When people say "The NBA has an image problem," we know what they mean: they're tapping into the kinda disturbing trope that "NBA PLAYERS ARE THUGS," an image the NBA has gone to great, great, great lengths to downplay since the Pistons-Pacers fight almost a decade ago spilled into the stands. Since then, NBA players have rarely come to blows on the court, and when they have, they've been hit with massive suspensions.
Which is why it's hilarious that when asked how he would change the NBA, Washington's Marcin Gortat said players should be allowed to fight to sort out their issues:
I would say I would loosen up a little bit the rules about the fighting fines. That's what I would loosen up. Because today you go to an ice hockey game, and the one thing they're waiting for is a fight, you know what I'm saying? So if they could set it up something like that in the NBA. That if there are two guys and they have a problem, if they could just separate everybody. And these two people that have problem, if they could fight ...
During the game?
During the game. Quick, 15-20 seconds, throw few punches, then referees jump in and break this thing up. I think the game ... these two guys, they resolved their problem. They're both suspended and they're leaving. But end of the day, they fix the problem between each other, fans are super excited, and I think that would be a pretty cool idea [chuckles].
There is a dichotomy here: hockey players fighting is "part of the game," but NBA players fighting creates a wave of scandal. Which is why the NBA would never, ever, ever allow this to happen. We're chortling at Gortat being honest, because if you've ever watched Gortat play, you know he would love the opportunity to deck somebody getting into his face.