An NBA Live Curse?
Terrible. Just terrible. That was my initial reaction when I heard that Gilbert Arenas was going to have to miss at least three months after having surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in the same leg he suffered a torn meniscus last April. You have to assume he had a pretty rough Thanksgiving with all of the problems he was dealing with in his personal life.
I won't get into the family troubles that Arenas opened up about in a very compelling blog entry on NBA.com, but you hate to see a guy who works so hard to be one of the best players in the league go out like this (I won't even get into how uniquely entertaining he is).
This just seemed like the worst possible year for him to be coming back from a knee surgery. For one, he planned on opting out of his contract next summer in hopes of landing a maximum extension. And two, the Wizards were unwisely referring to this as a make-or-break, "clock's-ticking" season. Put those fragile situations together and it's a bad mix for rational thinking.
Gilbert is a guy who needs to play basketball. It's his sustenance. But throughout the preseason and even last week, Coach Eddie Jordan said he wasn't "the real Gil." I was a little worried about Arenas pushing himself to get back too soon. Since he had never dealt with an injury like this, it would be tough for him to know how hard he needs to go.
Watching how Dwyane Wade took his time before rushing back from knee and shoulder surgeries and keeping an eye on how Phoenix rested Amare Stoudemire some after he came back from knee surgery, I thought the Wizards should follow suit. I remember saying on the John Thompson radio show, before the Wizards played New Jersey, that the team should shut him down until he can be "the real Gil." It was troubling that he needed to drain his knee twice in two months. Then, Jason Kidd told him that he needed to be more cautious and patient.
Unfortunately, Arenas kept going until his body told him no more. It's easy to go back and try to figure out how this could've been avoided, but that won't help anyone feel better.
While I was cooking up turkey, macaroni and cheese and all that good stuff Thursday, but I couldn't help but wonder if there was some evil force behind this.
The Curse O' Le Boulez has almost been beaten to death. There has to be something more sinister. Most NFL fans are familiar with the Madden Curse, which has ruined the seasons for several stars who have graced the cover of the popular video game. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that I should look and see if there is some sort of NBA Live Curse, since both games are made by EA Sports.
You remember how excited Gilbert was about being on the cover of NBA Live '08. He even had a press conference before Game 3 of the Wizards' eventual sweep against Cleveland last season in the playoffs. He might've been the only person associated with the Wizards who was smiling that day.
But is there something to this? Is there an NBA Live Curse?
I went through every NBA Live Cover Boy since EA Sports started putting individual players on the box in 1996. It's obvious how it has worked out for the '08 Cover Boy. You'll find that five of them had some misfortune after being on the cover. One had a dream season, winning an NBA championship. The others didn't have any headscratching incidents, but most of them either failed to make the playoffs or were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Here you go:
NBA Live '07
Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets
Not much here. McGrady played 71 games - he missed seven with back spasms, one to a sore lower back, one to flu-like symptoms and one due to a stiff lower back - and made All-NBA Second Team last season. He averaged 24.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and a career-best 6.5 assists as the Rockets won 52 games and earned homecourt advantage in the first round.
Houston lost to Utah in seven games, with McGrady having an emotional, almost tearful breakdown when his record dropped to 0-6 in playoff series. Can't blame a curse on that.
NBA Live '06
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Don't even bother. Wade played 75 games, averaging 27.2 points, 6.7 assists and a career-high 5.7 rebounds in 2005-06. He made All-NBA Second-Team, led the Heat to its first NBA championship and won NBA Finals MVP. Maybe it was a blessing.
NBA Live '05
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
Okay, there might be something here. Could Anthony have had a worse encore to his rookie season? Before the 2004-05 season started, he clashed with Coach Larry Brown in the Athens Olympics, got into a fight at a club in New York, was cited for marijuana possession (a charge that was later dropped) and three men tried to extort him for $3 million in exchange for a tape of the fight.
Then, he was involved in a controversy for a brief appearance in an underground DVD, "Stop Snitching," which glorified the drug trade and showed drug dealers threatening to kill people who snitch on them.
Anthony was so bummed that his poor play contributed to Jeff Bzdelik getting fired midseason. He needed George Karl to come out of an ESPN booth to make a miraculous run to the playoffs, where the Nuggets lost in the first round. Anthony averaged a career-low 20.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. Not good.
NBA Live '04
Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors
Surprisingly, Carter did not have a serious injury that season, his last full one with the Raptors. He had a rather Vinsane individual performance, averaging 22.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists, but even rookie Chris Bosh couldn't save the Raptors from reeking of hot garbage. They won just 33 games in 2003-04.
Carter was so miserable in Toronto that he demanded a trade the following summer. By December of '04, Carter had pouted and sulked his way to New Jersey. The Raptors were awful, but again, no curse.
