When an eighth grader suddenly blossoms and is welcomed by the popular clique, he leaves behind those with whom he was friends. The former friends don’t understand why they were discarded, and the popular kid learns a little about empathy and the meaninglessness of popularity.
NBA all-star Paul George went through the first half of this metamorphosis at age 26. He has yet to figure out the popularity he successfully sought does not elevate his true value as a human being, and that is sad.
Fresh off signing a ludicrous extension that could pay him $225 million over the next five years, George sat down for a podcast and exposed the unfortunate narcissism and self-importance he chose over being the best version of what he is – or should be – a decent guy who doesn’t need to be embraced by all-stars to be an all-star, on the court or off.
Forget for a moment that George’s extension is a reward for the same Los Angeles Clippers collapse against the Denver Nuggets that cost Doc Rivers his job. George’s awful shooting in game seven was far more responsible for the loss than Rivers’ leadership. But that’s not what we are here to discuss. This is about George, the insecure narcissist – not the guy who makes big shots far more often in Powerade commercials than in real life..
When asked – again – to explain his exit from the Pacers, George climbed atop his Tower of Babble to declare he asked to leave for three reasons; because the Pacers were unwilling to engineer a trade for Anthony Davis, waning respect for the front office with Larry Bird gone, and that the Pacers were chiefly interested in competing rather than winning a championship.
He claimed to have made the decision immediately after a charity softball game where he told the media that he wanted to stay in Indianapolis for the rest of his career.
Now we don’t know exactly when the tumblers clicked in George’s brain to alter his desire to retire a Pacer, but we do know this – the softball game of which he claimed to take over “to keep it going” after teammate Roy Hibbert’s exit from Indianapolis is held to benefit the Indiana Children’s Wish fund, not raise awareness for cancer, as he claimed in the podcast. That may seem a small quibble, but it shows the kind of indifference to facts that plagues George on occasion.
George also paid Indianapolis a backhanded compliment as a great place to start his career because there was nothing else to do but work on his game. That stands in stark contrast to what he said about Indy in 2013 after signing an extension to stay here, “It’s pretty crazy. I just recently purchased a house on Geist, which I love – the whole community. I have kids bringing me grapes. It’s just crazy. I’ve never felt so a part of something and a part of the community like that. It’s really love here and somewhere I love to call my home.”
That’s a long way from the pompous guy chatting it up about how Indy was fine before he figured out there was more to life than being nice to people, feeling appreciated and welcomed in a community, and becoming PG13 – whatever that means to him. And it’s a long way from the first-person pronoun delivery machine who said this yesterday about his extension with the Clippers, “I love being here. I love the family that I’ve created in my first year. And this is where I want to be. This is home. I want to build something, a real foundation.”
As if that isn’t enough to demonstrate a wayward and manic love for self, George is among the NBA’s all-time leaders in self-invented nicknames with PG13, Young Trece, and the woefully inaccurate Playoff P.
It’s not that George is a bad guy. He isn’t. He’s a good guy who took an off-ramp to self-indulgence and just kept going. Hope he finds his way back to being the guy would loved his neighbor’s grapes, worked tireless at his game, and won a bass fishing tournament at Geist. Not only was he a better person, but he won more often too.