There is a lot of negativity surrounding New York Knicks' J.R. Smith right now. In fact, this is the first day Smith is eligible to be traded. Some rumors have him heading back to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller. Others, like Marc Berman of the New York Post, say they haven't heard anything and that there's only been minimal interest in Smith. Either way, it would seem that Smith's days in New York may be numbered. Clearly it wasn't his only issue but his shoelace stunt seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back for Smith with the Knicks. However, would you be surprised to find out Larry Bird pulled the same stunt as a member of the Boston Celtics?
J.R. Smith brought a lot of heat on himself when he was caught untying Shawn Marion's sneaker when the New York Knicks faced the Dallas Mavericks. However, it wasn't the first time he'd pulled that stunt. Just asked the Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, after being warned and scolded Smith then either faked or just missed his chance at untying Detroit Pistons' Greg Monroe's sneaker. That landed Smith in Mike Woodson and James Dolan's dog house.
Until these recent incidents, most had never even thought of untying an opponents sneaker. That's more of something you'd do to your friend fooling around on the pickup court or that you'd see from kids right? Well, apparently professional players do it as well.
Notice the word use, players. That's because Smith isn't alone in pulling a shoelace stunt. Bill Haisley of DEADSPIN reports through an excerpt of John McCallum's book "Unfinished Business" that Larry Bird pulled a similar stunt when he was playing for the Boston Celtics.
Bird and Person continued their personal battle. At one point when Bird was out of the game and lying on his towel in front of the bench, he reached over and untied Person’s shoelaces as the Pacer waited for a free throw at the other end.
Now, this doesn't excuse Smith's actions. Clearly he needs to be more professional and concentrate on the game more than pulling stunts like untying opponents sneakers. However, the point remains that this isn't as unprecedented as we all may have thought.
In fact, Bird wasn't even in the game when he untied Indiana Pacers' Chuck Persons sneaker. That's almost worse right? At least Smith was playing when he pulled this nonsense. Bird almost became a sixth man on the court by getting involved in play from the sideline.
What's the biggest difference? Bird is respected as one of the best all-time players. Smith is looked at as an immature fool. What's worse is Smith's brought that reputation down on himself.
The point, however, is that those blasting Smith should do the same to Bird for his similar act. The difference in eras shouldn't matter and neither should their reputations.
Let's be clear, Smith isn't in Bird's league. They don't deserve the same reputations. That being said, cases like this that are so similar deserve similar scrutiny.
The fact is though that it's human nature to give the star favoritism. That's specially true in the NBA. However, something doesn't seem right about putting one player though the ringer over doing the same thing that's laughed off or considered gamesmanship when another player does it.