When did inclusion come to imply ownership? And when did simple participation all but signal ultimate subjugation? To be sure, the standards by which one comes to compete on the NBA stage – or even attract the allure and attention of top-tier collegiate coaches far and wide – are quite steep.
But should either ever truly be expected to be exchanged as equal value for the currencies of respect or dignity? One has to wonder given the recent antics of such purported legends of the game as Don Nelson and Mark Mangino.
Nelson, the gruff, longtime NBA stalwart and current coach of the Golden State Warriors, has virtually made a career out of alienating a full roster of players for seemingly every win he’s ever posted. But even he hasn’t treaded the waters he now routinely seems to walking.
While his feuds with the likes of Chris Webber, Patrick Ewing and Baron Davis are legendary, none of them seem nearly as vindicative as some of the the recent spats he’s openly waged with such stars as Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis and Jamal Crawford.
The style or skill level of any of those players is certainly open to debate, but there seems little denying that Nellie crossed the line with each of them. In each instance and for whatever reason, Nelson seemed to make matters personal with them, firmly placing whatever beef he harbored with each squarely ahead of the good of his team.
Things long ago seemed to cease being about the Xs and Os of basketball and essentially boiled down to how one man comes to feel the sense of indebtedness needed to simply respect another. It brings to mind some of the issues New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden touched upon in his much acclaimed novel, “40 Million Dollar Slaves” concerning how most black athletes are viewed as being worth not much more than what they’re able to accomplish on their respective field of dreams.
Perhaps it’s that misguided notion and one-dimensional view that allows Kansas coach Mark Mangino to be able to harbor such an insensitive and cavalier attitude that he could threaten to send one of his black players thought to be underachieving home to “get shot with his homies” or another back where he’d be “drinking out of a brown paper bag the rest of his life.”
The one parallel in each of these instances? For sure, it’s more than just coincidence that all of the athletes involved here sprang from humble surroundings while Nelson and Mangino have always been white men of privilege.
Mind you, that’s not to say either man should automatically or instantaneously be tabbed as some sort of racist. But Coach, respect should be colorblind.