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NBA rookie hazing appears to be on the way out

After a recently distributed NBA memo reminding teams of its stance against hazing and bullying, teams are dialing back antics against first-year players.

November 16, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad puts up a shot over Lakers forward Shawne Williams during a game on Nov. 10. Muhammad's off-court attire no longer includes a Jonas Brothers backpack.
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad puts up a shot over Lakers… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Hazing in the NBA has always been about as sinister as a Dora the Explorer backpack, as menacing as a Hanson song.

If it were a reality television show, it could air on Nick Jr.

Cue the cute and cuddly Earl Clark dressed as a banana.

Cut to Quincy Pondexter carrying a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts into his team's practice facility.

Bring on Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, trying their best to croon Beyonce's "Single Ladies."

Those are just some of the G-rated antics rookies have been subjected to in recent years. There's no tying anyone to goal posts, sticking them with a $54,896 dinner tab a la Dez Bryant, or making them run through a hallway with pillowcases over their heads while teammates kick and punch them like the New Orleans Saints once did.

Thankfully, there's also never been anything vaguely resembling the bloodcurdling texts and phone messages Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin allegedly received as part of sustained bullying from teammate Richie Incognito that began in Martin's first NFL season.

"Obviously, football is a little different sport; it's a little rougher, so they may think it's necessary to do such things," said Lakers rookie Elias Harris, speaking generally about the treatment of first-year players in the NFL. "But I can only talk from what I've been through and it's just been awesome. Nothing crazy."

Among the duties Harris said he's had to perform are buying candy for teammates and fetching them towels. Clippers rookie Reggie Bullock said he's had to perform similar mundane tasks.

About as wacky as it gets in the NBA is having teammates pour buckets of popcorn into your luxury sport utility vehicle.

That happened to Sacramento's Jason Thompson on New Year's Eve 2008 after he neglected to bring bagels for teammates. The entire Cadillac Escalade escapade was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube.

Players are now getting even less cutesy after a memo the NBA recently distributed reminding teams of its stance against hazing and bullying.

Less than two weeks into the season, Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad was no longer carrying the Jonas Brothers backpack he had been issued for trips. Muhammad said front-office executives had asked players to stop the practice.

"The backpacks were something to welcome us to the team," said Muhammad, the former UCLA standout, "but it's all about what the NBA thinks, so we have to go on and respect it."

Rookie hazing predates even Jerry Sloan's debut in 1965, when the Baltimore Bullets' swingman toted shot clocks for exhibition games because they were often played in high school gyms.

Over the years, superstars and second-round draft picks alike have endured the rookie rite of passage. The Clippers' Blake Griffin had to wear a pink Dora the Explorer backpack even though he was injured his first season. The Lakers made center Sun Yue, whose NBA career spanned all of 10 games, pick up In-N-Out burgers on the way to Los Angeles International Airport.

Now it seems the "in" thing to do to first-year players is on its way out, headed the way of set shots and Chuck Taylors.">

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