Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Friday, January 23, 2004
Updated: June 7, 6:22 PM ET
These fakes are a real pain

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: This column appears in the Feb. 2 edition of ESPN The Magazine.

Only five athletes have ever made me irrational: Kareem, Isiah, Bill Laimbeer, Pete Rose and Roger Clemens. I dislike them completely and totally. They may be good husbands, dads and friends (well, not Rose, but bear with me). It doesn't matter. I'll always root against them.

Sports Guy's Super Blog
For the second time in three years, Page 2 is unleashing Bill Simmons on the Super Bowl.

That's right, all next week, The Sports Guy will be filing daily dispatches from Houston. In fact, Simmons is going to write a regular "Super Blog" for Page 2, which will be updated several times daily. Think of it as a weeklong running diary.

Simmons will hit all the big parties, take in a little slice of Texas, offer a few glimpses behind the scenes of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and even provide a little analysis on the Carolina Panthers ... and, uh, what's the other team playing in the big game?

Here's the deal: I don't like phonies. And 2004 is shaping up as the Year of the Phony. Take Kareem, a self-serving ninny who honestly believed he never committed a foul in his life. Famously petulant, he only cracked a smile when he was trying to sell a book. Nothing was more painful than his farewell tour, when we had to pretend we liked him for an entire season. I mean, didn't Magic and Bird save the NBA from Kareem? These days, he wants a coaching gig, apparently unaware that "people skills" is one of the requirements. On Gumbel's HBO show last month, Kareem complained that he couldn't even get an interview. They wrote the piece to make us feel sorry for him, and I was crying, all right -- tears of joy. What goes around comes around.

Secretly, I was hoping Isiah would hire him in New York. You thought the German team in "Victory" was fun to root against? I turned on Isiah during his prime, when his frozen smile disguised a cheapshot artist and poor sport, not to mention he was the ringleader of those physical Pistons teams that almost ruined basketball. He was nearly exposed after blaspheming the Basketball Jesus ("If Bird were black ... "), but it was only when he and his loser teammates stormed off against MJ's Bulls that we saw the real Isiah. And you wonder why they left him off the Dream Team.

Since then he's burned bridges in Detroit and Toronto, struggled famously as a talking head, destroyed the CBA and stumbled comically as Indiana's coach. Now we get to watch him screw up the Knicks, which obviously isn't a bad thing. I just want to know why he keeps getting chances. Shouldn't you have to display some degree of competence to land six high-profile jobs in less than a decade? When he's running for president in 2008, don't say I didn't warn you.

Isiah Thomas
Isiah may already being wearing out his welcome in New York.
Isiah's career might have been redeemable if he hadn't been mixed up with Laimbeer, his self-proclaimed enforcer, who hid behind Rick Mahorn every time someone came at him. He once drove Robert Parish to pepper him with punches as the Gah-den crowd screamed its approval. Now he's doing games for ESPN, cracking jokes and making everyone forget he should have been incarcerated for all those clotheslines and flying elbows.

Then there's Rose: hypocrite, serial liar, degenerate gambler. He finally admitted betting on baseball, but only to hawk his book and weasel his way into Cooperstown. Yes, I was lying for the past 14 years, but I feel sorry now, and oh, by the way, can I be in the Hall? How can we let him profit off this crap? Shouldn't the Son of Sam laws apply here? If it were up to me, I'd put him in the Hall -- in the basement, next to the furnace, with a plaque that lists all the indefensible things he did. What a slime.

But the ultimate con man is Clemens. He's now skipped town three times: once for money, once for a ring and once because he fell in love with Andy Pettitte. Sox fans were outraged after Clemens said he'd play only in Boston or Texas, then signed in Canada for a few extra bucks, muttering a few stilted words of thanks on his way out. Toronto fans were outraged when Clemens' agents brokered an iffy trade to Gotham. And Yankee fans were outraged because they'd resisted Clemens for years, finally accepting him after he fondled Babe Ruth's statue enough times. God, what a phony. As soon as they bought into his "I want to retire as a Yankee" rhetoric, he reamed them. Instead of a farewell tour, they got "Farewell, suckers!"

On the bright side, Yankee fans and Red Sox fans finally have something in common: we both hate Clemens. So maybe 2004 won't be so bad after all.

Now, if I can just get the chance to clothesline Laimbeer at the company picnic ...

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, as well as one of the writers for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC