As the Los Angeles Lakers were being blown out in the final game of a 4-0 sweep by the Dallas Mavericks, Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum brutally attacked a Dallas point guard. Bynum didn’t even bother pretending to make a play on the ball as J.J. Barea drove the lane – Bynum jumped up and drove his forearm directly into Barea’s chest as he was airborne, driving Barea to the arena floor. It was a sickening display by a thug of a player.
Bynum and the Lakers were understandably frustrated by the humiliation of their defeat. The problem is that this is far from a one-time event. In January 2009, Bynum pulled the same brutal move on Gerald Wallace, who had to miss seven games due to “a broken rib and partially collapsed lung.” Less than two months ago, Bynum pulled the thug move again and viciously attacked an airborne Michael Beasley, bashing him in the chest with a hard forearm.
There is simply no room in basketball for this kind of thuggery. It is particularly dirty to attack a player who has left his feet and can result in a serious injury. (In Bynum’s case, he has seriously injured an opposing player.) This is the kind of move that can literally end a player’s career. This is not the National Football League, where such collisions are expected and where players wear equipment to protect them – and even then, severe injuries happen.
Bynum should be expelled from the NBA. He has demonstrated that this is not a one-time event by a frustrated player who lost control of his emotions. This was the act of a thug who presents a serious danger to other players on the court. Opposing players should not have to worry that they could suffer a debilitating injury when driving into the lane against the Lakers. Bynum is not an NBA center; he is a thug and he does not deserve to be paid one dime as a player.
But that is not enough. Given this pattern of behavior, Bynum should be criminally charged for his flagrant foul on Sunday. He should spend some time behind bars. Professional sports players should not be exempt from consequences for felony assault and battery simply because it occurs in the course of a game played on national television.
In addition to throwing Bynum out of the league, his team should be punished as well for allowing this to take place. One possible solution is to force the Lakers to play in next year’s playoffs with a depleted roster. (Obviously, the Lakers players not permitted to play should still be paid for those games; it is the team that should be punished, not individual players who are not thugs.) Another possible solution is to take away a key Lakers’ player, perhaps Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol, and send him to another franchise via lottery.
Are these drastic and even unprecedented punishments? Yes, they are. But Bynum’s pattern of attacking and injuring opposing players is a drastic action that requires a drastic response. NBA teams should be put on notice that this type of thuggery will never be tolerated and will be harshly punished. By making an example out of the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA will provide a strong deterrent to this type of behavior in the future.
Unfortunately, you can be assured that the NBA front office will not have the integrity to punish the franchise that operates in the league’s second-biggest market in any meaningful way.