Oklahoma City residents had plenty of reasons to vote down last week's election on Ford Center improvements. Ownership will ask for a new arena five to 10 years down the line, some feared. Others rejected the idea of paying for upgrades that millionaire and billionaire owners could easily cover. Citizens had valid reason to question the need to pay the cost of an NBA-use-only practice facility, or object the Ford Center measure because they're not NBA fans and shouldn't have to pay for something they'd never use, or because there is always better things to spend tax dollars on. But the criticism sailed foul when some argued that the NBA's presence would increase Oklahoma City's crime rate and drag down the city. Too many examples were heard from callers of talk radio shows and seen on reader comments around the Internet. Suggestions for possible team nicknames included "Posse,” "Thugs” and "Hoodlums.” Bill from Tulsa took it a step further in his response to a March 4 column by The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. "The answer is no,” Bill wrote on NewsOK.com. "We don't want the NBA, with its image problems, fatherless children, egomaniacs and shootings. No thanks.” Fortunately, not everyone was as misguided. In response to Bill from Tulsa, Jill in Oklahoma City wrote: "The NBA has a fabulous public service mandate for their players. Imagine Kevin Durant reading to your child at school. There are some players who can provide a very positive role model for our children.” Patrick in Edmond chimed in by challenging those who contend the NBA has a horrible image to come up with one bad thing that happened in Oklahoma City during the Hornets' two-year stay that could be directly linked to the NBA's presence. Good luck with that one. What about Chris Paul screamed thug? His Hornets teammate, Tyson Chandler, unlike the clean-cut, tattoo-less Paul, showed up in Year 2 with a Mohawk and a body covered with ink. And still, Chandler was every bit the gentleman Paul was. Married and a proud father, too, for what it's worth. The NBA obligates players to make 12 appearances during the season and fines no-shows $20,000. Some players do the bare minimum. Many go the extra mile. There are roughly 450 NBA players, and to label the entire league thugs, hoodlums or egomaniacs is unfair and ill-advised. For every Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley — players who've recently made headlines for incidents in which they were forced to protect themselves with guns — there are NBA locker rooms filled with players who mirror Paul and Chandler. Players that make hospital visits, reach out to the homeless, build basketball courts and make the day of unsuspecting elementary school children. Unfortunately, isolated shootings make for better headlines than story time.
Hornets guard Chris Paul has been a model citizen, helping to debunk the myth that the NBA is full of troublemakers. Associated press