A celebration of the NBA's most infuriating players, both past and present. Read other NBA Shit List entries here.
It is Oct. 17, my wedding anniversary. I am standing in front of the St. Regis hotel in Manhattan. It's cold and windy, and I am embarrassingly underdressed (tourist that I am). My nose is running, and I want a drink. Very suddenly, I am all alone.
What has happened? Did I say something? My wife is barreling through the crowd on the corner, headed very quickly away from me—did I say something? Honey? Oh—now she's yelling something over her shoulder. Honey!
It's Jake Gyllenhaal! Hurry!
Now I'm racing after her. Not because I care about Jake Gyllenhaal. No—I'm chasing my wife along 55th Street in the biting cold because if she gets to Jake Gyllenhaal before I get to her, I will never see her again. And this will make for one seriously deflating wedding anniversary, with me sobbing alone over a plate of pasta at a romantic anniversary dinner-for-one, and my wife passionately fellating a celebrity uptown.
And where is this man? Honey, where is he ... that's him? Yes, there he is, the man racing away from us, alone and inconspicuous. Or, really, that could be any man, hidden as he is under a green hoodie and shades with a beard. We are not alone in our pursuit—a group of teenagers is hot on his trail, closing in. They are in a full sprint. Luckily for Jake, he hits the intersection before they make contact, jogs into the intersection, stops traffic, jogs on. Here is a serious man, aware of his visibility, protecting his privacy. What is he doing out here? Exercising? We will never know. I am unwilling to run after Jake Gyllenhaal, and my wife succumbs to the pull of loyalty and/or guilt. Alas, she will not be making sweet, sweet love to Jake Gyllenhaal on our eighth wedding anniversary. I will have to apologize for this over dinner, I'm sure.
And there he goes, is going, is gone. We turn back, the teens abandon their pursuit, and Jake blends into the next crowd and moves on. Is that a lonely existence? It seems lonely. Boy, being famous must stink. I make sure to hammer this point as my crestfallen life-partner resigns herself to a night of sitting across a dinner table from me instead of straddling a wealthy, world-famous heartthrob. Being famous stinks. He looked miserable.
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
Minutes later we're preparing to cross Park Avenue, and there is a sweatsuit-clad tree in my way. A tree? Here, on the corner of Park Avenue? In a gray sweatsuit? Can't be. Oh honey, look, it's Andray Blatche. Andray Blatche and an entourage. Four smaller men, also in gray sweatsuits. Who is Andray Blatche? He's just a lousy basketball player who used to play poorly for the Wizards. He is known now more for being booed by the home crowd for half a season than for anything accomplished on the court.
She declines to give chase.
Andray Blatche is a ridiculous sight tucked into a crowd of tourists and shoppers and working types, crossing a busy intersection on a Wednesday. He's not just the tallest person there; he's more than a foot taller than anyone else. I watch as the walk sign flashes and the group moves into the intersection. I seem to be the only person within eyesight who cares that a nominal NBA player is among us. There, without the remotest concern, is a famous basketball player, looming outrageously over two dozen or more fellow crosswalkers, surrounded by a group of identically clad friends, somehow totally anonymous to everyone in sight. I feel downright stupid for knowing or caring. Blatche, for his part, looks content. He doesn't wear the misery of fame quite as obviously as Jake Gyllenhaal.
The differences between these two men are too numerous to count, but among them are these: 1. Jake Gyllenhaal is much more talented than Andray Blatche; 2. Jake Gyllenhaal is much more famous than Andray Blatche. 3. Andray Blatche made twice as much money last year as Jake Gyllenhaal made for starring in Jarhead. Also, Andray Blatche is everything that is wrong with the NBA, which goes a long way toward explaining No. 3. Andray Blatche is why there is an amnesty clause in the new collective bargaining agreement. The $28 million contract extension he received in 2007 is still the second-worst example of Ernie Grunfeld's ineptitude as an NBA general manager. He was such a burden both on the court and on the books that the Wizards chose to amnesty his contract instead of Rashard Lewis's, which was only the worst contract in NBA history. Blatche is my least favorite NBA player, maybe ever.
Look at this fucking shit:
This is a man who airballs fadeaway jumpers and pounds layups off the side of the backboard, who was once whistled for a travel in a game against the Orlando Magic when he airballed a wide-open, one-handed dunk and then caught the ball on the other side of the rim. He doesn't play defense so much as exist fatly in a designated space. He defends his man the way a throw pillow defends a sofa cushion. In response to an undercover officer who had asked him, "What do you want, head or fuck?" Blatche once responded, "Well, I want both"—a sort of double dribble, characteristically.
How is it, then, that this man once felt secure publicly declaring himself a team leader, a team captain? And, after the first game of the 2011 season, demanding a greater share of the team's offense? How could he possibly have believed himself?
