Heaven is a Playground — Larry Sanders #420 and the nine worst people in the NBA


July 10, 2012

“What’s in the box”?

“Drugs,” The detective replied, indignantly stone-faced.

“Like cocaine?” I forced the words out. It felt like Tabasco Sauce was being directly applied to my heart. Of course I knew it wasn’t cocaine. Alone in the kitchen with a box of narcotics, I assessed my options as the police entered the house: Lawyer up or play dumb. To answer Dr. Dre’s question from The Watcher, I have no Tupac in me.

How convincingly naïve can I make myself appear?

”Please Mister Officer, I don’t know anything: I just graduated from college last month, I’m just a kid.” The genetic programming of suburban white-folks incarnate.

“Marijuana” he said, emotionless, sizing me up, most likely wondering if I could actually be this stupid. Here I was, front and center, playing the role of Anthony Collins in the Jerome Simpson drama.
Wrong place, wrong time.

My friend, for the sake of his identity, let’s just call him “Dumbass,” had a small quantity of pot shipped in the mail from California to Massachusetts. In hindsight, I was golden: The package didn’t have my name on it, I wasn’t on the lease of the home, and I wasn’t the one to greet the mailman.

No, that was all Dumbass.

Hi, federal postal worker, thanks for the drugs, have a great day!

Logic goes out the window when you are being threatened with a Class D felony and a one-to-five year prison sentence. Fortunately, that Dumbass is quite the mensch. There is something to be said about the people who take responsibility for their own stupidity.

We sat in a meadow for a while. I went to the gym, burned about 2,000 calories in what must have been the best work out of my life. By 10 p.m. I was on my sixth drink. By midnight I had texted every girl in my phonebook until one had finally agreed to come over, Unique Avocado. An otherwise meaningless day, whose only impact upon my life is that it has become one of my better “hey, remember that time” moments.

What did I learn? To be afraid.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where four 23-year-olds and a small quantity of marijuana calls for 10 detectives, but hey, federal law was knowingly broken, so I suppose it’s also difficult to create a victim.

The usage of weed in and out of itself is a victimless crime — we all know that. Why bother stating the obvious about how the enforcement of marijuana laws have been among the greater injustices in the history of this country.

The NBA has its own Dumbass. Well, to be fair the NBA has no shortage of dumbasses, but one dumbass stands out in the vastness of DUI’s, spousal abuse, sex offenses, handguns and occasional homicides: Milwaukee Bucks Center Larry Sanders.

For exercising his own harmless idiocy, Sanders was suspended for 12 games in January after testing positive a fourth time for marijuana. The suspension, which was officially ended on Feb. 11, cost Sanders a total of $1.2 million, and has raised questions regarding whether or not the Bucks talented but listless big man will be welcomed back by the team following the All-Star break. A buyout is reportedly on the table.

It’s rather ironic. Jason Kidd, the team’s head coach and convicted spousal abuser and drunk driver, can look down his nose at Sanders.

The dude likes getting high; most of the NBA does. Remember back in 2001 when Charles Oakley estimated that 60-percent of the league smokes pot? Similar to my Dumbass, I can’t defend Sanders as a victim: He has been caught breaking NBA policy on four separate occasions, of course he is going to be punished.

Yet I can’t help but to feel a kinship with him.

Look at the inconsistencies in the NBA’s disciplinary policy and tell me Sanders punishment fits his crime:

• 2014, Dante Cunningham, arrested on charges of domestic assault: no suspension, signed by the Pelicans three days later.

• 2013 Ty Lawson, arrested on charges of spousal abuse and property damage: no suspension.

• 2013 Jared Sullinger, arrested for domestic assault: no suspension.

• 2012 Metta World Peace, suspended seven games for elbowing James Harden in the head.

• 2012 Jordan Hill, arrested for domestic assault, pleads down to a misdemeanor charge: no suspension

• 2010 Lance Stephenson is charged with assault after pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs: no punishment.

• 2009 J.R. Smith, seven game suspension for reckless driving.

• 2007 Stephen Jackson, seven game suspension for firing a gun outside of a strip club.

• 2003 Rasheed Wallace, seven game suspension for threatening NBA official Tim Donaghy in a parking lot.

It appears basketball’s governing body is more concerned with natural vegetation than it is with violence. My position can best be articulated by Sanders, who had this to say following his 2014 suspension for his third offense:

“It’s something I feel strongly about, just to let you know something personal about me… I will deal with the consequences from it… It’s a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I’m going to use it… In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived.. You can’t really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing.

“The stigma is that it’s illegal.”

Professional sports at their best are a vehicle for social reform. Fresh faced Adam Silver, with his progressive stance on gaming, his swift reaction to Donald Sterling and his promise for more punitive consequences to domestic violence represents a cause for optimism: more discipline for the Jeff Taylors of the basketball world, less for criminally clean recreational smokers.

In a moment of clear headedness I asked the detective interrogating me if he thought marijuana should be legalized. His response: It would make my job easier, but people are making money off of it.

What nonsensical hogwash.

  • KennyCambridge

    Excellent piece, Noah. Thank you.