Much has been made of the play that resulted in San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard going down with an ankle injury. The debate rages on. Was it a dirty play by Golden State's Zaza Pachulia -- or not?
Seems like that depends on who's doing the judging.
On the particular play, Leonard went up for a jump shot, and Pachulia went up with him to try and either block it or impede Leonard's vision. No contact was made and no foul called.
But whatever goes up must come down and, while Leonard was in the air, Pachulia moved into his "space" a bit. Like any other basketball player a million times over, Leonard wasn't looking where his feet would land when he came back to the floor. As it turned out, his left foot barely -- BARELY -- landed on one of Pachulia's feet and his already weak ankle from a previous injury gave way.
Kawhi won't be available in Game 2, and will likely be at far less than 100% if he can return at all in the series.
To the surprise of few, San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich cried foul. It was a dirty play, said Pop. Of course he knows that his team would have had their hands full with Golden State anyway, but without a reasonably healthy Kawhi Leonard, the odds against his team pulling off a series victory over the high-flying Dubs get astronomical. Theoretically possible? Yes. So is Halley's comet making a u-turn and coming back again next year -- but I wouldn't exactly count on it.
For the record, yours truly has seen the replay of that play at least a dozen times -- slo-mo and all. While I admire both San Antonio and Golden State for their basketball prowess, I'm a neutral observer and root for neither over the other. Yet after seeing it so many times, I just couldn't see anything intentionally dirty on Zaza's part. In my opinion, it was a fluke play -- unfortunate in the outcome to be sure -- but hardly an intent to injure.
However, there are certainly those that disagree. On an afternoon sports talk show, former player/panelists were asked for their take.
It should be noted that these panelists were African-Americans, as is Kawhi Leonard, while Zaza Pachulia is caucasian.
They deemed it "dirty". The verdict was in. Guilty -- according to them. True, Leonard is a star player while Pachulia is only a reserve, but should that really matter? Once on the court, aren't they all supposedly equal, at least in the eyes of the officials? Remember, a foul wasn't even called on the play.
And that raises some food for thought. Let's hypothetically switch the personnel around and see if they would have come to the same conclusion.
In this scenario, Zaza is not the "offender", but rather Lebron James. And the injured party isn't Kawhi, but rather Zaza himself. Do you think they would see it the same way and label Lebron as "dirty"?
Somehow I seriously doubt that. The guess here is they would have spun it off as the "fluke" play it really was.
And had the injured player been Steph Curry of the Warriors, rather than his own Kawhi Leonard, methinks Gregg Popovich would see it in an entirely different light as well.
Tis in the eyes of the beholder indeed, and sometimes those pesky prejudices seem to get in the way.
Nothing new about that. Checked out the political scene in America lately? And even the hordes of citizens digging in on both sides to defend or attack their heroes/nemeses, regardless of what they do?
It's just the way it is.