In ways that are probably too numerous to document, the NFL is far, far different from the NBA. Certain sizable differences are worth pointing out, though. NBA rosters are a quarter of the size of NFL rosters, there are only five to an active side on NBA teams, and both sides are expected to play offense and defense, and the difference in regular season games makes for a profound impact.
On top of that, the NBA is mostly made up of guaranteed contracts, while the NFL allows its players to bash themselves into dementia in order to secure another year on the payroll.
These differences play a large part in how NBA players and teammates treat each other. Some outliers are well-known, like goofball rookie hazing involving children’s backpacks or Michael Jordan’s infamous cruelty to several teammates, but beyond that these guys mostly get along. Which is why the recent, frightening case involving Miami Dolphins Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin sticks out as a weird, NFL-inspired anomaly to most NBA types, including Toronto Raptors big man Amir Johnson.
When pressed, Johnson discussed as much with the Toronto Sun on Tuesday:
“A locker room is supposed to be a team atmosphere,” he said. “When we bully, if we bully at all, we’re pretty much messing around. That’s all it is.
“To be honest, I’ve never had that on any team I’ve been on. But I know it happens a lot in school. As a teammate, we try to encourage each other, instead of picking on each other. In sports, we see each other more than we see our families. We have family atmosphere. We’re not picking on anybody. We’re supposed to stick together.”
Johnson is a bit of a tough guy on the court, as per his role as Toronto’s screening and dirty work expert. He’s also speaking in a locker room that features, at most, 15 players. It’s hard to section off factions while working with so small a sized lineup, and one jerk-hole apple definitely stands out.
And again, because of the very nature of the sport, things are different in an NBA locker room. Nobody’s spending a career blocking for someone else’s chance at making the cover of a video game.
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LeBron James was less discursive, choosing his words carefully while speaking with the Sun’s Steve Simmons:
“We’re okay here,” he said. “We’re a very, very close group. Obviously, we laugh, we joke, we get on each other. But we never cross that line, man.
“What’s going on with the Dolphins is a very sensitive subject. I don’t want to harp on what’s going on because I don’t have all the information. We don’t have to take a step back (and look at our team). We know what we’re about.”
No team in NBA history has been under as much pressure as these Miami Heat, pitched from Day One as champions to-be, and heels for eternity after their showy offseason celebration in the summer of 2010. Working from the same town as the Dolphins, somehow they survived without bickering and bullying their way into oblivion.
The Dolphins had no such pressure, and yet that didn’t stop the NFL culture from taking its nastiest hold yet.
Again, something about the difference in sports, and leagues. We’re glad to be covering this one.
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