If the whole basketball-watching world knew Blatche was a bum, what did he think of himself? He needed more offense? He's a leader?
Is it possible that Andray Blatche thinks he's great?
Surely, nothing is learned of the nature of greatness and nothing is gleaned of a person's claims to the stuff from watching someone cross an intersection. Still, as I watch him saunter across Park Avenue, sycophants in tow, surrounded by an oblivious herd of pedestrians, I wonder: What does Andray Blatche think of himself? Is he self-conscious? Everyone here knows I suck. Is he private? I don't want to be bothered by fans. Is he strutting? I'm the baddest motherfucker out here. Does he feel the heat of my gaze? Who would be more embarrassed if we locked eyes? Is he aware, as I am, that no one recognizes him? How does he feel about this?
There's an odd paradox at play and I struggle to comprehend it: an outsized, famous man flanked by a protective entourage among an utterly ambivalent throng of pedestrians. One person in a thousand recognizes him. A famous man moving anonymously through an uncaring crowd, shielded from their vacant fandom by an entourage. His friends aren't protecting him from his fans; his friends are protecting him from their absence.
I think to myself that LeBron James would never be anonymous in this or any crowd. I think maybe no other athlete of Blatche's size could so easily wander around in a herd of tourists. I tell myself he must know that. He must.
Seconds are ticking by; Blatche is walking away. I try to make my cold fingers operate my cell phone—I want a picture of Blatche. Why? No one will care. Not one person on earth will have the remotest interest that I passed Andray Blatche in Manhattan. He will be an odd, anticlimactic finish to a story of my wife attempting to leave me for Jake Gyllenhaal on the day of our anniversary. Also, we ran into Andray Blatche. Who? Oh, he used to play for the Wi- yeah, Gyllenhaal was awesome in Donnie Darko.
This isn't working. He's nearing the edge of my line of sight. If I was unwilling to chase Jake Gyllenhaal, surely my wife will not abide my following Andray Blatche. I fumble with the phone. Blatche grows smaller. In haste, I raise my phone and slide something and tap something else and tap tap tap. Have I taken a picture? Have I captured this moment?
There is a picture. It is of a man in a gray sweatsuit at the edge of a mass of people. He is rounding a corner, only half of him is visible. He is lean and muscular and young-looking, and he is maybe 6 feet tall. Blatche is nowhere to be seen.
That photo contains all the trappings of greatness. There is a famous NBA basketball player's entourage, right there. And this is the story of Andray Blatche: an amazingly large young man, blessed with length and health and athleticism, blessed with just enough work ethic to develop all those flossy little skills but not enough to make them matter, wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, demanding the ball, bestowing upon himself the role of team leader, looking for all the world like an NBA superstar. And he's the only one who doesn't know the truth: that Andray Blatche is a bum, an afterthought, a footnote to another story. An entourage protecting nobody.
He doesn't know. It is everything I have always hated about him. He has no idea how not great he is. Andray Blatche is the best, most talented player in Andray Blatche's NBA, and hell if he's going to work to prove it to anyone. It is the fault of those who don't assert his greatness that they are unable to recognize it. This is how a career 9.9 PPG player, a forward who once shot .380 from the floor over the course of a season, a 7-footer who airballs dunks, can demand a greater share of the offense and refer to himself as a leader. He has no fucking clue.
My wife is looking at me funny. I think she misses Jake Gyllenhaal already. It's time for that drink. I grimace once more at the photo and delete it.
* * *
A coda: It is, of course, a fulfillment of Blatche's evil destiny that he would spend the 2013 season tormenting Wizards fans by demonstrating a surprising aptitude for, of all things, basketball, and not, as one might otherwise predict, eating fast food. Perhaps it speaks poorly for John Hollinger's PER that it is a measure by which Andray Blatche rates as one of the NBA's 10 best players, but by any criteria worth using he has been a much improved player so far this season, and on a fringe contender to boot. I like to think Brooklyn's general underperformance and Avery Johnson's firing are a part of that same Blatchey destiny, and because he is constitutionally incapable of being known for just playing good basketball (or really any kind of basketball), he's gone and worked his way into smelling distance of a sexual assault perpetrated by that entourage. No one is yet sure how this situation will play out and it appears as though Blatche will not be charged with any crime, but those who'd bothered to hope that Blatche's maturation as a basketball player had continued in all facets of his life will be disappointed to hear that he'd stood on the threshold and acted as doorman while an allegedly criminal sex act unfolded in his own hotel room. He supposedly took some photos. too.
In Washington it was miserable basketball and a solicitation charge; in Brooklyn it's good basketball and possible gang rape. At this rate, God forbid he ever make an All-Star Game.
Miserable Shitehawk is a lowly blogger and long-suffering Wizards fan. Follow him following you at madbastardsall.blogspot.com.