FOX Sports Exclusive
The mother of all bad teammate stories
Let’s be clear about one thing: it is inconceivable that Delonte West is having, has had or ever will have sexual relations with that woman, Gloria James, mother of a certain NBA superstar.
This preposterous innuendo has been floated as an explanation for LeBron James’ listless performance in losing the Eastern Conference Semis to the Celtics. No less a source than Calvin Murphy swears it’s true. (Murphy, you’ll remember, was acquitted of molestation charges brought by five of his daughters and would like to remind people that nine of the 14 kids he fathered with nine different women have never filed molestation charges against him.)
But this supposed Delonte-Gloria, May-December romance is even more farfetched than the plot of "Just Wright," where an NBA star played by Common chooses the big-boned gal with a heart of gold played by Queen Latifah over the super fly gold digger played by Paula Patton. ("Yeah, Right" would have been a more apt title.)
James’s attorney Frederick Nance will not have to issue me a cease and desist order -- as he reportedly has to blogger Terez Owens -- because I find the scope of the allegation simply too incomprehensible to fathom.
I mean, what kind of lunatic would jeopardize his team’s entire season to have sex with a 41-year-old MIWPLF ( W = wouldn’t, P = particularly)? And don’t say a lunatic who has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. West’s long-running battle with depression doesn’t make this rumor any more credible.
So why are people inclined to believe it?
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the modern athlete has become such a lousy teammate that there is really very little left he could do to another member of his team that would surprise us.
Quitting on the team? Check. Threatening a teammate with an array of handguns? Check. Sleeping with a teammate’s lady? Check.
Not a day goes by in our sports universe without another self-centered egoist proving he cares not a bit about his teammates.
This week brought us Hanley Ramirez jogging indifferently after a ball in play as his teammates looked on, thereby earning a benching from manager Fredi Gonzalez for lack of effort. Ramirez’s reaction? Instead of apologizing to his teammates, he suggested Gonzalez was unqualified to make an assessment of Ramirez’s effort because he’d never played in the big leagues.
You know what qualified Gonzalez to make the assessment he made? Vision. He saw the play.
Ramirez is hardly the first baseball player -- or even the first Ramirez -- to be accused of dogging it. In 2008, Manny Ramirez jogged his way right out of Boston after his teammates grew weary of his me-first antics. Manny had a nasty habit of saying he was hurt when he really wasn’t.
Hmmm, sounds like a certain NBA star on the Orlando Magic.
That’s right, speaking of lousy teammates, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals brought us another installment of the Vince Carter Hypochondriac Chronicles.
With 7:15 left in the game and no one around him, Carter slipped on a wet spot and appeared to brace his fall with his right hand. His leg had buckled under him awkwardly. Had he limped off I could have believed he tweaked a knee. Had he walked off clutching his right wrist I might have bought it. But when he came up holding his left wrist I said to myself there’s no way this guy is injured enough to leave an NBA playoff game.
Vince played it up for all it was worth, writhing around in pain while his teammates stood around with all the concern of Hanley Ramirez chasing a ball down the left-field line.
While the Celtics had been racing to scrape one another off the court in the true spirit of Ubuntu, the Magic -- like the rest of the viewing audience -- seemed genuinely perplexed as to whether or not Vince was actually hurt.
Think about it. How bad a teammate have you been if your teammates suspect you’re not really injured while you writhe around in pain?
But that cynicism was validated a minute later when Vince strolled back into the game (holding his wrist, of course, lest anyone forget the delicate star’s built-in excuse for sucking, an excuse he would most definitely need to account for his play down the stretch.) I’m sure in Carter’s mind he was being Willis Reed, only replace “inspiring to victory” with “deflating to defeat.”
Carter finished the game 5-of-15 from the floor, missed two huge free throws late and cemented his reputation as one of the softest substances known to man.
But at least Vince returned to the court.
Despite signing a $100 million contract before last season Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is refusing to participate in voluntary workouts with the team. Why? He doesn’t want to play nose tackle in the team’s new 3-4 defense. Now there’s a guy you want in your foxhole as you try to turn things around with new coach Mike Shanahan and new QB Donovan McNabb. Hey, big guy, for $100 million why don’t you just line up over the center, shut up and play.
It’s one thing to not want to play a position that could potentially minimize your payday, but once you’ve signed the set-for-life deal it’s really time to focus on doing whatever the team needs you to do to give it the best chance of winning a title. (The Skins are reportedly shopping Haynesworth.)
Not that Haynesworth has been the worst NFL teammate this offseason. That award would have to go to Ben Roethlisberger. While the front office was preparing for the NFL draft and borderline guys were prepping for mini-camp with an eye to making the 53-man roster, Big Ben was earning a six-game suspension with his off-field misconduct. So no matter how hard the rest of the guys work, the season might be a lost cause before Roethlisberger gets under center.
The bad teammate epidemic has even spilled into NASCAR, where Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have been openly feuding this season. After Johnson cut off Gordon at a race last month, setting off a sequence that would end with Gordon wrecking, Gordon said, “I don’t know what it is with me and him right now. He has been testing my patience and it’s about reached its boiling point.”
It has to be doubly vexing when you get cut off by a car you happen to own, though the four-time champion Johnson doesn’t seem likely to show any deference to Gordon, owner of the No. 48 car.
But being a crappy teammate on the track or on the field or on the court can pale next to humiliating a teammate with your sexual exploits.
There have been lots of rumors over the years of teammates behaving badly when it comes to women -- Joe Horn allegedly slept with Willie Roaf’s wife; Jimmy Jackson and Jason Kidd were allegedly both vying for Toni Braxton; Karl Malone allegedly hit on Kobe Bryant’s wife. But none of those guys had a judge declare that the sordid details could become public.
LeBron James and Delonte West have always seemed pretty tight, which makes the rumors seem all the more unlikely.Fernando Medina
Which is exactly what happened to English soccer superstar John Terry after reports of his affair with the longtime girlfriend of former teammate Wayne Bridge surfaced. Terry, who is married with children, had asked a judge to issue a gag order out of respect for the privacy of his family. But the judge ruled that Terry was only concerned with maintaining his public image and keeping his endorsement deals.
When the details emerged Terry became a villain to fans across the English Premier League and he was stripped of his England captaincy leading up to next month’s World Cup.
But still, it’s not like he slept with the guy’s mother.
No teammate would do that. Nobody. No way.