NBA Live '03
Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets
Just like his future teammate Carter, Kidd had a great season, but a questionable offseason. Kidd played 80 games, averaged 18.7 points, a league-leading 8.9 assists and 6.3 rebounds, and led the Nets to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. Kidd entered free agency that summer and flirted with the San Antonio Spurs before signing a six-year, $103 million contract with the Nets. The Spurs have won two championships since then. The Nets haven't made it past the second round. Think he'd like a do-over? Still, no curse there, either
NBA Live '02
Steve Francis, Houston Rockets
Bingo. The Franchise averaged career-highs of 21.6 points and 7 rebounds with 6.4 assists. He also made his first all-star start. What's the problem? Francis was affected by an inner ear infection that gave him daily migraines. The disorder, combined with a foot injury, forced him to miss 25 games.
The good news, though, was the Rockets were so bad that they were able to draft Yao Ming No. 1. A Curse and a Gift.
NBA Live '01
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bad. Bad. Bad. This was a season that greatly affected Garnett and the Timberwolves, but not because of anything that happened on the court. Garnett suffered a huge loss in the summer of 2000, when his closest friend on the team - and the reason he chose to wear No. 21 - Malik Sealy died in a car accident. Garnett paid homage to Sealy for the rest of his time in Minnesota, keeping an empty locker stall next to his which read, "No. 2 Sealy."
During the season, Minnesota was caught in a salary-cap tampering scandal involving Joe Smith which resulted in the Timberwolves losing five first-round draft picks (the number was later reduced to three) and receiving a $3.5 million fine. Vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale also was forced into an unpaid leave of absence.
On the court, Garnett played 81 games and managed to produce 22 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5 assists. The Timberwolves, however, were bounced in four games in the first round against San Antonio. Pretty bad overall.
NBA Live '00
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Might be something to this. Coming off his first NBA championship, the reigning NBA Finals MVP Duncan had a great regular season, averaging 23.2 points and 12.4 rebounds and winning co-MVP honors at the 2000 All-Star Game - but it ended horribly.
Earlier in the season, his string of 186 consecutive games played came to an end when he suffered an abdominal strain, but that was just the beginning. Duncan then missed the final four games of the regular season and all of the playoffs after suffering - see if this sounds familiar - a torn left lateral meniscus. The Spurs lost in the first round and failed to repeat. Hmmm. Sounds strange to me.
NBA Live '99
Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics
A rather questionable selection, considering the Celtics stunk back then. But Walker had a pretty cool commercial, which gave birth to a nickname that failed to truly stick - Cybertoine.
The NBA had a lockout, reducing the regular season to just 50 games, but even with the addition of rookie Paul Pierce, Coach Rick Pitino couldn't win any more than 19 games. Cybertoine averaged 18.7 points and 8.5 rebounds, but he had a string of 176 consecutive starts snapped because of sprained left ankle. No curse here.
NBA Live '98
Another odd choice, really. Luckily for Hardaway, John Amaechi wasn't in the league that season and hadn't come out of the closet. Hardaway played 81 games, averaged 18.9 points and 8.3 assists and named to the All-NBA Second Team.
But despite the Heat winning 55 games and the Atlantic Division, the No. 7 seed Knicks upset second-seeded Miami in the first round. Peculiar, but probably not caused by a curse (Does anybody remember that series? How can you forget Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson throwing weak punches that didn't land and Jeff Van Gundy hanging on Mourning's leg? That was classic material).
NBA Live '97
Mitch Richmond, Sacramento Kings
People tend to forget that before Richmond came to Washington, he was a bad, bad boy (not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good). Richmond played 81 games and averaged a career-high 25.9 points and 4.2 assists. A funny aside: a little-known assistant coach named Eddie Jordan got his first shot, replacing Garry St. Jean for the final 15 games that season.
There is no curse here, but there is an interesting back story involving Richmond, Jordan and the Wizards. The following season, Jordan implemented this thing called the Princeton offense and had the Kings in the playoff hunt after leading them to 24 wins in the first 53 games. But Richmond came down with a right knee injury and Sacramento plunged to a 3-26 finish. Jordan lost his job and Richmond, who was upset about his contract, was traded with Otis Thorpe to the Wizards for Chris Webber. Splendid trade, right?
NBA Live '96
Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic
O'Neal was the first NBA player to appear on the cover of EA Sports professional basketball game. He was the first Cover Boy to suffer a rough regular season. O'Neal fractured his right thumb in the preseason and was forced to miss the first 22 games. He missed another four with a bruised left quadriceps and two more due to the passing of his maternal grandmother.
Still, O'Neal was dominant when he was on the floor, as he averaged 26.6 points and 11 rebounds and the Magic won 60 games. It would have been a great season any other year, except the Chicago Bulls won 72 games. When the teams met in the conference finals, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc and Phil Jackson pulled out a 4-0 sweep.
That was the last time O'Neal would don an Orlando uniform. He bolted as a free agent the following summer, leaving the Magic to deal with the Curse of the Shaqbino, which still hasn't been broken (Although Dwight Howard is looking like he might change that in the near future).
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