sports psychologist & clinical psychology

NBA’S IMAGE TAKES A HIT

Florida Today – Jul 8, 2003 – John Denton – Armstrong, Stoudamire join Bryant on blotter. When Kobe Bryant signed an endorsement deal with Nike last month, some critics wondered whether the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar could become a merchandising giant without a bad boy image.

Unlike fellow star and Reebok pitchman Allen Iverson, Bryant didn’t hit the NBA with a prior arrest record or tattoos splattered across his body. Even after being arrested last summer on weapons and assault charges — claims he eventually was cleared of — Iverson’s popularity seemed to soar among endorsers and fans.

While some marketing experts wonder how Bryant’s shocking weekend arrest for alleged felony sexual assault will affect his standing in the public eye, others wonder if — in a twisted sort of logic — this actually might benefit Bryant’s abilities as a shoe salesman.

“It’s kind of sad, but the first thing I thought was, ‘Hey, Kobe can maybe sell some shoes now,’ ” said sports analyst Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Pickett Advertising in San Francisco. “Look what happened to Iverson.

“These charges seem to fizzle out and go away, and I doubt this is going to have much effect on Kobe or his endorsements or his future as a star. Should it prove to be something more significant or substantial, he’ll probably just act contrite, apologize in public and do all the things you’re supposed to do. People will forget and we’ll continue to watch him play great basketball.”

Bryant’s incident is just the latest in a long string of NBA players running afoul of the law. Orlando Magic point guard Darrell Armstrong, recently picked by The Sporting News as “one of the good guys in sports,” was arrested early Monday for allegedly fighting with a female police officer outside an Orlando nightclub.

It also came out Monday that Portland Trail Blazers guard Damon Stoudamire was arrested last week on drug charges as he boarded a plane at Tucson (Ariz.) International Airport.

That comes on the heels of the NBA suspending Atlanta forward Glenn Robinson for the first three games of next season after being convicted of domestic battery and assault of his ex-fiancee. And next week, Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber goes to trial to face charges of perjury. Webber was indicted in September on charges of lying to a federal grand jury about money he allegedly received from former University of Michigan booster Ed Martin.

Why all the bad behavior? Sports psychologist John Murray blames it in part on the pampered lifestyles athletes lead — often before they even make it to the pros.

Splashed on magazine covers, paid exorbitant amounts of money and given the star treatment, athletes sometimes think they’re above the law, Murray said.

“There’s a lot of pressures, there’s a lot of temptations,” Murray said. “And when you have no limits, you’re going to find your limits — one way or another.”

An unidentified woman told sheriff’s deputies that Bryant was involved in sexual misconduct the night of June 30 at an Edwards, Colo.-area hotel, leading to his arrest Friday. Prosecutors haven’t decided whether they’ll bring charges against Bryant.

Players and coaches preparing to compete in the Pepsi Pro Summer League today in Orlando were unanimous in their support for Bryant, one of the NBA’s most respected players. Cleveland Cavaliers phenom LeBron James, the top pick in the NBA Draft, said he was shocked to hear the news about Bryant, a player he idolized and patterned his game after while preparing to make the jump to the NBA.

“For me, it’s hard to comment on something like that because I don’t know all of the details and I’m not a part of it,” said James, who will make his pro debut tonight in the summer league. “But I’m behind Kobe all the way because he’s a part of our league. I don’t know the details, but I’m with Kobe.

“He’s one of the top two best players in the league. He’s young and came out of high school like I did. I’m a Kobe fan, no matter what happens.”

Coming off the lowest-rated Finals in league history, some think the NBA is in a free fall when it comes to its national image.

“I think it is all very distressing relative to our culture and the role that sports can play in a positive way,” said Nova Lanktree, the executive vice president of player marketing for CSMG International in Chicago. “Instead of raising the standards, we seem to lower them regarding morality and bad behavior as long as someone can shoot a 3-pointer or intercept a pass.”

Added Dorfman: “I think the public is becoming immune to most of these stories. I think the NBA’s bigger problem is lack of skills and kind of dull play, more than the outlaw image it has got. With the exception of some extreme cases, it’s happening in every sport. Football players are having the same problem, Sammy Sosa’s corking his bat, there’s illicit behavior and criminal behavior among all athletes. I think it’s a sign of the times.”

