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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Punch and punishment

If basketball fans thought that Draymond Green punching teammate Jordan Poole was unbelievable, well, their shock came too early because clearly, the punishment that Draymond got for such an unacceptable act was simply appalling.

Wait a minute—is this Golden State trying to change the game again? Like how they made small ball and three-point shooting on aggregate the new norm? Because I don’t think this punch-a-teammate-for-a-fee will catch on.

Or will it? If I am an NBA player now, can I just punch some guy and just expect to pay the fine? Can you imagine what this reality will do to big-ego players with multi-million deals and a short fuse? I’ll make sure my accountant sets aside funds for punching expenditures. Or better yet, put a portion of the money on escrow so that you have an idea of how many people you can punch with the money you can afford to spend on your new personal choice of sending a message through a non-verbal channel. Kapow!

You don’t like heckling fans? Punch ‘em, and pay the fine. You don’t like your coach not giving you minutes? Punch him—or check with your front office if it is cheaper to do it Latrell Sprewell style, that’s just a smart business decision, you know. Just make sure your finances are up-to-date and you have enough on your projected earnings for this new kind of luxury. Annoyed by the no-call from refs? Well, sucker-punching seems to be in vogue these days so give it a go. Are teams pissed off at each other? Have them meet at center court and give them a free pass for sanctioned fisticuffs.

Ah, finally! I’ve long dreamed of allowing professional basketball players to fight each other like what those really tough folks at the NHL do, so that we can see who among these players are really up for trading blows and who among them are just faking a tough guy act – and they are the worst, kin of those who flop.

But if all of these suggestions are outright outrageous and unacceptable, then why let Draymond off the hook with something that does not even qualify as a slap on the wrist? Punching your teammate is bad. Even in sports where people are expected to punch each other, they still draw a line.

Let’s put punching and punishment in context, shall we?

Paul Daley was banned from UFC after he punched Josh Koscheck after the fight was over in UFC 113 in Montreal.

When boxer James Butler Jr. punched Richard Grant after the match was over, he was convicted of aggravated assault and served four months in Riker’s Island and was suspended indefinitely by the New York State Athletic Commission.

This is boxing and MMA, two sports where punching is the norm. Where people who punch each other are at least in the same weight category (you don’t need a scale to know that Draymond and Jordan belong in two different weight categories). And even in boxing or MMA, you can’t just go punching anyone whenever you feel like it. There are consequences, serious consequences±a concept the Golden State Warriors front office seems to have difficulty understanding, accepting, and implementing judging by how they handled this punching incident.

Not everyone is a professional athlete so let’s thresh this out in a way that is relatable to everyone. If I go to work tomorrow and punch someone, I will be fired for sure. My boss or the person I just punched can even call the cops and have me arrested for assault.

So you, over there, who think teammates punching each other is normal and ok, do you see now how a culture of unchecked aggression is not just unacceptable but is plain wrong? Fighting among teammates should just be shoving each other, jawing and cussing each other, throwing things, and kicking stuff. Can you imagine the NBA, or the world we’d live in, if punching anyone is met with leniency bordering on nonchalance?

Letting Draymond Green walk away with just a fine after punching a teammate is a slap on the face of basketball and everyone who treats it as a gentleman’s game. Basketball is supposed to be a tool that we can use to teach young kids the value of sportsmanship and camaraderie, about channeling your aggression towards something positive. It is a slap in the face of the NBA which promotes its players as role models for kids.

If you want to teach kids about fighting, then tell them this: if you want to punch somebody, give him the choice to step forward and fight, or back away and shut up. That’s how angry people who still value dignity—his and the other person’s—do it. At least give the other person time and fair warning so that he can get both fists up.

If there is one thing you can learn about Ime Udoka this year, it’s making your interactions with colleagues consensual.

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