Posted January 29, 2014

All-Sanctioned Team: Players, coaches and a mascot that drew David Stern’s ire

Ben Golliver, David Stern, Gilbert Arenas, Gregg Popovich, J.R. Smith, Kobe Bryant, Mark Cuban, Metta World Peace, NBA, Rasheed Wallace, The Point Forward All-Stars

Gilbert Arenas, Wizards

(Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

David Stern was not amused by Gilbert Arenas’ pre-game ‘finger guns’ dance. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

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.

GALLERY: Rare photos of Gilbert Arenas over his career

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

David Stern once fined this guy. (Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images)

It’s true: David Stern once fined the Jazz Bear. (Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images)

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.


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15 comments
David102
David102

As a Detroit Pistons fan, I feel there should be a team entry and we are it. Not only did Stern fine our players at a conspicuously high rate, but he had a funny way of tweaking league rules whenever the Pistons established a dominant defense. 

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

Rodman was a nut, but he did most of his craziness off the court. While on it, he defended, rebounded and generally contributed to the game itself, with various colored hair and wearing a wedding dress one time. Any negativity concerning 'the Worm' happened away from the arena.

nrwillick
nrwillick

No Rodman? How is he not on this list?

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

Cuban could have probably handled his disdain for today's refs a little better, but he was right most of the time. He'd have loved to be the owner when refs like Mendy Rudolf and Richie Powers ran the floors. Those guys got it right, didn't need 'make up' calls, or 'T' you up right away. If you had a beef, they'd let you go on about it, as long as you didn't say the wrong word. They were well respected by players and coaches alike. Of course, players were more professional in attitude then also, not like what's bouncing up and down the courts these days.

Zeshan
Zeshan

As a Seattle resident/fan, I don't understand how the Sonics aren't Stern's most sanctioned team. He didn't hate anyone or place more.


And as a Seattle resident/fan, Stern, may you go softly into that good-riddance.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

Little midget dictator Stern.  Just like another fat little stub in N Korea.  Criticize his regime and he'll toss you out of his league.  Any wonder why no one qiuestions when the refs make calls in one direction each game? It only takes a very subtle few calls to influence a game since most games are decided by 4 points or less.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

people still care about the NBA?

Hello1813
Hello1813

Funny, I would have guessed Latrell Sprewell to be listed here instead of Kobe.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

David Stern should be investigated for league fixing.  There are too many games that the refs have decided for this to be random.  Somewhere in a Swiss bank account, Stern probably has amassed a large fortune betting on the games.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

@PhillyPenn il start watching again when the refs dont stop play on every single possession....and flopping is addressed appropriately. Until then its unwatchable 

newshamg
newshamg

@Nate the Pate Not too bright are you? I know the slow of thinking love a good conspiracy theory but just stop.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

@newshamg@Nate the Pate 

Dipschit, this isn't a conspiracy theory.  Just like Tim Donaghey wasn't a conspiracy theory.  I suppose the mafia fixing boxing matches and games and even stocks is a conspiracy too.  Stern has all the power.  All he needs to do is have a few refs willing to go along with it.  Jackholes like you probably thought the WWF was real back then too.

newshamg
newshamg

@TerrapinStation87 @newshamg @Nate the Pate Look, I know uneducated fools want to feel special - but get that feeling somewhere else. Seeing conspiracies everywhere is a weakness of the psyche allied to a failure to understand.