Mar 062002

Okay, I’ve seen last Friday’s boxing match between Reggie Miller and Kobe Bryant on SportsCenter about 500 times since it happened. The play-by-play of it has become relatively clear to me. Kobe’s Lakers had just finished beating Miller’s Pacers 96-84. Seconds after the buzzer sounded (or was it the opening bell?) Miller began following Bryant, apparently talking a little trash.

He must have said something that pushed just the right buttons (something along the lines of “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny”), and Bryant turned into Mike Tyson at a press conference.

Bryant threw a haymaker that both Muhammad Ali and Will Smith would have been proud of and it appeared he threw the only punches that connected. Miller did his best to defend himself and after a center court melee, it was over.

Then came the disciplinary action by the NBA.

It was thought Bryant would receive the brunt of the punishment since he was the one who initiated the brawl. Instead, Miller was fined $10,000 and suspended two games, which was only $2,500 less than Bryant was fined.

So, basically, it appears the difference between being the attacker and the attackee in the NBA is $2,500, which is about the amount these guys find in their couch cushions during spring-cleaning.

Even Bryant was surprised at how mild his punishment was. “I probably deserved a little bit more,” he said.

So, my questions are: What the heck did Miller do wrong? Did he hurt Kobe’s fist with his face? Why was Reggie’s punishment within pocket change of Bryant’s?

Unless the league saw something all the loyal SportsCenter watchers missed, it appears they were fining Miller for protecting his face, meaning self-defense carries a stiff penalty in the NBA.

I’m not exactly sure what they thought Miller could do. I guess he could have broken out his acoustic guitar and coaxed Kobe into a folksy rendition of “Kumbaya,” but he probably left that in his other shorts.

Don’t get me wrong; I know Miller isn’t exactly Mother Theresa. He was obviously talking trash, and he has a knack for knowing just the right things to say to set someone off.

But if the league is going to start handing out fines for trash talking, a lot of these guys are going to have to work at gas stations to make ends meet. Trash talking is as much a part of today’s game as baggy shorts.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what Reggie said. He might have told Bryant; “I’ll bet you can’t even calculate a P.E. ratio.” It simply doesn’t matter. Bryant can’t lose his cool like he did.

But if he does, the league has made it clear self-defense is just as punishable an offense as attacking someone, so you might as well retaliate.

Hindsight’s 20/20, of course, but if I’m Miller, I’m thinking I should have tried to get a couple of groin shots in on Kobe, or maybe even taken a bite out of his ear.

What? I got fined anyways, right?

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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