Handle Your Business Man

By Jerold Wells Jr.
Updated: October 24, 2005

“I’m not a business-man, I’m a business man, so let me handle my business……man.”

Jay-Z, “Diamonds Are Forever Remix”

MINNESOTA—New York Knicks Center Eddy Curry has a new city, a new team, a new contract and a new coach. For a man who is still very young all four will pose different challenges to him as he navigates ocean known as an NBA career.

New York is a merciless town whose love for sports is matched only by a few others in the country. Her favorite son is the New York Knicks and anyone big man who dons the uniform must live up to pressure of the greatest variety. Being good is not good enough. Couple the pressure of the uniform with the frontcourt prowess of superstars past such as Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and you can see the type of player New York embraces. Players whose toughness, dare I say heart, endeared them to Knicks fans and made them into icons.

Larry Brown is a wayfaring man whose life’s pleasure seems to come with the challenge of teaching. He is a coach who seems to live for the next test of his basketball pedigree. Whether it is a new team, a new player, or developing the players he has into well-rounded team members, he is always pushing for improvement. How Curry interacts with Brown will be an interesting sub-plot to follow. Will he (Curry) show the leadership qualities Brown was able to draw out of Rasheed Wallace in Portland and Allen Iverson in Detroit? Will he buy in to Brown insistence that the pivot be integral both on offense and defense; showing an erstwhile commitment to offensive development and rebounding?

Couple these factors with the fact that Curry just inked a new contract and it’s no stretch to say there will be pressure on the young man to play well.

That being said, as important as those recent additions are they don’t really matter right now. At this very second, the daunting task of becoming next in a line of New York basketball legends, leading the Knicks back to playoff glory, learning from one of the keenest basketball minds in the game today, and proving that he deserves the contract he garnered are faded pictures in a broken glass. They don’t matter because for all of the new things in Eddy’s life one thing remains the same: his heart.

The heart Curry was born with has served him since birth, since genetics took a course that would eventually cause him to sprout up around seven feet tall and 275+ pounds. That same heart experienced some irregularities during last year’s playoffs and forced him to sit the bench for the conclusion of a breakthrough season for the Chicago Bulls. A muscle the size of a human fist kept a man approaching the peak of his physical prowess from working, from using his God given talents to provide for his family. Eddy Curry wants to return to the court this year and the New York Knicks are willing suitors. Is this the best decision? Should he even be here? Is it worth it?

Hank Gathers, Reggie Lewis, Shawtinice Polk, Jason Collier. All died from heart/blood circulation related illnesses. All were in or approaching the primes of their respective lives. Each and every one passed after having been cleared to play basketball by either team doctors or other specialists. Their individual ailments either escaped detection or were diagnosed and treated, resulting in a clean bill of health.

What shall we say then? Should Curry continue in the way, hoping that grace will abound? Praying that his particular malady, given proper attention, will allow him to continue to earn a living as a basketball player? God forbid. Curry should see doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist and he should arrive at the same conclusion from each one, a clean bill of health. No probables, no maybes, only guarantees. He should ascertain from them that he can play basketball and not just play but play at a high level while suffering no ill effects. He should…..but will he? Can there possibly be any reason why he wouldn’t?

A point of contention between Curry and the Chicago Bulls was their insistence that he provide them with a DNA test, the results of which would disclose any maladies Curry housed in his massive frame. Curry steadfastly refused and their disagreement on this issue helped to broker a trade with the Knicks, allowing him bypass the test and make the results thereof public. It is legal in Illinois for an employer to request a DNA test, while the same request is illegal in the state of New York.

The reasons for the Bulls request of the test as well as those for Curry’s refusal to take it are myriad. What is boils down to is this, the Bulls (as Curry’s employer) felt it was in their best interest for him to take the test and Curry felt it was in his best interest to refuse. Upon officially joining the New York Knicks as a player, Eddy Curry disclosed that he was given a clean bill of health, and that the organization should be confident in him and his heart. Shortly thereafter, Atlanta Hawks Center Jason Collier departed this life from what can be diagnosed loosely as heart complications.

The timing was uncanny and the irony thick as county gravy. A young, presumably healthy basketball player snatched away in the prime of his life, and from ailments directly related to his presumably healthy heart. As the basketball world mourns the death of a solid player and citizen, more questions have be asked. Is there anymore team doctors can do by way of testing to increase chances of detecting maladies? Should each organization be responsible for the health of all players under contract or should the responsibility fall upon the shoulders of players? With so many questions being asked in the wake of this summer’s untimely deaths, there still remains one that trumps them all. What about Eddy Curry?

The New York Knicks have a young center entering the prime of his career. With Shaquille O’Neal starting his career decline, all other legit centers either undersized or unmotivated, and Larry Brown’s guidance Eddy Curry should be heir to the title of best center in the Eastern Conference. Upon taking that mantle he can also usher in the resurgence of the New York Knicks – Miami Heat rivalry that made for classic basketball in the late 90’s. Last but certainly not least he can lend Larry Brown the talents of a dominant center. In the last 25 years Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale have shown us that an overriding force in the middle can equal a championship.

For any season to end in a title there are many sacrifices that must be made. Egos have to be checked in the lockeroom, personal agenda have to be scrapped and everyone has to submit to the will of the head coach. Similarly, for Eddy Curry’s life to go on he must do what it takes to live. He must do whatever it takes to ensure life, no matter the cost.

Eddy Curry is not a businessman he is a business. I really hope he handles his business like a man.