Just after David Stern announced that Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton would be suspended for the rest of the season for their gun play in the locker room, a new print ad campaign by Nike went into circulation. It included the game's two biggest stars, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, on opposite pages with the slogan "Prepare for Combat."
The ad includes a line from Bryant that reads, "I'll do whatever it takes to win games. I don't leave anything in the chamber."
Needless to say, the league isn't pleased. NBA spokesman Tim Frank told The Associated Press on Friday that the ad is "inappropriate."
The Brady Campaign, which is the nation's largest non-partisan organization in the effort to prevent gun violence, also spoke out Saturday, calling the ad "off-message and badly timed."
"We need to drop the gun glorification in pro basketball, and that especially applies to million-dollar ad campaigns," Brady Campaign president Paul Helmke said.
To be fair, the ad was done well before the Arenas/Crittenton controversy. In a statement, Nike said the Bryant quote "was intended to illustrate his all-out play and commitment on the basketball court. It is a commonly used reference for shooting the basketball and no offense was intended."
Bryant told reporters Friday that in the wake of the Arenas/Crittenton controversy, he agrees it is a bad time to release the ad. James seemed more annoyed with the league's criticism. He told reporters Friday that Bryant's line in the ad has "nothing, zero, to do with guns. At all. Zero."
(James, of course, still might have been smarting from the $25,000 fine the league slapped him with Thursday for kicking a water bottle.)
Is the league being oversensitive? The game inherently involves references to guns from the very act of scoring the basketball. Does this mean the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout also needs to be renamed before All-Star Weekend in Dallas?
It should be noted that the Nike ad was not received well in Cleveland, but for much different reasons. City officials rejected a proposal by Nike to replace LeBron's trademark 10-story "Witness" mural outside Quicken Loans Arena with the "Prepare for Combat" look, which has James shirtless and his skin depicting the texture of Nike's new training apparel.
According to various reports, the city officials would prefer a more positive image that does not make reference to "combat" while American soldiers are involved in real fighting overseas.
Also, they were not happy that the new ad does not include James in a Cavaliers jersey. (Caution! Inevitable 2010 reference ahead!)
In New York, the ad clearly isn't an issue. In Nike's billboard on 34th Street and 7th Avenue, right outside Madison Square Garden, LeBron's "combat" ad is displayed prominently. The fact that he's shirtless acts like a subliminal reminder that he's available.
Great Gaines from D-League
Sundiata Gaines became yet another D-League dream come true when he signed a contract with the Utah Jazz for the remainder of the season. The product of Jamaica, Queens, had an incredible rags-to-riches story Jan. 14 when, one day into a 10-day contract he signed with the Jazz, he buried a buzzer-beating fallaway jumper to defeat the Cavaliers.
The guard has since played only nine games, but after Gaines was inked for the remainder of the season, Jerry Sloan put more faith in him, and he continues to deliver. In Friday's win over the Kings, which All-Star guard Deron Williams missed to attend a family funeral, Gaines had 12 points and five assists in a career-high 24 minutes.
Big identity crisis
Celtics forward Glen Davis has unwittingly lived up to his LSU moniker "Big Baby" as an NBA player, with a list of incidents that often question his maturity (such as breaking his thumb in a fight with a friend or shouting an obscenity to notoriously antagonistic fans in Detroit). So this past week, he declared he no longer wants to be referred to as "Big Baby." Then it was suggested to him by a member of the media that he could follow Chad Ochocinco's lead and go with Uno-Uno, for his jersey No. 11.
Davis seemed to like the idea, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers - that is, Glenn "Doc" Rivers - thought otherwise.
"How about Glen?" Rivers said of suggestions for his forward. "That would be nice instead of Shanaynay or Mookie or Spooky. Just call him Glen."