"And that's why I kept my half-black ass at home." - Blake Griffin — W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) August 2, 2014
That was a tweet I sent out yesterday shortly after hearing the news about Paul George’s horrific injury at a scrimmage in preparation for the World Cup of Basketball. I’m using the word horrific because that is the word that was used in the Deadspin article about his injury. Now at first I thought, “Oh boy. Here comes another sensationalistic, click bait-alistic Internet headline.” And then I clicked on the link to the article, saw the still photo, threw up all over myself, cleaned myself up, accidentally looked at the still picture again, threw up all over myself again, cleaned myself up again, accidentally looked at my computer screen again, threw up one more time… Anyway, I repeated this process about nineteen more times until I finally realized that I had to just let that computer go for good, and go buy a new one that didn’t have that picture on it.
Deadspin was right. It is horrific. If you don’t believe me, go Google it yourself. I’m not embedding it here, because I don’t want to be responsible for buying you a new computer too. It was so bad that ESPN only replayed it once. ONCE??? That means in TV terms they determined it was more offensive to the at home viewer than the many replays they did of the Challenger exploding, more offensive than the 9/11 footage being rerun every ummm… 9/11, and more “offensive” than that time every “news” outlet showed Michael Sam giving his boyfriend a grandma kiss on the lips. It was actually deemed so horrific by the people who run Team USA they immediately cancelled the rest of the game. So horrific that the commissioner of the NBA took time away from praying for Donald Sterling’s quick and painful death to make a statement about Paul George’s injury. In that still photo Paul George’s leg looks like something from a fight scene from an early 90’s Steven Seagal flick.
Now, I meant no disrespect to Paul George with that tweet. Though I was not surprised when somebody tweeted back at me, “Too soon.” And although I am a comedian the only part I was joking about in the tweet was the “half-black” part. Blake Griffin is black. He has to be. He’s been on the Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher’s The Champs podcast twice. I’m not even black enough to get on there once. And I guess I was joking about the fact Blake Griffin said it. I don’t know him. I don’t know if he did say it. But I bet he thought it.
Blake Griffin withdrew his name from consideration for The World Cup of Basketball. And he wasn’t alone. A near all-star starting line-up of players withdrew from being considered for it. (In addition to Blake Griffin, Team USA lost Kawhi Leonard, Lamarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love.) They all provided excuses from “I have an injury that nobody knew I had.” to “I have to wait and see if Lebron James wants me to come over to play.” to “Nuh uh.” I think the only reason that they gave those excuses is because when you’re an adult you’re not allowed to say, “I don’t want to go, because I don’t want to go.”
Now they may have good reasons for not wanting to go, but they shouldn’t need good reasons. Because one thing none of them wanted to do this summer is risk a career threatening injury during games that don’t matter at all. Not even a little bit. Paul George was injured during a scrimmage for the FIBA World Cup. A SCRIMMAGE! So a fake game for a thing that’s not a thing. The World Cup of Basketball sounds like something invented by Vince McMahon. It sounds instantly corny and second rate, like the Xtreme Football League. It sounds like a bad video game from one of those home game systems that didn’t take off in the 80’s like ColecoVision Jr. What it doesn’t sound like is a reason for a professional athlete like Paul George to skip out on a summer of being young, gifted, and black.
We have to stop sending pros to these things. And I’m including The Olympics in these things. I remember the Dream Team. It was, and still is awesome. Twelve players, eleven Hall of Famers. (Woulda been twelve Hall of Famers if they I had taken Shaquille O’Neal instead of taking the player Michael Jordan still refers to as “the college kid.” #NotAGoodSign) But I have no memory of any of the dream-ish team-ishes that followed them. I know they happened. I know one of them lost. But the fact remains, we should have just sent the Dream Team once and then returned world basketball to the amateurs. This stuff should be for the people who have the most to prove and the most to gain. Send the players who if they have a good showing it helps their draft status. Send the players who will be excited to go to Spain, not the guys who can go to Spain anytime they want and would rather be at home. Send the players who might actually be excited to win a gold medal at the World Cup of Basketball. (Is it a gold medal? Again, I have no idea.) Send the players who if they break a leg then they at least do it trying to prove themselves and better their circumstance. Don’t send the players who have little to prove and much to lose.
Whenever a player withdraws from The Galaxy Classic... I mean, The World Cup... somebody somewhere talks about them not being patriotic. Stop it! We all know even “amateur athletics” is big business. And the reason they make the pros go is that it is good for business. Well, it’s not good for these pros’ business. Don’t believe me. Watch the clip. I dare you.