You know this is the only time of the year I really regret not being in the NBA. If for no other reason because of the immense difference of the playoffs and what I am doing at the time. See, because during the year (you know, September through April) I don’t see a difference between what I’m doing and what guys in the States are doing. Making good money and having fun. But see, now… Now is the time I bite my lip and the basketball fan in me comes back out. Now basketball is being played. Real, raw, unadulterated basketball. And even if I accepted the scraps I was offered to stay at Tau and play in the Final Four of Europe, there is little doubt I wouldn’t be as “straightjacketed” there as I am now.
Every time I see a playoff game, it resurrects that feeling I swear I never get any other time. I sit here with my beautiful family trying to squeeze time between keeping my boy from maiming the rest of the kids at my daughter’s birthday party and putting together the trampoline we got her, to sneak a peek at the Boston-Atlanta series. And all I can do is bite my lip when I see a juvenile turnover at a crucial time by a guy who would be cut in a heartbeat from any team I’ve played for overseas. And I blurt out things like, “Geezus Christmas… What the hell are you doing?” in the middle of cutting a cake and singing. And I get the “look” from all the 9-5ers enjoying the non-athletic festivities.
But what can I say? Have you seen some of the basketball juggernauts playing right now? I mean with guys like Devean George, the abominable combination of James Augustine and Marcin Gortat, the dominant Rasho Nesterovic, Joey Graham, DJ Mbenga (kosilika te mon cher c’est un blague) and of course the utterly brilliant Reggie Evans (although I must say you are playing well, you’re still a rhino, or was it a triceratops?), how could I possibly make a case of being good enough to hang? I mean these guys are, dare I say, Jordan-esque.
But as it stands, I do still get that itch to get on a court and dismantle the athletically superb but basketball dumb with a culmination of the things I’ve learned playing everywhere except Afghanistan (but let them offer enough shiiiiii). So I get up now and take offers to play, just so I can do exactly that. And it’s not the money, although I do make more for a two-week tourney in Kuwait than I would in a month for a top Euro team. Money hasn’t been my driving force since 2003. My friend and I just started a business in Central Africa and it’s moving like a freight train. Everyone says, “Yeah you make money in Africa but is it stable?” Read this very carefully… The people saying, “Don’t fish in the pond” are the ones harvesting the fish. In short, I’m happy with what I make and more than comfortable but I just gotta play when the playoffs come around.
Man! I take an offer to some asininely non-basketball part of the world to get rid of that itch, then the level of play there is so plainly not what I see on ESPN, my presence there simply exacerbates the frustration of not playing on an NBA playoff team. It’s a vicious cycle. So why do I do it? Well, I like putting on a show… For myself. Wherever I am. But (and this is a big but) will I do it for pennies on the dollar of what I’m worth (easily half of an Asian team) in a country that looks at me as less than a man just because the country or league “looks” big-time? And for a non-championship team? Basically give you million dollar basketball for cheap? Survey says… Yes? “I’m sorry the correct answer was ‘hell to the naw… That’s hell to the naw’. Thanks for playing we do have some parting gifts for you.”
This is not really a quick, just something I thought about while watching the Toronto-Orlando series. (Dwight, please stop it. You’re scaring the children). You know how on TV you always heard how competitive Michael Jordan is? I used to see that on TV and thought it was just a media facade. Until I met him and got to hang out with him. His level of competitiveness is scratching the surface of being uncanny (seriously, look that word up as to really comprehend what I mean). I mean, it like made me slightly uncomfortable if not scared. Then I remembered watching the game, Mo Evans is exactly the same. I had to jab him when I saw how mad he got when he missed a corner three wide open. He went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc for the night, but knowing him the two he missed will keep him up til 3 am playing dominoes until he beats poor Papa Evans bad enough to satisfy that frustration of missing them two 3’s. So I guess that’s the quick… Mo is the best domino player in the NBA. I don’t really know if that’s true, but he’s damn good. I think we won a NBAer tourney once… Anyway…
To put in plain words without telling you exactly what an individual makes… My contract this year in Spain paid me more than I would have made playing for Charlotte this year. No exaggeration. Fact. There were three guys that went through my spot and guess who was the lowest paid (by far)? Yep, mois. Now I defy you to go to the stats for yourself and see who played the best. Mind you, sans the “tag” (that’s hoops lingo for guys with the played-in-NBA for substantial time tag). I was given little to no respect, even less chance and fought my way to getting 20 minutes a game in a style unbecoming of my skills. On the contrary, the other two guys were simply given that time. To make matters worse, I am older and much more experienced than the other two guys (and there are plenty that would make the argument, simply better. I said it and my cologne is Versace. You know the routine).
I did all this and I swear to all that is Hoopery, I took a substantial pay cut from what I make in Asia. Simply because the season in Europe is longer so more stable. It’s obviously more desirable to make 500K-a million over 10 months than to make 300K-500K over 4 months. Give or take. I’m not stupid. 500K over 4 in Asia or 500K over 10 months in Europe is a no-brainer but it’s not always that plain. I took that pay cut to prove myself in Europe because they hadn’t seen me in five years. So I proved myself. Gabe can play. Duh. Like they didn’t know that.
So why hadn’t they seen me in five years? I had never gotten all my money playing in Europe. Let me repeat; Nunca cogio todo plata mia jugando en Europa CON-YO! Shall I repeat? Jamias na monaki mbongo ya ngai mobimba tangu nazalaki kobeta basquet na Europe. (I can do this all day). Conversely, my fine feathered friends, I am not owed one cent, not one kobo, ni un puto centavo, from any team in Asia (not even in Iran).
Sure, culture and belief systems are different wherever I go. But blatant lying as an attempt to keep $200 bucks here, $800 there, $50 over yonder is a trait that one would experience, not in Asia. Oops… Am I insinuating something? Naw, if you’re a moron. So what now? Yep, I go play. Puerto Rico (another place I’m not owed a penny), China (which I love), Kuwait, anywhere but I just can’t keep watching these playoff games, not be a part of them and satisfy my basketball yearning dunking on my Brazilian Ju-jitsu teacher at 24-hour fitness. For some reason it’s just not the same. Don’t ask me why. So I’m off somewhere that I probably wont have Internet in turn, incommunicado. Then I’ll come back home for two months, sign a deal somewhere in June and this basketball ride will start again. Only this time it will be a lot more detailed and (ha ha) fun! Cuz I’ll have nada to lose and I’ll still be rich… Bit… You get the point. Nwa agu adi ataa ahihia. And I am the son of a lion.