Saturday , Dec , 20 , 2008 Oly Sandor

Baron Davis, Steve Nash, and Shaquille O’Neal have Jerry Maguire disease

I don’t have a problem with players maximizing earnings during their career. After all, this is a business -and a cutthroat one at that. However, I do have a problem when players fail to maximize their talent because their basketball-related businesses distract them from the game of basketball. The celebrity or machine has taken priority …

Baron Davis, Steve Nash, and Shaquille O'Neal have Jerry Maguire diseaseAn athlete has Jerry Maguire disease when he uses phrases like “leveraging star power”, “building my brand”, or obsesses over the business of basketball.

I don’t have a problem with players maximizing earnings. After all, this is a business –and a cutthroat one at that. However, I do have a problem when players fail to maximize their talent because the business of basketball has distracted them from the game of basketball.

Here are a few recent cases of Maguire disease, where off-court interests take priority over on-court dominance.

Baron Davis

TNT broadcaster Kenny Smith once said ‘B-Diddy’ should be a regular on the All-NBA teams. ‘Jet’ was right. Davis has the size, skill and charisma to replicate his ‘We Believe’ days more often than not.

Instead of spending his summer working-out so he can recreate the ‘posterization’ of Andrei Kirilenko, Davis produces award winning films like Bloods and Crips: Made In America and builds websites like ibetyou.com.

These are two interesting, important, and successful ventures. However, Davis’ hometown Clippers signed him to a five-year, 60 million dollar contract in July to get them back to the playoffs. L.A.’s other team currently sits at 4-17.

Shaquille O’Neal …

O’Neal was, and still is, great for the NBA. But he has neglected his conditioning, once refused ‘surgery on his time’, and spent his off-seasons rapping and acting.

Here’s a question: how many NBA Titles does Shaq win if he maintains his fitness and dedicates himself to making seventy percent of his free throws attempts?

Finding an answer means looking back to the Lakers 2000-2001 championship season. After posting a solid 56-26 regular season record, the purple-and-gold went 16-1 in the playoffs, sweeping San Antonio and Sacramento.

This was O’Neal’s peak. During this famous second-season, he averaged 31 points, 16 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Most importantly, he dominated both ends of the floor.

L.A. won a third championship the following year, but O’Neal, because of his ballooning weight and off-court distractions, never committed himself to playing at this level again.

Steve Nash …

Right now, ‘Kid Canada’ is chasing an MLS expansion team, owns a movie production company, helps design his Nike line, and is an executive with Basketball Canada’s development committee.

Problem is his Suns are currently eighth in the Western Conference with a disappointing 15-11 record. Their window has closed. And worst of all, Nash’s production and play are way down.

Bottom line: It should be noted that Davis, O’Neal, and Nash all spend considerable time giving to charity. These commendable efforts are not in any way a distraction because I believe all athletes should give back.

It’s also unrealistic for athletes not to have outside interests. As a purist, I loved lesser talent Andre Miller telling the Colorado media his plans after signing with the Nuggets in 2003: “I don’t know anybody in Denver, and I don’t plan on knowing too many people. I just want to go out, work hard, help the team and do my part.(ESPN) 

Perhaps, I want all players to have such a single-minded focus.  Perhaps, I want the NBA to be more of a game. I, however, know this is unrealistic. There is no cure for Jerry Maguire disease and no way to stop the business of basketball.

Can we blame Davis, Shaq, and Nash for having outside interests? What NBA player seems distracted by off-court interests. Get at us in the comment box below and come back to HoopsVibe The Blog. Photo courtesy of themikelee.