Former NBA coach George Karl recently joined myself and my partner Bernard McGuirk on our radio show on 770AM WABC to discuss his new book “Furious George.”Karl has been receiving a lot of flack from NBA fans, writers and players alike for comments he made in the book about his former players. The one the player at the center of the controversy was New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
One thing is for sure, Karl - a cancer survivor - does not stand for any nonsense when it comes to being a professional.Over the course of his NBA coaching career, he has been tasked with coaching some of the most notable headcases in recent NBA history.Allen Iverson played for Karl in Denver at the end of his career and everybody knows Iverson for his time in Philadelphia where he drove Larry Brown up a wall almost every night.Iverson and Brown eventually figured out how to make their relationship work, but it was Brown and management that gave into Iverson’s talent and single mindedness.
When Iverson was in Denver he took the role of being a big brother to Carmelo Anthony and showed him how he became an All-Star and NBA MVP. Carmelo was the next big thing in the NBA alongside his buddy LeBron James at the time, and he had Iverson in his ear giving him tips on how to steal some of the spotlight from LeBron.
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I can assure you that none of advice that Iverson gave to Carmelo included the words passing, teamwork, sharing, humility, or selflessness. The advice Iverson gave Carmelo was probably more along the lines of creating his own shot, how he could make it look like he was playing defense, and how to negotiate his next contract. Looking back at it now I think it is safe to say that Karl was never going to get his players to play as a team with the self-absorbed Iverson and Anthony on the roster.
More and more, it has become common practice for NBA players to put themselves before their team. Today, NBA players seem to be focused more on branding themselves than being a teammate and winning basketball games.From one perspective, I cannot blame guys like LeBron, Carmelo, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, James Harden and slew of other players who use their popularity to brand themselves off the court. The other perspective is that of the basketball purists like Karl, Phil Jackson, Brown, and Gregg Popovich - who preach selflessness on the court and off the court.
I am not saying the NBA players don’t donate to charities or volunteer in their communities or visit local hospitals.Professional athletes absolutely do that and they take pride in being pillars in their communities. But for the sake of the game of basketball, players should keep their “basketball lives” separate from their “celebrity lives” because it’s changing the game of the worse.
It takes fives guys working in unison to win a basketball game and when one player is not willing to accept that, well that’s when they stop caring about the game and try to shine the light on themselves to feel important.