'Greed is good' is new mantra

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

Avarice, ambition and arrogance have become the NBA's unspoken triple double, qualities that recently surfaced in the wake of players who have brazenly thumbed their nose at lucrative extensions or publicly announced they were opting out of mega-million-dollar deals.

It evokes ugly memories of Oliver Miller, that great ambassador, who ran his mouth more than he would run the floor as a member of the expansion Raptors.

While the times and lifestyles clearly have changed and the money being doled out to the modern-day hoopster pales in comparison, the Big O made the big mistake of overstating his value on the hardwood.

Rather than play out the final two years of his deal worth a total of $6 million US, Miller decided to opt out following the Raptors' 1995 inaugural season, hoping to cash in on a decent season on a losing club.

Reality soon hit Miller when no team expressed any interest, forcing Miller to accept the league minimum.

Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor, Andre Iguodala and to some extent even Gilbert Arenas, are, by all accounts, good people, but each is following in the same slippery slope taken by Miller by exercising the right to pursue free agency this off-season.

It is a risk fuelled by the allure of big bucks at a time when teams are counting every penny to avoid paying a luxury tax.

It is a flawed approach, one that smacks of stupidity.

Iguodala fancies himself as a franchise player, even though anyone with any basketball brain can easily see he isn't, who walked away from a $57-million extension offered by the Sixers.

No one seems to know why Iguodala, who becomes a restricted free agent come July 1, would decide to say no to such an arrangement.

Bulls teammates Gordon and Deng reportedly said no to a $50-million extension, while Okafor nixed a $65-million extension.

It makes little sense when so much money is being discussed, which brings us back to the point of greed and arrogance as motivation.

Arenas is a three-time all-star who will tonight miss his 53rd successive game when his Wizards pay a visit to the ACC. Agent Zero signed a six-year deal worth $65 million in 2003, but will opt out this summer.

"I'm still gonna be the No. 1 free agent,'' Arenas told the Washington Times. "I mean, on a bad leg I average 22 (points).''

It's little wonder why so many fans feel a disconnect with today's athletes, but it seems the chasm is more pronounced with NBA players.

Pampered from the moment they are drafted, the culture of coddling continues unabated.

When buyouts are negotiated for veterans wanting out of a losing situation to compete for a title, one can, at face value, understand their rationale.

There is no explanation, at least sensible, when so much money is being committed and yet some believe they are actually worth more.

Hubris, it seems, has no price, nor any limit.

KUDOS TO KOBE

Kobe Bryant deserves to win the NBA's MVP award and only a complete moron or the occasional homer voter can deprive the Lakers star of his first honour.

His image completely remade, his game at a level where comparisons to Michael Jordan are legitimate, Bryant should, and we emphasis should, beat out the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard, the five leading MVP candidates.

Where once Bryant was booed, he is now cheered when L.A. comes to town.

His smile appears genuine, his selfish act replaced with a team-first approach, Bryant has become a player who is willing to sacrifice for others.

In the past, there was too much baggage and too many times when Bryant played a game of one-on-five for voters to justifiably bypass him.

When Bryant was charged with sexual assault, a charge which was dropped in 2004, he was among the most disliked personalities in sports, ranking alongside Ron Artest.

But not anymore.

Even Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who carved Kobe in the Zen-master's book, believes his star has turned the corner when it comes to leadership.

Assuming Bryant does win the league's MVP, he'll become the third member of the fabled class of 1996 to win the NBA bauble, joining Allen Iverson and two-time winner Steve Nash.

One has to turn the clock back to 1984 to find three MVPs to come out of the same draft class -- Jordan, Akeem Olajuwon, when the Dream had yet to add the letter H to his first name, and Charles Barkley.


Photos