The American media dubbed mafia kingpin John Gotti as "The Teflon Don," in reference to prosecutors failing to to get any charges to stick while he was on trial. Key witnesses would often "forget" the very details necessary to indict Gotti, and the leader of the Gambino crime family would leave the court with a smile on his face, having escaped prison yet again. No matter the crime, the charges never stuck. So, "The Teflon Don" was born into existence.
I've always believed the current titleholder of The NBA's Teflon Don belonged to Dwyane Wade. In 2006, when Wade eclipsed Shaquille O'Neal for the role of Alpha Dog on that Miami Heat team and willed that rag-tag bunch of outcasts to an NBA title, Wade officially became untouchable. Despite three first-round exits, along with a putrid 15-win season in 2008, Wade went largely unnoticed by virtually everyone in the NBA. Maybe he'd earned that right to be free from blame.
But then The Decision happened. LeBron James brought his talents to the Miami Heat, and everything changed for Wade. Many believed that LeBron had come to join Wade's team, and when the Heat made it to the 2011 NBA Finals and lost, the blame went squarely on LeBron, not Wade. It wasn't until it was obvious that Miami was LeBron's squad, and that Wade's play began to slip into a much more supplemental role, that the Teflon on Wade began to fade. When Wade used to complain about injuries or coaching, he was given the benefit of the doubt. In the 2013 NBA Finals, however, the stance towards Wade was essentially to "suck it up."
Now that Dwyane Wade has seemingly relinquished the Teflon Don crown, it's now time for someone new to claim the throne. The person who should rightly claim that throne is Chris Paul, the man who is annually called the best point guard in the NBA.
Chris Paul, the guy who has never taken his team past the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Chris Paul, the guy who once had his team get blown out by almost 60 points in a playoff game.
Chris Paul, the guy who has no issue in punching people in the nuts.
Chris Paul, the guy who could be considered one of the whiniest players in the NBA.
Here is Paul's win-loss record versus the best point guards in the NBA. All records are courtesy of Basketball Reference:
If you do the math, that's a 27-49 record (big ups to Bryan Crawford for the stat) against the five best point guards in the NBA right now. (No inclusion of Kyrie Irving, because they've only played against each other once). Yet this is the same guy who is immediately crowned the best point guard in the NBA? We crucify Peyton Manning for his statistical dominance, but steadfastly refuse to crown Slinky Neck Manning as the best because of a 9-11 postseason record, yet we don't even hesitate to crown CP3.
Look, this isn't a bashing of Paul. This is a guy who has played for Byron Scott and Vinny Del Negro as his head coaches. This is a guy who, for long stretches of his career, has played with top-notch players like 17-foot assassin David West and a guy who owns virtually zero post moves in Blake Griffin. He's had talent, but elite talent has yet to be paired with CP3.
But CP3's reign as the current Teflon Don might not be nearly as long as Wade's reign, especially now that Doc Rivers is manning the helm as head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips are loaded. Doc Rivers is a phenomenal head coach. The excuses that have been baked into his resume have now been addressed.
Paul still doesn't have elite talent, but the additions of Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to an already loaded roster doesn't seem fair at all. (Especially for NBA 2K14 purposes). If the Clippers don't make a deep run in the playoffs, will the people finally point the finger at him instead of his supporting cast and coaches? The Clippers will have to get to the Western Conference Finals for CP3 to escape my own criticism, and even that still might be a letdown.
As fans, we value winning more than anything else. That's something Chris Paul just hasn't done enough. We attack Dwight Howard for being fickle in the media. We attack Carmelo Anthony for being fickle with his loyalty to his team. But should we start being fickle in our appreciation for Chris Paul? The pressure should be on him now more than ever to win. If he doesn't, then his feet should be held to the fire accordingly.
A Happy Hour drink recommendation: The Caipirinha - One of my best friends went to Miami and had this delicious cachaça rum-based Brazilian libation while hanging on the beach. He said at the time that he had two of these and felt like John Gotti. "I'm untouchable out here in these Miami streets," my friend boasted. Later on, he would tell me that he found the woman of his dreams and said that he was going to try to make her the mother of his kids. The end result? Epic failure. However, he did bring this drink recommendation into my life, and now I bring it into yours. Sans kids.