Every year, NBA players, owners, coaches and general managers donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity. Not all of their philanthropy is voluntary. In the NBA, it’s a fineable offense to wear a headband upside down, to publicly criticize an official, or to execute a chin-up on the rim. As you can imagine, some of these things happen quite frequently. Last Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs were issued a threat of “substantial sanctions” by commissioner David Stern after Gregg Popovich elected to bench Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for a nationally televised game against LeBron James and the Heat. They were ultimately forced to pay $250,000, and it’s unclear as to which rule they even broke.
On Wednesday, Gerald Wallace was fined $35,000 for his role in an altercation between the Nets and the Celtics, and Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 37 consecutive games with ten or more assists was snapped by his ejection/two-game suspension that resulted from the same skirmish. With the league’s disciplinary measures really having come into focus over the past week, I elected to compile a list of some the most notable punishments in recent NBA history, along with all the unusual circumstances that brought them about.
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In what might be the most ironic punishment in NBA history, Tyrus Thomas was fined $10,000 for telling a few reporters that he was only interested in being part of the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest “for the free money.” Thomas ended up finishing in last place, netting him just $6,125 (all four participants received a guaranteed minimum of $16,125, hence Thomas’s “free money” remark). Don’t worry about his financial situation, though – the Charlotte Bobcats are essentially in the process of paying Thomas $40 million as we speak.
Exactly no one has forgotten about Joey Crawford’s little spat with Tim Duncan. In April of 2007, Crawford allegedly challenged Duncan to a fight before ejecting him from the game for laughing. Crawford, a notoriously temperamental figure, was given the indefinite boot for his indiscretion. Stern reinstated him for the start of the ’07-08 season, but his streak of 21 consecutive Finals appearances was snapped. Nowadays, Joey approaches his job with more enthusiasm than ever before.
Following 16-point loss in March of ’05, Orlando Magic veteran Stacey Augmon was in no mood to speak with the media. So he didn’t. His teammates did, though, and Stacey didn’t like that either. When a reporter asked Steve Francis if “the wheels were coming off,” Augmon took offense. He angrily voiced his opinion, repeatedly stating that it was “a stupid [expletive] question” at increasing volumes. When the reporter informed him that it was Francis who he was interviewing, Augmon snapped and hurled a bottle of lotion across the locker room. The lotion struck the reporter in the back, exploded and splattered all over his suit. Augmon was suspended for one game and reportedly bought the reporter a new suit made of fine Italian silk.
JEFF VAN GUNDY
In May of 2005, Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was fined $100,000 for publicly accusing officials of treating All-Star center Yao Ming unfavorably. Van Gundy backed his claims by suggesting that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban‘s frequent complaints to the league office were leading to the unfair treatment of Ming. He went as far as to state that one unnamed referee had confirmed his suspicions, which infuriated the commissioner. For his remarks, Van Gundy was forced to foot the largest bill ever handed to a coach. Shortly thereafter, Cuban’s Mavericks eliminated his Rockets from the playoffs.
Dallas Mavericks owner and multi-billionaire Mark Cuban has been fined more than any other individual in the history of the NBA. Cuban has literally paid a sizable fortune in fines (and he claims to match every dollar with a donation to charity), including over $1 million during the ’00-01 and ’01-02 seasons alone. The situation really spiraled out of control during November of 2001, when the Mavericks played a tough stretch of four games in five nights. The league fined Cuban three separate times that week, all for comments regarding officials. The punishment was ineffective. In January of 2002, Cuban was fined $500,000 for various remarks, including one in which he stated that he wouldn’t hire league official Ed Rush “to manage a Dairy Queen.” At the time, this represented the largest fine to an individual in NBA history (Cuban shattered the previous record of $250,000, which belonged to himself). It has since been matched multiple times, but is yet to be surpassed. Other notable fines paid by Cuban include $100,000 for sitting on the floor next to the Mavericks bench during a game and another $100,000 for running onto the court to berate officials immediately after a game.
In February of 2007, Vladimir Radmanvic decided he’d like to spend his All-Star break snowboarding in Utah. Vlad Rad had never snowboarded before, and – surprise surprise – he ended up hurting himself. He decided to tell the Lakers, his team at the time, that he’d fallen down due to a patch of ice… which was sort of true, I guess, except he told them he’d been walking across this patch of ice, not snowboarding on it. Snowboarding was prohibited as part of his NBA contract, so the Lakers elected to fine him $500,000. Phil Jackson later called him a “Space Cadet.”
