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Need a reality check, Rasheed?
by Jason McIntyre / December 15, 2003

In the wake of the criminally oafish remarks made by petulant Portland star Rasheed Wallace last week -- "They look at black athletes like we're dumb-ass niggers … It's as if we're just going to shut up, sign for the money and do what they tell us." -- one has to wonder, what was he thinking?

But that would be naïve, foolishly assuming Wallace thinks at all.

It's bewildering -- and admit it, slightly amusing -- that the fourth-highest player in the NBA would attempt to wax philosophic about the exploitation of NBA players when he is pulling in $16.8 million this year.

Last week, Wallace gave a career-crippling (and possible personal, too?) interview to the Oregonian, and he not only ranted without credence, but let a certain racial epithet fly throughout. A free agent after this season, more than a few teams will think twice before tendering an offer to the immensely-talented Wallace after he offered up these salvos:

"I ain't no dumb-ass nigger out here. I'm not like a whole bunch of these young boys out here who get caught up and captivated into the league. No. I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what this business is all about. I know the commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league."

Lost? Puzzled? You're not alone.

Like a bad wedding toast, he rambled on: "In my opinion, they just want to draft niggers who are dumb and dumber -- straight out of high school. That's why they're drafting all these high school cats, because they come into the league and they don't know no better. They don't know no better, and they don't know the real business, and they don't see behind the charade."

He has joined some sort of JR Rider cult? Been partying too hard with Dennis Rodman? Did Rasheed forget that he too left North Carolina after two seasons for the riches of the NBA?

In recent years, organizations in many sports -- particularly basketball -- have been emphasizing the "character" issue when drafting and acquiring players. There will be plenty of interested parties this summer in the services of the sweet-shooting Wallace -- career averages of 16 points and 7 rebounds -- but at what cost?

About the only credence his statements have pertain to college athletics. The players are a cash cow for the networks and the NCAA, and the college kids get -- not counting illegal perks, which we know everyone receives -- a free education in return.

Professional sports and exploitation is a misnomer. How can it exist when 75 percent or more of the NBA is making over a million dollars a year? And those who aren't in the upper crust salary-wise aren't appearing in any league promotions anytime soon. How are they being exploited?

And the comments about the high school players couldn't be further from the truth. The rookie pay scale seems fair enough, and if said rookie lives up to the hype, the big payday awaits with a max deal.

So what's dumber: Wallace's statements, or his track record?

Let's see … he's thrown a towel in the face of a teammate Arvydas Sabonis; led the league in technical fouls for three straight seasons; threw a towel at a referee after he was ejected from a game; was suspended for seven games for "confronting and threatening" a referee near the loading docks outside the Rose Garden following -- you guessed it -- an ejection; and was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession while in a car with teammate Damon Stoudamire.

And all of this in the past three years.

Then there's this little nugget that flew under the national radar (from the Oregonian) a few weeks ago:

"As they were leaving the practice facility Wednesday, the morning of their final shootaround together, [Bonzi] Wells and [Rasheed] Wallace saw Ruben Boumtje Boumtje shooting jump shots some 100 feet away with his back turned to them.

Wallace slapped Wells on the back and said, "Watch this." Then he picked up a ball, reared back and fired a 100-foot, baseball-style strike that left Boumtje Boumtje writhing the floor. Trainers were summoned. After a few scary minutes, Boumtje Boumtje walked off, OK.

Wells and Wallace?

They giggled like schoolchildren and ran away the moment their teammate hit the canvas."

Just the kind of guy you want to improve locker room chemistry. Right.

How can anyone take anything Wallace says seriously?

Who's he trying to be, Charles Barkley or Allen Iverson?

Both of those guys spent most of their careers in Philadelphia, and Wallace grew up in Philadelphia. Maybe there's a pattern.

Then again, it's been a racially-charged few months in professional sports. First, we had bombastic clown Rush Limbaugh ranting about how Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn't that good, and only received credit because the media wanted a black quarterback to succeed; more recently, some small-minded zealots were sending hate mail to black NFL players who had married white women; and now Wallace is talking about exploited.

If anyone can turn up Rasheed's New Year's resolution list, it might look something like this:

- Put down the chronic

- Put down the towel, too

- Sign up for Anger Management course

- Improve rebounding. Who needs a 6-foot-11 shooting guard?

- Sit down. Relax. Look at paycheck, smile. Repeat.

Jason McIntyre is a a freelance journalist in New York City and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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