NBA Shit List: Andrew Bogut, The Honky Messiah

A celebration of the NBA's most infuriating players, both past and present. Read other NBA Shit List entries here.

Basketball's culture wars ended around half past Allen Iverson's cornrows, which means that a lot of what makes Andrew Bogut so detestable has been forgotten or forgiven. It means that most NBA fans think of him as just another stiff big man trying to recover his pre-injury form, and probably don't remember that when he came into the league, he was running off bullshit like this:

"The public's image of NBA players is true," he says. "A lot of them get caught up in the hype and do video clips with rappers and all that crap. They want bling bling all over themselves and drive fast cars. But that's just the way the culture is in America — if you've got it flaunt it and if you don't, you can't."

[...]

"I'm not into jewelry. I've got some earrings but they're not too expensive. There are guys who drop a hundred grand for a chain. The public's got it right - a lot of NBA stars are arrogant and like to spend lots of money and have lots of girlfriends and all that."

That's from a 2007 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, in which the writer does his best to portray Andrew Bogut as paragon of Australian outback values, dropped into a sinister, decadent NBA to fight against America's ongoing cultural decay. It reads like a pitch for Crocodile Dundee Goes to the NBA.

But even before that interview, Bogut had been hard at work positioning himself as the game's Great White Hope, an avenging basketball honky sprung fully formed from the loins of John Wooden. The Washington Post's Mike Wise helped Bogut craft this image with a short profile of the Australian big man in 2005:

"The problem these days is money, and the guys just all want to be all-stars," Bogut said. "That [Dream Team] was all all-stars, the best of the best. But they were professional in their manner, on and off the court...They learned to respect the game and they were unselfish when they played."

[...]

"[Tim Duncan's] really a different breed when it comes to American players because of his attitude and demeanor," Bogut said of his favorite NBA player. "Tim has got a cockiness in a way that he's not cocky. He'll dunk on somebody, but he won't say nothing. They run back the other way, dunk on him and yell in his face. He'll come back, hit a jump shot. Won't say nothing. It's an awesome way to play, I think."

[...]

There's no one I really hate, but Kobe [Bryant] had a demeanor of being very cocky.

This fucking guy. Keep in mind that Bogut had just finished his sophomore year playing at goddamn Utah when he said all of this. And keep in mind when he said this. This was 2005, the very peak of NBA basketball as vector for moral panic. It shouldn't be lost on anyone that Bogut was saying these things a short time after the Malice at the Palace, when the game was gripped with apocalyptic visions of swagged out teenaged thugs crossing one another over into oblivion, forever. This was the time when it was safest for people to openly gripe about NBA players wearing too much jewelry and not respecting the game, and when David Stern's burlesque campaign to de-blackify the NBA emerged in its full power.

Maybe you see a bold young man speaking truth to power in Bogut's various proclamations, but I see an image-conscious asshole branding himself as exactly the kind of player fans and, especially, the league were desperate for at the time. It's no accident that Bogut twice aligned himself with the public in that first block quote up there. I'm on your side, NBA fans who are tired of watching all these thugs with the bling and the cornrows and the hipping and the hopping. Watch me put my head down respectfully after setting this screen.

The thing is, though, that he's not that kind of player at all. He's just like any other basketball player. Which is to say, he's the kind of guy who will get pissed off after getting posterized...

... shove an opponent in the throat for no reason...

... celebrate dunks with stare downs and bellowing...

... and show up his teammates when he's frustrated:

Nothing Bogut is doing in those clips makes him especially worthy of scorn. What does, though, is the fact that he once so aggressively presented himself as a player who would never, ever do these things. The only thing worse than being a joyless, finger-wagging crypto-racist is posturing as one in order to capitalize on the panic that was gripping the league at the time.

Andrew Bogut came into the league as nothing more than the pro athlete version of a shitty hot taker, a guy who knew how to calibrate what he said precisely enough to move the needle without having anyone call his routine out for what it was. The only real difference in his case was that "needle" meant draft stock. He was Colin Cowherd in size fourteens, and all the more spectacularly vulgar just because he was a foreign national going on about his racial grievances in a culture he didn't even understand. Imagine Colin Cowherd stepping off a plane in Germany and immediately starting in on the sinister Turk. That's Andrew Bogut.

And he got away with it, too. The same thing that makes you want to stock up on pills when you think about Cowherd is the same thing that could make you look longingly at a rope if you thought hard enough about Bogut: his risibly transparent bullshit worked. This guy somehow ended up as the first overall pick in a draft that included Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and just got a big contract extension from the Warriors despite having gimped his way through just 109 games over the last three seasons. Cowherd, a guy who where the hell do you even start, just got a new show in the time slot that used to belong to Outside the Lines. Somehow, the assholes always win.


NBA Shit List: Andrew Bogut, The Honky Messiah

The Shit List archives: Nick Young | Anthony Carter | Toney Douglas | Bill Cartwright | Dahntay Jones | DeShawn Stevenson | Michael Sweetney | Eddie House | Sasha Vujacic | Voshon Lenard | Eric Leckner | Dwight Howard | Andris Biedrins | Antawn Jamison | Don Nelson | Nate Robinson | Tony Massenburg | Reggie Evans | Andray Blatche | Antoine Walker