Who would’ve thought a stupid George Karl book would run the basketball news cycle for a week. Here’s yet another caption from the guy’s upcoming book:
We’ve got a more thorough drug-testing program than the NFL or MLB, which we always brag about. But we’ve still got a drug issue, though a different one than thirty years ago. And this one bothers me more than the dumbasses who got in trouble with recreational drugs. I’m talking about performance-enhancing drugs–like steroids, human growth hormone, and so on. It’s obvious some of our players are doping. How are some guys getting older–yet thinner and fitter? How are they recovering from injuries so fast? Why the hell are they going to Germany in the off-season? I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.
Easy to look at this, say “well, it’s just George Karl talking out of his ass again”. But will you be surprised in 15 years when the NBA’s version of the Mitchell Report comes out, and half of the best bench players/2nd or 3rd tier stars of the past 20 years are named? Which isn’t to say it’s as widespread as Karl says so. Lebron’s a physical freak, and I’d be genuinely surprised if he’s on steroids. Same with Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Giannis. Then you have the Hardens, KDs, Klays, etc. who are good at their crafts, and who steroids probably wouldn’t help. Don’t think they’re juiced. But the second tier stars who want to be at the realms of Lebron and Durant? They’re looking for that extra help. Any way they can.
Look at the years building up to the MLB steroid era. An influx of talent starts coming in from the D.R., Cuba, and Latin America, making a spot in the league harder to attain, and more difficult to hang onto than ever before. Exposure’s at an all time high (baseball card business booming). Pressure to achieve unrealistic, record-breaking numbers coming from fans.
Aren’t we right there with the NBA? There’s an influx of NBA talent from the 19 year olds coming into the league every year. With only 15 roster spots per team, there’s waaaaay more talent than there are places to put the talent. If you’re, for example, a backup point guard, you’re on a short, short leash. Especially if you’re above like 28 years old. Why would a team give you another chance when there’s a 20 year old with a 45 inch vertical that can step in and do your job? Everyone wants the athletic bench player that can jump through the roof. That’s where you see role players (the Chuck Knoblach’s (spell check)) starting to juice.
In terms of exposure, and pressure for everyone (including stars) to perform, NBA’s at its peak. $10 billion TV deals. Everyone plays basketball. Everyone. Every kid. Even if you hate basketball, it’s become to America what soccer is to the rest of the world. Being an American means you have some sense of how to play basketball. So naturally, it engulfs our lifestyles. It’s in our music, our slang, our clothes. Everywhere. We love basketball, and thus are consuming it at an all-time high.
Thus, when you’ve got Steph shooting 400 threes in a season, Russell averaging a triple double, and Giannis damn near touching the top of the backboard, the expectations will only be growing. With that pressure for the best to be even better, you see the already greats start to juice (Barry Bonds).
We’ll never get past speculation: Barry Bonds and A-Rod never failed drug tests, so you’ll never be able to nail someone down for it unless they admit. Doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Also, doesn’t mean we should even care. That’s a conversation for another day.