I grew up a Vancouver Grizzlies fan. That sentence alone should make you pity me. Never winning more than 25 games in any of our 6 seasons, I still cheered my heart out for guys like Shareef AbdurRahim, Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, and even Bryant “Big Country” Reeves. We were the joke of the league almost throughout our whole existence. But still the fans came out and supported the team, hoping that one day things would turn out alright…after all, you can’t suck forever…right? Unfortunately, because they moved the team to Memphis in 2001, the Vancouver Grizzlies never got a chance to make it.
A full decade later, I thought I came to terms with this…until I read SLAM’s article on Steve Francis. Picked 2nd overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1999 draft, his reaction (shown in this photo) was that of a two year old who is told he has to take a nap. He pouted!!! On national TV, with a whole city cheering for him, he pouted. I was stunned. We were all stunned. We had never seen a professional athlete act like this before. Had he forgotten he was making millions of dollars playing a sport for a living and would never again have to work a “real job” for the rest of his life? To sum up the rest of the story, he demanded a trade (before he played one game in the NBA) and was dealt to Houston.
Ok..ok..ok..So is this just a rant on Steve Francis from something that happened 10 years ago? Yes and no. What brought back my feelings of disgust for him came within the words of the SLAM article. First off, the title is “Where is the Love?” Where is the love for a selfish basketball player whose sense of entitlement caused him to disrespect and cripple an NBA franchise on national TV? Anybody that would cheer for someone like that is probably out purchasing their new #6 Miami Heat jersey. Sorry Francis, the market for spoiled, super athletic NBA players is currently cornered by His Highness.
But Francis’ complaints about his lack of attention for a career where he never lived up to the expectations of being picked second overall is not the most sickening part of the article. For me it was when he called out Kevin Durant (last season’s scoring leader & runner up for MVP votes) in his list of players from D.C. that he claimed he was better than. “To be the greatest player out of the DC/Maryland area since Len Bias,” he states, “Kevin Durant can’t say that. Michael Beasley can’t say that. None of those guys can say that. I am the best player to come out of DC since [Bias].” Just when you think someone couldn’t be less self-aware…
Where is the love? In a summer of “Decisions”, trade demands, and victory parties before the season has even began, Kevin Durant has received national attention for just being a decent guy. He is respectful, hardworking and thankful. To say that Francis’ career should even be mentioned in the same breath as Durant’s, is laughable.
But what isn’t funny is how players like Francis are becoming the norm in the NBA. Winning a championship is one thing, but if players are going to be asking “where is the love” after their careers are over…if they are going to be looking for a legacy to go with the rings on their fingers…they should wake up and see that after you have hung up your kicks and retired from the game, “the love” will be reserved for those who showed the kind of character worth cheering for.