Here are a couple more reads Pat (or anyone else that want to read about what Player X has to say)
BE CAREFUL WITH GROUPIES - Player X
This story appears in the April 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Not that long ago, The Mag's NFL Player X (whoever he is) estimated that 30 percent of married NFL players cheat on their wives. I was surprised to hear it was that low. In the NBA, I think it's closer to 60 percent. When you get a bunch of young, rich guys together, infidelity can be contagious. It's like high school -- the young guys watch the older players to see how things are done.
Respected vets like Kevin Ollie or Derek Fisher set good examples, though, for guys across the NBA. There are a lot of players who stick in this league for way longer than they should because they're family men who keep rookies in check. They'll call you out on your dumb mistakes. I know the vets I played with early on helped keep me straight. They'd warn me off the groupies who'd been going after NBA players for years.
I've had girls approach me at the hardware store and act like they didn't know who I was. I've been followed at the mall. There are groupies who hang around my neighborhood trying to bump into me on the street. They don't care if I'm married or not.
The whole thing seems innocent but most often it's not. We're talking about strangers here, who are following us. Fall in love with the wrong one, and you can end up trapped, with a child you never expected or a wife you weren't ready for. People ask me all the time how many of the women I meet are looking for a ring. I have to assume it's all of them, because I've never met a groupie who was in it just to have fun. Those girls take the long view, and it's not always about love.
Look at what happened with Dirk last year. He fell for a groupie, gave the girl an engagement ring, only to find out she was a criminal. The situation blew up right during the playoffs, so his teammates ended up answering questions about the woman when they were trying to focus on the Nuggets. It's not good when those problems trickle into the locker room.
Trades have been arranged because one woman is involved with two guys on the same team. That's what happened in Dallas some years ago. And right now I know of one girl who is dating two NBA players. One makes her car payments, and the other pays her rent. They don't know about each other, but they do share a money manager who's writing both checks. It's bound to blow up at some point.
Truth is, NBA players are easy targets. We're not like most guys, who can meet a nice girl at work or at a barbecue. We are recognized and treated differently pretty much everywhere we go. Most of us have grown up in an environment where we've been given whatever we wanted, so a woman approaching us suggestively seems normal. Sadly, all you usually have to do to get an NBA guy for a night is smile and make it clear you're willing to go home with him. Especially if he's single.
As for the married guys, it's not that hard for a groupie to get with one of them, either. They're like regular dudes in corporate America who travel a lot, except they have more money and more opportunities to cheat. They don't get caught because they keep it on the road, calling their wives all the time to check in. (It doesn't always go smoothly. I've overheard plenty of dudes fight with their wives over the phone about their activities.) It gets to the point where you see teammates doing it so much that young guys assume having a woman on the road and a wife at home is just part of the NBA lifestyle.
In fact, I would guess that 50 percent of NBA wives actually started out as groupies. And a lot of those women are realistic about the scene their spouses are in. They take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach. They will say something like, "Don't embarrass me by getting caught." It's not that they like the situation, but they understand the circumstances. After all, it wasn't that long ago that they were in those same clubs looking to get with a professional athlete, no matter how many tries it took.
Honestly, with all the pitfalls and temptation, sometimes I wonder why young players even get married. They should follow Derek Jeter's example. No one criticizes his lifestyle because he doesn't have a wife at home wondering what he's up to. He's just a young, rich pro who enjoys being the king of New York. He'll settle down when the time is right. NBA guys should take note.
DON'T CROSS DAVID STERN - Player X
This story appears in the March 8 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Since the trade deadline just passed, some of you are probably wondering why your team shipped a guy out of town. Money is one reason guys get traded. So is talent. But there's a quicker way to be kicked to the curb in the NBA: getting blackballed.
I see it a lot. Take T.J. Ford, for example. He might be on his way, through no fault of his own. The guy had a career year last year, yet he was on the bench for a month -- and he wasn't injured. Players have been buzzing about him lately, wondering why one of the best guys on the Pacers isn't playing much. It could be anything. I know of a situation in which a starter got benched because the owner's son is friends with the guy who replaced him.
Stuff like that happens all the time, and it's not always the coaches making the decision. Sometimes it comes from above. I'm pretty sure, for example, that Javaris Crittenton will be blackballed after his gun incident with Gilbert Arenas. Gilbert is a former All-Star with a big contract. He'll play again. But most players think Javaris is done, that GMs won't touch him. That's just wrong.
On the plane just the other day we were talking about how guys disappear: How Antoine Walker, Stephon Marbury, Bonzi Wells and Steve Francis were franchise players one day, out of the league the next. You never know where it comes from. It could be owners getting together to decide no one is going to offer a guy a contract (yes, it happens). Or it could come down from the commissioner. David Stern is not a man you want to cross.
Stern is not a man you want to cross.
The main thing that gets you blackballed in the NBA is being a bad influence on young players -- bad-mouthing the coach or refusing to listen to him, living the high life. If you're a veteran pulling young guys into that world, your days are numbered. GMs are wary of guys like that. They do all kinds of research before signing you, like talking to your high school coach and grade school teachers. The model organization is San Antonio. They hardly ever sign a guy who gets in trouble. And if they do, the guy shapes right up. If a GM thinks you're taking young guys out, getting them drunk and hooking them up with women, he'll drop you. And he'll tell other league GMs why.
Some guys who've been run out of the NBA, like Bonzi, are doing whatever they can for another shot. Bonzi is better than a lot of guys in the league but won't get a second chance because of his rep as a bad locker room guy. The NBA doesn't have a team like the Bengals that gives bad-rep guys another chance.
Sad thing is, you see some of these guys who are out of the league -- like Francis, Antoine or Steph -- and they still act as if they're stars. They're still like, "I'm the man. It's never gonna go away." They dress the same and spend money like they're still making it. I hear a lot of guys are working out in Chicago, waiting for the phone to ring. But the NBA doesn't really give you a second shot once you've been blackballed. Stern has the power to say a guy is not welcome anymore. You also have GMs with jobs on the line who don't want to take a risk. Look at what happened when Isiah Thomas signed bad locker room guys like Zach Randolph. The Knicks imploded, and Thomas got fired.
I think this Arenas incident scared a lot of players. But I'm not sure if it will change much. The phone number the NBA gives us to call if we're struggling with alcohol and other things isn't going to start ringing off the hook. Thing is, this wasn't the first time Gilbert messed up. The NBA told him to chill a couple years ago, but I don't think he took it seriously. Word around the league is that he's at home freaking out, calling the NBA every five minutes to fix things, afraid it all might disappear.
Funny enough, I haven't heard much about guys acting up this season. The Hawks used to be notorious for partying before they got Joe Johnson and got good. They had guys like Antoine, who would go out to clubs and go wild. It wasn't until they got rid of the bad influences that they started playing well. And you can usually tell who the bad influences are just by looking at how often a guy gets traded. If he's been moved five times, it probably doesn't have anything to do with creating cap room or getting good value. He's got an attitude problem, and his bosses sent him packin'.