Disrespect is a funny thing. Athletes and those tasked with motivating athletes find it everywhere. Draft position. Public opinion. Betting odds. Predictions from talking heads. If you aren't with a team, you're against them. If you're not propping them up, you're bulletin board material.
All it takes is for one person to say or do one thing that can be perceived as disrespectful, then No One Believes In Us and suddenly it's Us Against the World. And no one personifies that more than Rodney Dangerfield, whose most famous bit can sum up the feelings of every player or team that has ever been doubted, no matter how lightly or briefly, if at all.
Dangerfield passed away in 2004, but his legacy will live on forever in the sports world when writers - who will get no respect in this piece - are looking for an easy way out. As recently as September, Rodney Dangerfield was used in a headline on The Athletic to describe Zach Lavine's current standing in the league. LaVine is currently averaging a career-high 24.6 points per game for the 15-27 Chicago Bulls. LaVine got such little respect earlier this season that his coach benched him.
Perhaps LaVine should lean into it the way that Shawn Marion did during his playing days when people talked about his jumper.
He turned twitchy, the way Rodney Dangerfield did just before he grabbed his tie knot and declared, “I don’t get no respect.”- New York Times
Even the latest NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors, are not immune from the Dangerfield label. It's a proud tradition for title winners. Previously, the San Francisco Chronicle explained that the 17-'18 Golden State Warriors got no respect. This was a team that had won two of the previous three NBA titles.
One of the people who inspired that article, Scottie Pippen, who refused to respect the Warriors, was described as a "posterboy" for Dangerfield's catchphrase in a 2012 countdown of his best sneakers. Even worse, Pippen's longtime coach, Phil Jackson, was compared to Dangerfield in 2001 in a New York Times book review.
Yet despite that enviable résumé, Jackson remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the hardwood, rarely mentioned in any barstool conversation about great hoop minds
This was after Jackson won his seventh title as a head coach, but before the Knicks hired him to further run the franchise into the ground. The description may have been 20 years too early.
Not to disrespect Dangerfield's memory, but he seemed to encourage his relationship wtih the NBA. In 1993 he appeared in an expertly edited NBA commercial.
Still, only one team has ever gone so far as to bring out Dangerfield as a mascot of their plight. The 1995-1996 Utah Jazz had seven consecutive winning seasons under Jerry Sloan and were on their way to their third Western Conference Finals appearance in five seasons when they felt the sting of no respect.
So after falling behind 0-2 in Seattle, the Jazz invited Dangerfield to do a set on the court in the middle of Game 3 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals. The Jazz won the game, but the fans seemed to have no respect for the fact that a living legend was commiserating with them. Via The Chicago Tribune:
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield took the Delta Center court during a timeout last Friday in Salt Lake City and told a couple of his familiar off-color jokes to a generally non-responsive audience. "It went over like a sack of anvils," one NBA official said. "Tough crowd here, tough crowd," Stockton said.
Also receiving no respect that night was anyone who enjoyed fun. The very next line in this piece is about how Stockton and Malone didn't allow noise in the locker room before playoff games.
According to team rules established by Karl Malone and Stockton, excessive noise is prohibited in the locker room before playoff games. Jeff Hornacek arrived before Game 3 last Friday, heard the deafening silence and sarcastically asked his teammate, Greg Foster, `Any music to play, Greg?' Foster deadpanned: "Not here. This is Utah, baby. Utah."
Stockton was 34 at the time. Malone was on the cusp of 33. Old men by any NBA season's standard, certainly deserving of the respect of the younger players. They went on to lose the series in seven games.
After sending the Jazz home, the Sonics went on to lose to the Chicago Bulls in the first title of their second threepeat. In order for Utah to finally reach the NBA Finals next season, they had to beat Charles Barkley and the Houston Rockets in a series that featured no respect for personal space. After getting sick of what were perceived as illegal screens, Charles Barkley tried to hurt John Stockton.
These days, Barkley sits on Inside the NBA and disrespects the championship-era Warriors and the women of San Antonio. Something he's allowed to do because like Dangerfield, he really did get some respect. In fact, no one in this ever truly got no respect. And that's disrespectful to Dangerfield, whose legacy lives on with a bunch of people who do actually get plenty of respect. I guess that's fitting.