The latest issue of ESPN: The Magazine contains a quote that is already stirring up controversy around the NBA and is sure to ignite a lot of hand wringing all over the sports world.
When asked, "how big of a problem is illegal enhancing in your sport?," Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose’s reportedly said:
"Seven. It's huge and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person."
Rose says now that he misunderstood the question and thought he was being asked how big a problem it would be IF steroids were discovered in the NBA. ESPN says the interview was conducted by a contributor last November and they stand by the quote.
Maybe Rose's denial is true, or maybe it's not. It doesn't really matter. The point is that this is a conversation worth having ... and nobody in the NBA wants to have it.
The question isn't whether Derrick Rose thinks there's a problem. The question is, does anyone honestly think the NBA doesn't have a steroids problem?
That is to say, if you think steroids exist in baseball and football, does it really make sense that basketball would have been spared?
All the trends that we've seen in muscle size, strength, weight lifting, and general hugeness of athletes in the NBA, mirrors what we've seen in the NFL and MLB. Judging solely by what we see with our eyes, NBA players on average are much bigger (and not in height) and stronger than your average MLB player. Many are on par with NFL linebackers or wide receivers. And the pure athleticism of basketball players is admired far above that of any other major sport.
More importantly, they're much bigger now than they were even 10 or 15 years ago – a fact that prosecutors actually tried to use as evidence of steroid use in the Barry Bonds trial.
A small handful of players have received suspensions for failing league drug tests – though given the recent Lance Armstrong allegations, the lack of positive tests doesn't tell us much – but pro basketball has mostly gotten a pass on the question of steroid abuse. We're not saying they're all juicing, or even most, but no can seriously think steroids are a problem in football and baseball (and every other sport in the world), but not in the NBA.
Rose's comments could have started an important discussion about just how much it affects the game (if it does at all.) But like most other sports, people want to appreciate athletes doing amazing things ... and don't really want to think about how they are able to do it.
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