By JOHN FELTMAN
Injuries in sports are very common, especially in the world of professional athletes. Their bodies are pushed to their limits and are bound to break down from time to time – it’s simply a natural part of life. But between every professional sports league, there’s always going to be dirty players who intentionally cause injuries. I don’t believe these players have a place in national sports leagues.
I was scrolling through Twitter like I always am, and I came across one of the dirtiest plays that I have seen in a long time. It happened during an NBA game Feb. 25, when the Golden State Warriors hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder. On one play, Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia intentionally fell down on superstar point guard Russell Westbrook. Pachulia blatantly fell on top of Westbrook’s ankle, and Westbrook had to limp off of the court in pain. He did not end up missing time, but this could have easily caused a much more serious injury, especially considering Westbrook’s history of multiple knee surgeries. Losing last year’s MVP probably would have eliminated any of the Thunder’s deep playoff hopes.
Pachulia was not suspended or fined after committing this “flop.” This isn’t the first time Pachulia has tried a dirty play like this either. He injured San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard last year in the playoffs, and Leonard missed the remainder of the postseason. Once again, Pachulia was not even disciplined for this dangerous play (though the league did introduce the “Zaza Rule” preventing players from acting similarly). What makes me laugh about Sunday’s drama is that the Warriors grabbed the rebound after the missed Thunder shot, and as the ball was already on the other side of the court you see Pachulia just fall right on top of Westbrook. He either has really dreadful balance, or he wanted to intentionally hurt Westbrook. I’ll let you decide what the clear answer is.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver needs to bolden up and investigate these types of instances, especially involving historically dirty players like Pachulia. NBA stars and role players are going to end up seriously hurt if these types of shenanigans are allowed to continue. Disciplinary actions need to be taken, and after a few incidents of these types of plays, enough is enough. If a player is caught committing a blatantly dirty play with intent to injure, they should get heavily fined on the first act, suspended heavily on the second act, and after the third act they should be just get kicked out of the league completely.
The fact that Pachulia was not even called for a foul during the game is even more pathetic. What were the refs looking at? Aren’t they supposed to be “professional” officials? How did they miss that call? I understand the Warriors are now the “darlings” of the NBA, and they probably end up getting favorable calls more times than not, but to miss something like this makes me want to pull my hair out.
As a sports fan, I do not want to see these players intentionally injure other players. It certainly looks bad on the athlete in question, but the league administration looks just as abysmal when no actions are taken. There is no room in professional sports for this type of player or this style of play. Athletes in the professional sports world work so hard to keep their bodies in prime shape, and instances like this could eliminate all of their hard work, as well as potentially ruining their entire career. If you want to play dirty street ball, go play in a local neighborhood.
Every professional sports league has instances where dirty acts are committed, but it’s very rare that they are not disciplined because of it. In the NFL, I would say 95 percent of the time a player will receive either a suspension or a fine because of a direct helmet-to-helmet hit (especially in recent years). In Major League Baseball (MLB), if there is a brawl, or a pitcher blatantly throws at a batter, involved players will be suspended every single time with no questions asked.
It is time to take action. There needs to be a new set of guidelines of disciplinary action established in these leagues. It is unacceptable for dirty play styles to persist. Players need to learn to take their beef off of the playing field or court and to man up and play the game the right way. These are professional athletes for crying out loud, who make more money than I will ever sniff in a lifetime. It’s sports, not Fight Club. Let me speak directly to Zaza: you’re trash bro. Be grateful you’re riding KD and Steph to another ring, and not warming the bench on a terrible team. For the way you play, you don’t even deserve to step on the court. Grow up; enough with the dirty plays.
John Feltman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org