How bad a play can a professional basketball player make?
For weeks I had eagerly anticipated the arrival of March 14, 2012, when I would attend my first New York Knicks game of the season at Madison Square Garden. I bought the tickets a month before, after the Knicks had won five games in a row with Jeremy Lin leading the charge. I wasn’t sure if Linsanity would last, but I figured the Knicks were on solid footing for the rest of the year. As a hardened life-long Knicks fan, of course, I should have known to prepare for the worst. As I entered the arena, the Knicks franchise was once again in a familiar state of disarray.
If you don't follow the NBA, the name Stephen Jackson might not immediately ring a bell. Allow me to reacquaint you. Jackson was the kindly Samaritan who followed his then-Indiana Pacers teammate Ron Artest into the stands to slap some fans around during a 2004 brawl with the Detroit Pistons. For this Jackson received a 30-game suspension. It turned out to be such a life-altering experience that Jackson would never again use his hands as a weapon in public. Not even close. The next time Jackson chose to disturb the peace, he would brandish a bona fide weapon--a 9 mm pistol.
On the basketball courts of New York City, there may be no truer measure of a player's stature than his nickname. If a player is considered good, then his moniker will be something straightforward: "Pee Wee" if he is short; "Lefty" if he shoots with that hand. But if a player is viewed as great, then his talent can actually inspire poetry. He will be called "Half-Man Half-Amazing" for his superhuman dunks or "Skip to My Lou" for the way he hopscotches down the court as he dribbles past hapless opponents.