All-Sanctioned Team: Players, coaches and a mascot that drew David Stern’s ire
Gilbert Arenas, Wizards
Many of the fines and suspensions discussed herein have concerned matters of image or perception. But when a card game dispute between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton morphed into a locker room incident involving firearms, Stern was faced with a serious matter of player safety.
The whole affair seemed unbelievable as it unfolded and it seems even more ludicrous with four years of perspective. The story goes that Arenas brought multiple unloaded guns into the Wizards’ locker room at the Verizon Center in December 2009, placing them near Crittenton’s locker and telling him to “pick one.” He did so after Crittenton allegedly said that he would “shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee,” according to the paper. Crittenton allegedly responded to the note by drawing his own weapon and loading it in a joke-y manner.
The locker room exchange leaked out in bits and pieces over the next week, and Stern waited to assess his punishment until the legal investigations could occur. Arenas pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge and was given two years of probation; Crittenton also pleaded guilty and was given a year of probation on a misdemeanor charge. After those pleas came down, Stern suspended both players for the rest of the 2009-2010 season.
“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us,” Stern said in a statement. “Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game.”
Arenas was on the books that season for $16.2 million, and his suspension without pay cost him a significant portion of that salary. The incident marked, for all intents and purposes, the end of Arenas’s career. He was later reinstated for the 2010-11 season, traded to the Magic in 2010 and then released by the club using the amnesty clause in 2011. The three-time All-Star guard then signed with the Grizzlies for the 2011-12 season, but he played sparingly and hasn’t suited up in an NBA game since the 2012 playoffs. Along the way, he drew a fine from the NBA for inappropriate Twitter posts and from the Wizards for faking an injury so that Nick Young could start.
Crittenton’s life, meanwhile has spiraled totally out of control. After stints in China and the D-League, the 26-year-old guard has been indicted on a murder charge in relation to a 2011 shooting in Georgia and he was recently arrested for allegedly trying to transport 900 pounds of cocaine.
A post-script from the Arenas/Crittenton gun incident: Young, Randy Foye, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee were each fined $10,000 by the Wizards in January for participating in a team huddle in which Arenas made light of his legal troubles by flashing “finger guns,” seen above.
It seems that Arenas and Crittenton stand apart from many of the names on this list because they’ve failed to write productive next chapters after their misadventures. That’s particularly lamentable for Arenas, who had been a fan favorite by establishing himself as one of the league’s goofiest personalities. His silver lining? He did clear more than $140 million in salary, excluding fines/suspensions, over his 12-year career.
Mascot: Jazz Bear
Colleagues have painted Stern as a man whose fingerprints could be found on all aspects of the NBA’s growth. His fines were similarly far-reaching. In addition to fining teams, owners, coaches and players, Stern’s NBA also issued a $15,000 fine to the Jazz in response to a skit performed by their mascot, Jazz Bear.
A fine for a motorcycle-riding, fun-loving, hairy beast? What? How? Why?
Well, Hall of Fame forward Karl Malone left the Jazz for the Lakers in 2003 after 18 seasons. The Mailman’s ring-chasing made him the subject of an in-game skit during a 2004 game between the Jazz and Lakers at the Delta Center. The Associated Press sets the scene:
NBA vice president Stu Jackson levied the fine, issuing a two-paragraph statement Friday saying the Jazz were penalized for “performing a mascot skit that ridiculed opposing players.”
During a timeout last Saturday, Jazz mascot “Bear” answered a fake call that was broadcast over the loudspeakers. The caller imitated Malone’s voice and identified himself as “Mail,” saying he wanted to come “home,” L.A. fans were “mean” to him and the Lakers don’t pass him the ball. The call ended with the impersonated voice saying, “I guess it could be worse. I could be Ko…,” stopping short of saying Kobe. Bryant had spent the previous day in Colorado, where he’s facing trial on a sexual assault charge.
The skit continued during a later timeout, this time with Jazz owner Larry Miller — sitting courtside — accepting a call from the Malone impersonator, hanging up and throwing the phone to the floor.
Malone, who wasn’t at the game, later called the skit “pathetic” and “no class.” The Jazz eventually apologized to the Lakers, and rightfully so given the sensitive nature of Bryant’s legal troubles, which clearly shouldn’t have been a laughing matter.
Say whatever you like about Stern’s penchant for punishment, but he just might be the only person in pro sports history to make fining a mascot look like a dignified and noble act.
Now that’s a Midas touch.