Has success spoiled rookie hazing? When first-year players make
as much as $3 million a year, the time-honored practice of
making them do chores and undergo humiliating rituals sometimes
falls by the wayside. "Hazing? I think the rookies are running
the league," says one NBA executive. Consider one of last
season's prize newcomers, then 18-year-old Kobe Bryant of the
Lakers. True, he acted in a training-camp skit. On a bus ride he
sang (at then Laker Cedric Ceballos's command) a song made
popular by Bryant's prom date, actress-singer Brandi. Along with
fellow rookies Derek Fisher and Travis Knight, Bryant carried
veterans' bags on road trips. But for the most part, Bryant
escaped embarrassment. "I think [the veterans] had a certain
amount of respect for him. He didn't get a lot of flak at all,"
says Fisher, whose duties included carrying Nick Van Exel's
luggage and calling Van Exel's room to notify the veteran when
the team bus was leaving for the arena.
Though hazing may be on the wane, it has its hard-bitten
proponents. "The rookies should have to go through a ritual to
be in our league," says Sonics coach George Karl, who,
fortunately for the younger generation, has had only three
rookies (James Cotton, Sherell Ford and Eric Snow) on his team
in the past five years. Here are the kind of goings-on Karl
would no doubt endorse.
--During Lakers training camp in 1990, rookie Elden Campbell had
to bring James Worthy his water and newspaper every morning at
7:30. Worthy didn't wake up until nine.
--During the 1993-94 season, the Nets' Rick Mahorn once made
rookie Rex Walters bring him an Israeli newspaper, a gallon of
grape Kool-Aid and cigars--for absolutely no reason.
--Even being on the All-Star team as a rookie in 1994-95 didn't
exempt the Pistons' Grant Hill from duty as a porter, carting
bags around hotels. His performance was monitored by then
10-year veteran Joe Dumars. Hill was lucky--rookie teammate Bill
Curley was in charge of cleaning the locker room shower.
--As a Magic rookie during the 1994-95 season, Brooks Thompson
was required to sing Happy Birthday to You for teammate Nick
Anderson in front of others at Denver's McNichols Arena, and on
a team flight he was ordered by Shaquille O'Neal to crawl on all
fours like a dog.
--Like most rookies, Shandon Anderson of the Jazz had to tote
bags last season. He also occasionally had to buy hamburgers for
the veterans. "He was a good kid, and he never complained," says
Jazz forward Antoine Carr, noting that it wouldn't have helped
if he had.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAVID COWLES AS PART OF HIS TRIAL BY HAZING, WALTERS WAS THE BUTT OF MAHORN'S PRANKS [Painting of Rex Walters lighting cigar for Rick Mahorn]