The 2012 NBA Draft is Thursday. Portland has a new GM, the freshest bullet point on his resume being "I made the Los Angeles Clippers a legitimate team." Portland has the sixth and eleventh pick in the draft, and excitement amongst the fandom should be high.
"Magic was always..." And Drexler goes into a decent Magic impression: "'Come on, Clyde, come on, Clyde, get with me, get with me,' and making all that noise. And, really, he couldn't play much by that time. He couldn't guard his shadow."
"But you have to have to understand what was going on then. Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he'd run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he'd get all that benefit of the doubt. Magic came across like, 'All this is my stuff.' Really? Get outta here, dude.
Oh. Hi Clyde Drexler. Didn't see you over there. Being a dick.
The above excerpt comes from Jack McCallum's book, Dream Team, which is apparently the most in-depth look, to date, at the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Trail Blazer legend Clyde Drexler made that team as the final pick, (I'm not counting Christian Laettner. Nobody should.) largely because everybody else on the team either hated Isiah Thomas, or didn't give enough of a shit to argue against the people who hated Isiah.
After the jump: Why Clyde isn't exactly wrong, and what McCallum has to say about all this.
McCallum, noting what happened when sites like Deadspin and Ball Don't Lie ran with the above quotes, felt he had to try and provide some sort of context, because "We were all just waiting for him to die," sounds like a shitty thing, said by a shitty person, who is old now, trying to remember how things happened just differently enough so that they may stay the hero at the center of their life's story.
From McCallum's blog:
He was in a good mood. He insisted on serving me lunch. Our conversation had an altogether pleasant tone to it. I have known him for many years and always liked him. I think the feeling is mutual.
...Clyde, who was at the apex of his career, was not among the first 10 announced. Everyone figured that he was one of the “auditionees,” along with Isiah Thomas, James Worthy, Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars. I thought all along it would be Drexler, and, sure enough, he was named, along with Laettner, after the regular season.
At the time, Clyde said all the right things, but I knew that he resented being what I call in the book “the add-on.” Anyone as good as Drexler would resent it.
So we started talking about it. Rather than just say, “I think I should’ve been on the team,” Clyde cast a wider net, wondering how players like Wilkens, Worthy, Isiah and, yes, himself could be excluded.
...There is a lot more in the book about Drexler’s opinions on who should’ve been left off, his feelings about being the 11th man, and his take on the behind-the-scenes negotiating about Isiah Thomas. But since Drexler has been criticized for what he said about Magic, I want to make it clear that, two decades ago, the man stood the tallest of all the Dream Teamers in welcoming Magic back to the league.
Well, that sorta makes things a little better. And Drexler's comments are a pretty accurate reflection of what a lot of people, not just basketball fans, thought was going to happen to Magic Johnson. See, America was pretty fuckin dumb about HIV/AIDS back then. In 1992, there was still a large chunk of the country who thought if you shared the same toilet seat as a gay man, there'd be a flash of pink light, you'd transmogrify into a Tom Hanks from Philadelphia, sing a couple bars of operetta into the bathroom ceiling, and die within the month.
So yeah, when Magic started publicly fighting the disease, people looked at it with a sort of hopeful patronization. Nobody really wanted to be remembered as the guy who was "That dick to Magic Johnson right before he croaked," so a lot of 1992 was considered "Magic's Farewell Tour," and people did what they could to make it as pleasant as possible. He got dropped into the NBA All-Star Game. Won the MVP (over Drexler, who killed in that game, but who wants to be "the dick who prevented Magic from getting one last award?"). Got selected to the Dream Team. Won the gold.
Drexler is technically right. He just didn't have to be a dick about it. But that's kinda how Clyde is. Many Blazers fans have forgotten over the years, and I personally could have done without the harsh reminder, but Drexler always had a reputation as a snot. A stuck-up, pouty, brat. A Mean Girl. Which is why my throwback Blazers jersey has Terry Porter's number on it, and not Clyde's. And it appears, according to some of the comments on the Deadspin article, that Clyde indulges that side even more throughout the book:
"I had a lot of success against Jordan. I beat him often. At his game. Which is also my game. I was bigger, faster. I did everything he could do. Except shoot more."
Dude. Come on. Here's a couple things Jordan did better than you.
1) Win championships
2) Put an arc on his jumper
Again - Clyde isn't exactly wrong here. He's wrong-ish: People didn't just roll over and let Magic have all of the points and all of the assists. There's video of those Dream Team practices now, thanks to the NBA TV doc that aired earlier this month, and Jordan, Pippen, and Barkley are all going at the man pretty hard. But people were willing to cut Magic some slack that they wouldn't have otherwise, because of his condition.
And I can understand the frustration of a pouty little Mean Girl watching prettier, more talented kids getting the attention they feel they should have deserved all that time. I get Clyde sitting in his room, calling Lacey Chabert, whining about how bullshit it is that everyone loves MAAGIC because MAAGIC got AAAIDS WAH WAH WAH. That fits.
It's just that a couple days before the draft, I could have done without the reminder that the player most Blazers fans consider one of the best - if not the best - to ever wear the uniform, was/is a backbiting, butthurt crybaby over large chunks of his career.
Dream Team is available July 10th from Ballantine Books.