After an impressive performance against the reeling Miami Heat to help push the Eastern Conference finals to a winner-take-all Game 7, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert spoke with reporters about his role in the Pacers' 91-77 Game 6 win ... and put a size-18 foot in his mouth.
During a postgame podium trip alongside teammate Paul George, who starred with 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the win, Hibbert — who again controlled the paint while adding 24 points and 11 rebounds of his own — used the phrase "no homo" as an ill-considered joke following a question about defending LeBron James. The Georgetown product also casually referred to the media as "motherf-----s" in response to a question about his surprisingly low finish in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
"And I don't care if I get fined," the 26-year-old center said, offering an eight-word challenge sure to be accepted by NBA Commissioner David Stern and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson.
Hibbert has since issued a statement apologizing for his "insensitive remarks." Whether said apology in any way lessens his sure-to-be forthcoming punishment remains to be seen.
Here's video of the "no homo" drop, plus context on the question and Hibbert's response from ASAP Sports Transcripts:
For both you guys: A key moment is when LeBron's called for a charge into Roy. He basically takes off down the floor. What's going through your mind when you see LeBron running the other way and getting T'ed up?
Hibbert: I was on the floor to tell you the truth, so I didn't know what was going on. I had to ask Paul. That play right there, I tell Paul, I have his back all the time. If he gets beat, LeBron has a large launching pad, I don't block a lot of shots all the time, but I try to alter it as much as possible and not to give up any easy plays.
Because the momentum could have shifted right there if he got an easy dunk. There was what — was it Game 3 here? I really felt that I let Paul down in terms of having his back when LeBron was scoring in the post or getting to the paint, because they stretched me out so much. No homo. (laughs)
But I wanted to be there for [Paul]. He's the future. I mean, I think he has a chance to be MVP of this league next year. Every guard needs to have a big guy to have his back. So I'm that guy.
In the event that you've somehow reached June 2013 without having encountered the way people (primarily straight men) use "no homo" and "pause" as a joke/defense mechanism, it's worth taking the next three minutes to watch New York hip-hop radio host/writer Jay Smooth's breakdown of the phrases' background and intent:
"No homo" and "pause" are nothing new in NBA circles — we've seen superstars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard use "pause" after games, we've seen Andrew Bynum drop a "no homo" after a win, and we've seen plenty of players tweet either or both terms. The usage isn't as explosive as Kobe Bryant or Joakim Noah using the term "faggot" from the bench, but the low-heat, steady-boiling nature of "no homo" and "pause" have allowed them to remain pervasive and their use to go largely unpunished.
This is the third time this postseason that Hibbert has used some kind of questionable gendered/masculinity-focused language with the media to either express displeasure or crack a joke after a Pacers game. Following a Game 5 loss to the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, he told reporters that he and his teammates had "played like p-----s," invoking a kittenish slang term for a vagina. And just two nights before Game 6, he'd made the Pacers' need to "sack up" after a Game 5 loss to the Heat a point of emphasis in his postgame press conference.
Next, the media MF-ing, again with video (the swear's bleeped out) and again with context from ASAP Sports Transcripts:
Roy, you finished only 10th in [Defensive] Player of the Year voting. Why do you think that's possible when you alter so many shots?
Hibbert: You know what, because y'all motherf*****s don't watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth. That's fine. I'm going to be real with you. And I don't care if I get fined. You know what, we play, we're not on TV all the time. Reporters are the ones that are voting. And it is what it is. If I don't make it, that's fine. I'm still going to do what I have to do.
George: Well said.
Well, not that well, Paul. Could've done without the 13-letter expletive in the middle, there, and could've done without the two-word non-sequitur assertion that you're not gay because you use the term "stretched out."
If Hibbert had gone without those phrases, the focus after the game and on Sunday might be on the multiple valid and interesting points that Hibbert had intended to make. Like that the Pacers' bigs and wings are amazingly connected on defense, or how Miami's been working to try to fray or sever those connections, or how two years' worth of drilling, practice and continuity have established the kind of trust that lets George play aggressively up top on the league's Most Valuable Player, comfortable in the knowledge that he's got one of the game's premier offensive deterrents ready to help if he gets beat.
Or that many NBA awards voters might not have the most complete "actually watching the games" perspective on who's accomplished what during the regular season, and that many people didn't know the Pacers in general and Hibbert in particular were this good because national audiences had only 11 chances to watch the Pacers this year without purchasing League Pass (and just seven if they didn't have NBA TV). Or that, while it was certainly reasonable to select Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol as the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year, it was ridiculous and laughable for Hibbert to have placed so low in the voting, even back then at the time of the announcement, before playoff matchups with the Knicks and Heat made it clear to a nation of casual basketball watchers that Hibbert has become one of the most dominant defensive forces in the NBA.
Those are all really good points that could inform interesting discussions about what's happening on the court or in the offices of the NBA and its network partners. But thanks to three stupid words and two bad choices, we're going to have another discussion — one that's very interesting and valid in its own right, but surely not one that Stern and company want to have as the NBA season nears its apex, and certainly not one that will generate positive press and goodwill for the league that just celebrated the revelation that it employs (or, at least, just employed) American professional sport's first openly gay active player.
Speaking of Jason Collins, after his postgame press conference, Hibbert publicly reached out to the veteran center on Twitter:
@jasoncollins34 hey can I get a follow. Would like to discuss something's with you.
— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) June 2, 2013
... which reads like a hasty public relations move on Hibbert's part, but might've been sparked by an honest realization that he'd goofed and had some things he needs to learn. Either way, the toothpaste's already out of the tube on this one — Hibbert will be fined by the league and, if he's lucky, that's all he'll be. Over at The Nation, Dave Zirin makes a case for the league making a strong post-Collins/pro-tolerance statement by suspending Hibbert for Game 7. It strikes me as very unlikely the league would take that step, but it's perhaps worth noting that Hibbert doesn't have a squeaky clean permanent record, as he was suspended earlier this season for his role in an on-court altercation between the Pacers and Golden State Warriors.
Recognizing the error of his statement and the likely severity of the forthcoming punishment, Hibbert issued a team-sponsored apology on Sunday morning:
I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the postgame press conference after our victory over Miami Saturday night. They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views. I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television. I apologize to those who I have offended, to our fans and to the Pacers’ organization. I sincerely have deep regret over my choice of words last night.
For a lot of fans, Hibbert's choice of words brands him as a refreshingly unvarnished sort, the kind of guy who'll be completely honest in his assessments of his own play, his teammates' performances, his opponents' skills and more. That willingness to unpack things and speak in some detail can lead to really cool and insightful stuff like this recent "Inside the NBA" piece by David Aldridge, and his sense of humor has made him something of an NBA-and-comedy-diehard's favorite over the last couple of years. We like players who like to joke around, and we like players willing to offer something more than just standard clichés. We like people who speak their mind, and we like Hibbert. A lot.
It just kind of sucks that this — the "no homo" thing, particularly — was in Hibbert's mind in the first place. Here's hoping that apology comes from a place of earnest recognition and not from a place of fearful, frantic damage control.
Videos via sky2847.