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Angel in Devil’s Shoes, Part One

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1988: Guard Isiah Thomas, left, forward Dennis Rodman, right, and forward Vinnie Johnson of the Detroit Pistons talk to each other during a game. Mandatory Credit: Allsport /Allsport

There are sports personalities and/or celebrities that have found ways to bring themselves to the brink of unsalvageable situations…

Take Donald Sterling – Banned for life from the NBA. Salvageable? Nah.

And now, James Dolan. Quickly approaching an unsalvageable situation of his own…

These guys are not easily confused with angels – at all. People despise them – and public outcry has won the day.

But there are some who have approached that brink – and faced it down – only to go on, and to find new ways to garner respect. Take Bill Laimbeer.

Bill Laimbeer – to most sports fans – is known for what? Ohhh, he was a bad, bad boy. It may fairly be said that Laimbeer roughed up one of America’s greatest sports icons – Michael Jordan. Just when you thought Jordan was sacred.

Laimbeer’s court play was rough – that is difficult to deny. It was rough at a time when rough now wasn’t even considered rough then. And, for all intents and purposes, Laimbeer was the leader, or the instigator – of the Bad Boys.

Dennis Rodman is known for many things, but among them, he is known for also being a part of that Pistons team – The Bad Boys.

In the eyes of some – they could do no wrong. They developed a reputation – they were Bad Boys.

Is that somehow endearing? Well, yes, I guess – to some. Detroit city loved ‘em!

And the Bad Boys were champions. They won a title or two. And ohhhh, how we love winners. So what were they? Angels in devil’s shoes? Perhaps, yes?

Bill Laimbeer, later, in his work as a WNBA coach – has won coach of the year – twice!

Is he an angel then, yeah? Perhaps.

Flagrant fouls are now given a rating – thanks to bad boys like the Detroit Pistons and their polarizing playing style.

Draymond Green – Got a flagrant in the closing minutes of Game 4 of the 2016 NBA finals. Result: Green was suspended for Game 5.

What people are saying…”He is a troll, albeit a troll who racks up triple-doubles…”

The triple-doubles part makes him an angel, yes? Green himself, as well as many others, believe that there would have been no game 6 or game 7 last year, had Draymond been a part of Game 5.

Draymond Green now has a reputation. Which makes it difficult for him to get the benefit of  the doubt from most fans – and most refs.

So is all this exclusive to basketball? Maybe – but consider Mad Mike Milbury – for those unfamiliar, Milbury was the hockey player who climbed into the stands at a Bruins game, took a shoe from the foot of a quarrelsome fan, and started beating him (that fan) with it!!! That moment actually had a lot more to it than just Milbury beating a fan with his own shoe, but for the sake of time and space…

This year, the angels in devil’s shoes ideal has made its way into the college ranks. We have a new Duke boy (other than Christian Laettner) to despise – yup! There’s a bad boy on the rise…

Grayson Allen now finds himself in the company of angels – but they are angels in devil shoes.

By Dr. Rodney J. Blackman

Dr. Rodney J. Blackman is the Chair of Recreation Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at rblackman@ussa.edu.

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