Armstrong, 35, had become one of the most popular players in Magic history for not only his gritty style of play, but also his willingness to give his free time off the court. Armstrong had spent several offseasons raising money for needy families of premature babies. He has worked with a local juvenile detention facility to improve the lives of facility occupants. And he spent his holidays last year serving Thanksgiving meals to senior citizens and hosting 120 needy kids for a Christmas party.

On Monday, just hours after being released from jail, Armstrong had to take time out from his kids clinic in Orlando to explain what had happened outside of a downtown nightclub. According to the Orlando Police Department, Armstrong refused to get out of the street and scuffled briefly with Theresa Joyce and other officers before being arrested. Joyce reported suffering an injury to her thumb while trying to restrain Armstrong.

“It was just an unfortunate accident that probably never should have happened on both parts, to be honest with you,” said Armstrong, whose status as a free agent could be affected by the run-in with police. “We’ll just try to work it out and move on. I’m moving on and getting ready for my camp with the kids.”

Armstrong’s Magic teammate, center Steven Hunter, witnessed the incident outside the nightclub and felt that police “overreacted.” He said when athletes are in a public setting, they are prone to situations like this and that they often feel like targets.

“When you go out to a club and people are drinking, they see dollar signs,” Hunter said. “People try to sue you for any little thing. They try to make you fight them and provoke you. You have to be careful and keep yourself out of these positions.”

Florida Today’s Jeff D’Alessio contributed to this report.

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Players who have run afoul of the law

POLICE REPORT

Monday’s news

Darrell Armstrong, Magic. Arrested after being accused of fighting with a female police officer outside a nightclub.

Kobe Bryant, Lakers. Arrested in Eagle County (Colo.) on a felony count of sexual assault.

Damon Stoudamire, Blazers. Arrested on drug charges as he boards a plane in Tucson.

2002-03 season

Jason Caffey, Sam Cassell, Gary Payton, Bucks. Surrendered to Toronto police following an investigation into alleged assault outside a strip club.

Marcus Fizer, Bulls. Charged with having a loaded gun in his car, driving with a suspended license.

Joseph Forte, Sonics. Sought in connection with alleged assault on a student during a pickup game. Already facing drugs and weapons charges in Maryland.

Ruben Patterson , Blazers. Arrested on suspicion of domestic assault. Fined $100,000 by team.

Glenn Robinson, Hawks. Found guilty of domestic battery for threatening and pushing his ex-fiancee in her house.

Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, Blazers. Cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession after a traffic stop.

Kurt Thomas, Knicks. Ordered to stay away from wife and home on charges he assaulted her during an argument over a laptop computer.

More bad behavior

Ron Artest, Pacers. Fined $20,000 by NBA for making an obscene gesture to Cavs crowd.

Chris Mills, Warriors. As Portland’s bus tried to leave the arena after a brawl-filled game, he parked his car in front of it, got out with friends and challenged the Blazers. Portland players hear rumors that one of Mills’ friends might be carrying a gun.

Jerry Sloan, Jazz. Coach suspended seven games after shoving an official.

Latrell Sprewell, Knicks. Broke his hand — reportedly by throwing an errant punch at the boyfriend of a woman who vomited on his new yacht.

Upcoming trials

Chris Webber, Kings. Indicted in September on charges of lying to a federal grand jury trial starts next week.

Jayson Williams, former Net. Will stand trial in September in shooting death of a limousine driver.

CAPTIONS:

AP Photo

Darrell Armstrong of the Orlando Magic speaks to reporters Monday after being accused of fighting with a female police officer.

AP Photo

Mark Hurlbert, right, district attorney, responds to questions about the arrest of Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant during a news conference at the Eagle County Justice Center in Eagle, Colo., on Monday. At left is Sheriff Joseph Hoy.

AP file

Kobe Bryant was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault after a woman accused the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard of sexual misconduct at a hotel near Vail, Colo. Bryant was released after turning himself in Friday and posting a $25,000 bond on suspicion of felony sexual assault, the Eagle County sheriff’s office said Sunday. No charges have been filed yet.

Mugs: Darrel Armstrong Kobe BryantDamon Stoudamire Rasheed Wallace Glenn Robinson Kurt Thomas Marcus Fizer Ron Artest Latrell Sprewell Chris Webber Jayson Williams
Edition: Final

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Section: Sports
Page: 01

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