then he'd name his son Isiah Thomas. It happened.” Truth be told, Thomas was born in February of 1989, prior to the Finals that saw the Pistons take home their first NBA championship. By that time, James Thomas had actually learned to love the name, though mom preferred the biblical spelling, so the two great NBA point guards ended up a syllable apart.
In 2015, a reporter asked Thomas about his father’s playing days in the 1980s, and he politely played along, answering the questions as if Isiah was his real father.
6 6. The Spurs Are Worse On Defense With Kawhi Leonard On The Floor
He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a 2016-17 MVP candidate, but advance data reveals something pretty unexpected about Kawhi Leonard this year; opposing teams have scored about 8 more points per 100 possessions when he is on the court than when he is off. By comparison, that makes him the worst defender statistically on his entire club, and far behind other players with great defensive reputations like Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, and Chris Paul.
Last year, Leonard’s stats looked a lot more like his other respected peers, dropping way down from the 106 points per 100 possessions the team has allowed when he is on the floor this year, all the way to around 97. So what’s going wrong this season? Opposing teams are treating the Spurs defense when Leonard is on the court like its a 4 on 4 game, keeping whoever Leonard is defending stranded in a corner, even big scorers like Aaron Gordon and the aforementioned Butler. In other words, its not Leonard’s defense that’s declined, its the opposing team picking on his aging teammates.
5 5. Russell Westbrook Is A Ball Hog
Sure, this is probably not a big revelation if you’ve been following Westbrook’s Kobe Bryant impersonation this season. That said, the man is averaging a triple double, so that means he’s dishing assists like the best of them, good for third in the NBA currently. But take a look at some of Westbrook’s stats placed in a historical context. His usage percentage this season, a high level stat that basically means how many possessions a single player controls, is 41.8% as of this writing, easily eclipsing the Black Mamba’s record of 38.74% in 2005-06. His average of 24.2 field goal attempts and 10.2 free throw attempts place him in a category only shared by Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Michael Jordan.
Of course, these are not bad names to share a place in NBA history with, but of the six men who logged more than 2,200 minutes in a season with a usage rate of 36%, none won more than 45 games or made it out of round one of the playoffs. Westbrook may eclipse that win total, but we will have to see about the postseason.
4 4. James Harden Went Kardashian
Harden calls the year he dated Khloé Kardashian, in 2015, the “worst year” of his life, and that he “didn’t like all the attention.” He said a trip to Miami during the 2015-16 season was the final straw, as he was surrounded by paparazzi from the moment the plane landed. And “it was unnecessary stuff that I think trickled down to my teammates,” he added. Indeed perhaps its not just a change of coach and personnel that has allowed Harden and company to thrive to the tune of a nearly 15 game improvement this season. Khloé denied that their relationship was to blame for the Rockets’ struggles, but teammate and close friend Patrick Beverley described Harden as “just… distant” prior to their break-up.
Kardashian took matters further when she used her show “Kocktails with Khloe” to accuse Harden of cheating. “He’s really pissed she blasted him like that when, for the most part, he’s kept the relationship private,” a friend said about Harden. “But that’s a Kardashian for you.”
3 3. There Is Truly No Precedent For Kevin Durant’s “Cupcake” Move Signing With The Warriors
Sure, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade to make a super team with Miami in 2010, but that after the Heat suffered back-to-back first round exits. They were hardly as dominant as the 2015-16 incarnation of the Golden State Warriors, making it all the way to the NBA Finals, and, oh by the way, also setting the regular season won-loss record at 73-9 before adding Durant to the mix.
The only perhaps comparable occurrence to a star of KD’s caliber signing with a front-runner was Moses Malone joining the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers. Like Durant, he abandoned a team that was close to putting it together, having led the 1980-81 Houston Rockets all the way to the NBA Finals, only to fall to the Celtics in 6. He joined a team that already starred former MVP Julius Irving and, like this year’s Golden State squad, had made it to the finals just the season before. The bad news for the Spurs, Rockets, Celtics, and Cavs this year? Malone’s Sixers went on to sweep the Lakers to take the championship.
2 2. Steph Curry Should Have Been Suspended For Game Seven Of The NBA Finals
Overlooked after LeBron James took home the title for the Cleveland Cavaliers with their remarkable 3-1 comeback in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, Golden State’s star player got frustrated in Game Six, grabbed his mouth guard, hurled it into the stands, and hit a customer in the face… and just got fined $25,000.
When Steph Curry reached-in on LBJ for his sixth foul with 4:22 left in a game earning him an automatic ejection, he ended up hitting the son of one of the Cavs’ minority owners with his flying object. He immediately apologized, and certainly did not have a Rodman or Artest like history of bad on-court behavior, but as recently as 2006, the Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem got suspended for a playoff series game for a mouthpiece incident, when he threw it at a ref. Its hard for the current NBA administration to argue, in that light, that it doesn’t go out of its way to protect and give special treatment to its stars.
1 1. LeBron James Has Arguably Deserved The MVP Almost Every Year Since 2010-11
Its certainly not the best way to create interest in a league to acknowledge there is one player so valuable that nobody else could ever even match him over the course of a single season. If the six straight NBA Finals appearances wasn’t proof enough of his dominance (the first in 50 years to do so, since Bill Russell’s Celtics), a quick examination of LeBron James’ play as opposed to the actual MVP winners shines a bright light. Derrick Rose in 2010-11? 21.8 points, 7.9 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. James went for 26.7, 7, and 7.5. Kevin Durant probably deserved his for his phenomenal 2013-14 season, yes, but Steph Curry trailed LeBron in points and rebounds in 2014-15 and rebounds and assists in 15-16.
But, beyond just plain stats, as Cavs GM David Griffin argued last season, “if 'V' is valuable, I don’t see any way that there’s a player that means more to our league or to his individual team than LeBron does… if we’re really talking about who’s carrying a franchise and a league, I think LeBron does that, and our record without LeBron on the floor is not terribly good. He’s a guy who transcends every analytic metric you could ever use.”
Or, as another way of looking at it, the Cavs are 147-52 with James since 2014-15 and 4-19 without. Hard to argue with that, nor is it hard to imagine why the NBA wants so badly for us to love it stars. Teams would literally be lost without them.
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