Keeping It Real

By Je’Rod Cherry

Because John Wall does the “Dougie Dance”, Colin Cowherd has lambasted him for lacking in maturity. Wall, the “flashy” rookie point guard for the Washington Wizards, was recently asked the following: “Who is your all time favorite NBA player?” Much to the chagrin of Cowherd, Wall did not proclaim the Golden Age NBA standard bearers like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley as his favorite all time players. Instead Wall, to his credit, “kept it real” and chose Allen Iverson, aka “The Answer.”  As I understood it, Colin’s main argument was that Wall’s admiration for Iverson is a poor business choice and a reflection of Wall being more of a ‘me guy” as opposed to a team player. Time will tell if Colin’s assertions are correct.

Considering Walls age, his high regard for Iverson is understandable. If you consider that except for MJ, most of the Hall of Famers just mentioned were either retired, near it, and/or on the decline, when Wall was born and coming of age.

If you think about it, during the mid to late 90’s the face of the NBA was thuggery.

During that time, we saw life imitating art in that hip hop cultures embracing of  “gangsta rap” and thuggery as a cultural medium was what most NBA players identified with. If I mention Spreewell, McGrady, Webber, Iverson, and Shaq, what comes to mind, poor attitude and insubordination? Those players, whether wrong or right, were perceived as thugs as opposed to the romanticized rebels with a cause.

Consider that during the late 90’s and early 2000’s the NBA was so unappealing to middle America that the NBA had to eventually issue a dress code to revamp the leagues image from do-rags and baggy sweats to business/ business casual.

Also at this time, NBA players and other athletes all over the world were beginning to lose off-the-court advertising dollars to a young Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.  With no NBA player possessing the charisma and appeal of Jordan, Tiger Woods was masterfully packaged by Madison Avenue as the heir apparent to Michael Jordan’s athletic advertising kingdom. And until recent activities, boy did Tiger flourish!

What NBA players like Iverson lacked, Tigers Woods had.  His value system on the surface aligned directly to the core values of Middle America: moral, ethical, clean cut, well spoken, great work ethic, calm under pressure, and a winner.  Who knew that when it came to his dealings with the “ladies” Tiger was as “gansta” and misogynistic as Snoop Dogg’s rap lyrics.

Which brings me to my point. Wall’s choice of Iverson as his favorite player will not sell well to the general public considering Iverson’s track record and recent problems. I am impressed however, with the fact that Wall did not choose the politically correct answer and decided to “keep it real.”  Yet the practical side of me wonders if maybe Wall is still so young and innocent, that he does not yet realize that if you say what you really do not mean, you can become even more rich and famous.


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