GILBERT ARENAS and JAVARIS CRITTENTON
In what has to be the most outrageous event ever to occur in an NBA locker room, Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton had something of a Christmas Eve duel. With guns. On December 24, 2009, Arenas and Crittenton reportedly brandished firearms during a dispute over money owed as the result of a card game. Crittenton had allegedly become tired of Gilbert’s antics, threatening to shoot him in his surgically-repaired knee during a team flight. This led to the locker room standoff during which Arenas essentially dared Crittenton to carry out his threat. After Arenas and a few of his teammates proceeded to make a mockery of the situation during a pregame huddle, the NBA suspended both Arenas and Crittenton indefinitely (it became the remainder of the season shortly thereafter). Gilbert’s 55 games missed cost him over $7 million in lost salary and represent the third-longest non-drug-related suspension in league history.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Michael Beasley in the summer of 2010, General Manager David Kahn had high hopes for the No. 2 overall selection of the 2008 Draft. Kahn was well aware of Beasley’s troubled past, but brushed it all off during a radio interview by stating that Beasley was “a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana.” He went on to explain that Michael had told him he wasn’t smoking anymore and that everything would be hunky dory. Kahn was fined $50,000 for his comments. Beasley now plays for the Phoenix Suns.
DRESS CODE VIOLATIONS
When David Stern elected to combat the league’s so-called “image issues” by banning all things hip-hop culture in the implementation of 2005’s official NBA dress code, 13 players ended up being fined a total of $130,000 for wearing game shorts that extended beyond the knee. In addition, the players’ respective teams were fined $50,000 per violation (the Philadelphia 76ers were forced to pay $200,000 for the shorts of Allen Iverson, John Salmons, Kyle Korver and Kevin Ollie). At the time, the NBA actually had a committee of employees dedicated to spotting uniform “violations.” One member of the fashion police was sent to each and every game while others passed judgment based on video reviews. Can you imagine some guy with a measuring tape storming into an NBA locker room demanding to measure Allen Iverson’s shorts? I have no idea whether or not that ever actually happened, but this whole ordeal was completely ridiculous either way.
Darius Miles and the Portland Trail Blazers had one of the weirdest falling outs in NBA history. The end of Miles’ career as a Blazer involved a ten-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy as well as an investigation into the severity of a knee injury that had kept him sidelined for the entirety of the ’06-07 and ’07-08 seasons. In 2008, Miles was deemed to have sustained a “career-ending” injury, meaning that the $18 million he was still owed by the Blazers would not be taken into account in regards to the salary cap – under one condition: that Miles didn’t sign elsewhere and appear in ten games. Having not yet served his aforementioned suspension, Miles would be forced to sit out his first ten games of any potential contract. To make a long story sort, Miles ended up signing a bunch of non-guaranteed deals, served his suspension, and made more than ten appearances with the Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the Blazers had threatened to sue any team that signed Miles on the basis that a franchise like the Grizzlies may elect to employ Miles simply to effect Portland’s ability to sign expensive free agents. What a mess!
In December of ’05, the Dallas Mavericks fined Darrell Armstrong $1,000 for picking up a microphone and shouting, “How ’bout those Redskins!” The incident happened prior to a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, just after the Dallas Cowboys had fallen victim to the Washington Redskins, Armstrong’s favorite NFL team. The money supposedly went to a charity of the Cowboys’ choice.
For his role in “Malice At The Palace,” the infamous brawl between the Pistons and the Pacers that took place on November 19, 2004, Ron Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season. He ended up missing 86 games, making his suspension the longest (non-drug related) in NBA history. His decision to enter the stands after being struck by a flying beer ultimately cost him $4,995,500 in lost salary. Artest’s teammate Jermaine O’Neal, who famously delivered a sliding haymaker to a fan who had made his way onto the court, only missed 15 games, but also lost over $4 million in salary.
CHRIS MILLS vs. THE TRAIL BLAZERS
On December 20, 2002, Chris Mills decided he wanted to fight Portland’s entire roster. He’d been angered by the physical play of Bonzi Wells, and presumably snapped when Rasheed Wallace hit the game-winning shot. As Wallace and the Blazers tried to leave the floor, Mills engaged in a confrontation with Wells during which the two exchanged a few punches. The conflict continued even after the referees had managed to clear the court. Following an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Blazers’ locker room, Mills elected to park his vehicle in front of their bus. Determined to settle his beef, Mills refused to move his SUV as he continued to challenge any and all Jail Blazers to another round of fisticuffs. Eventually, a police escort arrived to lead the Blazers to safety. The NBA suspended Mills for three games, citing intolerable conduct. Bonzi Wells was suspended for two games and Rasheed Wallace was fined $15,000 for attempting to enter the stands (fans had tossed some objects his way as he was walking towards the tunnel).
Latrell Sprewell said and did some pretty crazy things over the course of his basketball career, but nothing quite compares to the time he choked his coach. During a practice in December of 1997, Sprewell took offense to P.J. Carlesimo‘s demand that he “put a little mustard on his passes.” Spree told Carlesimo he didn’t want to hear it, and as P.J. began to walk towards Sprewell, he was warned not to get any closer. Carlesimo continued to move in Sprewell’s direction (despite Spree’s reported threats to “kill” him), and when the two got within arm’s length Sprewell grabbed his coach by the throat, threw him to the floor, and choked him until the two were separated. Sprewell’s contract was initially voided by the Warriors, but an appeal led to a mere 68-game suspension (the second-longest in NBA history, non-drug related). According to an article published by Sports Illustrated, Sprewell’s choke hold lasted for 10 to 15 seconds.
Which one of these incidents was the craziest?
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