The Defence of Andrew Bynum

andrewbynum1It has recently been reported that Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum has been suspended indefinitely by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team. What that conduct consists of is unclear.  Bynum recently made comments about when and where he should be getting the ball, and that is potentially disruptive in terms of publically questioning the coach, and teammates, especially the point guards who distribute the ball.  That sort of thing is unprofessional, but Bynum at the time wasn’t calling anybody out and may have been addressing his own limits as a player.  That is not what is being reported, however.  What is being reported is that Bynum simply isn’t in love with the game of basketball.  Fans are overwhelmingly responding in a negative way, expectedly claiming that they would love to be in Bynum’s position.  But such a rash and uneducated response seems unfair to Bynum, and one should consider his perspective before passing judgement on him.

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Many Philadelphia fans were expressed an extreme dislike for Bynum after he missed an entire season with a knee injury.

Many Philadelphia fans were expressed an extreme dislike for Bynum after he missed an entire season with a knee injury.

It is no secret that Bynum has had health issues.  Since he came into the league, 6 of his 8 seasons have seen Bynum miss significant time due to injury, including last season in which Bynum missed the entire year.  The issue has been his knees, an issue that is so bad that he even reinjured his knees doing something as trivial as bowling last year.  Fans at the time were upset with the injury, but he had been clear for light contact activities and bowling with friends doesn’t seem like an unreasonable thing.  This, though, is something Bynum has to deal with.  Big and tall people put a unique kind of strain on their bodies due to their size. They are more prone to injury, and this proclivity to injury in increased exponentially when one plays a professional sport like basketball.  Bynum’s knees are in such a bad spot that even simple social activities like bowling prove to be a breeding ground for a personal injury that would put him on crutches for months.  Few of us can claim to be employed in a working environment that that is so prone to injuries.

Andrew Bynum saw happier days in Los Angelas, winning two titles and making the All-Star team.

Andrew Bynum saw happier days in Los Angelas, winning two titles and making the All-Star team.

Whether or not Bynum has a passion for the game remains to be seen. There have been rumours, both last season and this season, that Bynum is not passionate about that game.  One cannot fault a person for not being in love with a game, especially one that has been the source of so much physical pain.  Over the course of the last 8 years, Bynum has made close to 80 million dollars.  As far as most people go, that is not only enough to allow you to live comfortable until retirement; that is enough to ensure your children and grandchildren will be spoiled rotten until the day they die.  Granted, some players (Antoine Walker and Allen Iverson among them), have ripped through more than twice that much and retired bankrupt, but 80+ million is enough for any one person to live on. The question is not: How can you turn down millions of dollars to play basketball?  The question is: If you have $80 million and somebody offer you $12 million to injury your knees permanently, would you take it? 

Some players, like Robert Parish (left) and Moses Malone (right), play until no team is willing to pay them.

Some players, like Robert Parish (left) and Moses Malone (right), play until no team is willing to pay them.

There are some people for whom basketball is a way of life.  There are guys who live for the game and literally love the game.  People who have such a passion that they will play until there isn’t a team willing to pay them to play.  We’ve seen guys like this: Darrell Armstrong, Ben Wallace, Robert Parish, Moses Malone, Dominque Wilkens.  Some of the guys go overseas to finish their careers because there are no takers in the NBA, and others have the luxury of playing in the NBA until their body quits on them.  Perhaps Andrew Bynum is not one of these guys. He wouldn’t be the first.  There are many other players who retired young because they had other priorities in life.  Players that were better than Bynum and who had made far less.  Michael Jordan, for example, walked away from the game at the age of 29.  Barry Sanders, one of the greatest football players ever, retired at 31 and never touched the game again, leaving millions on the table.  If it turns out the Bynum doesn’t have a passion to play basketball, is it fair to expect him to play simply because we think we would if we were in the same situation?  Does this make Bynum ungrateful?  Or wouldn’t it be cheating the fans if he played without passion? 

andrewbynumlakersUntil Bynum comes out and explains how he feels in his own words, there is no way for fans to know what is going on in his mind and what motivates the choices he makes.  Perhaps we will never know. Today’s media reports on rumours and innuendo, and cites a ‘source close the situation’.  Website traffic and revenue are generate through sensational headlines and people just love to be upset about something.  When Bynum injured his knee bowling, fans responded with harsh criticism, as if Bynum weren’t allowed to have a social life outside of the game of basketball.  Reading about a person we see as entitled turning down millions of dollars to play a child’s game see like the epitome of laziness, but at the end of the day, we simply do not know what is going on in Bynum’s mind and in Bynum’s body.  Everything is conjecture.  We would value our own health if we were in a similar situation, so perhaps it is best that we give Bynum the benefit of the doubt and reserve our judgement until Bynum speaks for himself instead of allowing a ‘source close to the situation’ determine how we are going to think.

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