Anderson Varejao, We Salute You

This actually happened almost a month ago — this isn't the most timely article I've ever written — but although it only gained a smidgen of national attention, it did stir up a long debate between a friend and I.

On March 12th, with the Cavs leading the Pacers 99-88, Cavs forward Anderson Varejao hoisted up a three-pointer at the buzzer (he missed). At best, you might call such a shot "meaningless," but it wasn't meaningless; he was trying to earn the fans in attendance a free Taco Bell chalupa. The Cavs needed to score 100 points for the prize to take effect.

Criticism of Varejao was swift. The Pacers complained about it, and so, somewhat surprisingly, did the Cavs themselves.

"We're up and we already know we're going to win, In a situation like that ... we don't need to shoot that basketball. We apologize for it if that makes them feel better. We'll live and learn and we'll move on," Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

LeBron James added, "We're not that type of team. He knows not to do that again; it is as simple as that. You never want to show off, and he definitely made a mistake and he learned from it."

Such comments leave me flummoxed. There's so many good reasons to shoot that three, and one tenuous one not to.

We'll start with LeBron's comments. "You never want to show off," he said, but Varejao wasn't showing off. He was trying to win the fans something. That's why he did it. Not to show off. Not to run up the score. If the Cavs were sitting 95 points, or 102 points, he wouldn't have done it. Varejao's reason for shooting the shot was very specific, and had nothing to do with gamesmanship. It's one thing if you think winning a chalupa for the fans isn't a good enough reason to take that shot, but James and Brown act as though he did it for no reason at all.

Here's four reasons why Varejao did the right thing:

1. Have you ever been to a game with such a giveaway dependent on a team target? They announce it over the PA every minute. The Pacers knew why he shot that ball.

2. If knowing that Varejao had no gamesmanship or personal reason for taking that shot, there's no reason for the Pacers to feel offended. But if they choose to be offended over a 14-point loss rather than an 11 point loss, they can console themselves by crying in a big bag of money. (It's depressing how many debates exist these days, in sports or otherwise, where you can feasibly argue, "go cry into a big bag of money.")

3. For a guy trying to support a family of four on $15,000, who gets perks like basketball tickets from their employer in lieu of actual benefits, a free chalupa can actually be somewhat meaningful.

4. Even if a chalupa is meaningless to most of the fans, it's still a gesture, a token of appreciation, to the fans. Was he dissing the Pacers, or honoring the fans? Obviously, the latter was all he was thinking about. So who is it more important to show respect and honor to (and, again, there's no reason the Pacers need to feel disrespected — see first two points), your opponents, or your fans?

I can't believe it's even up for debate, let alone that guys like LeBron and half the universe are going against me on this. But, here goes.

When graceful gestures to the fans vs. graceful gestures to your opponents are at loggerheads, and you have to choose one, which should prevail?

Your opponents are your de facto enemies. Your fans are your de facto friends.

Some of your fans might make only a few games a season, or in their lives. Maybe just one. For your opponents, this is one of 82 games, less counting playoffs, much less counting the scope of their careers. A blip.

Your opponents, like you, are millionaires. You are millionaires because there is a fan base strong enough to allow players to be paid millions. More succinctly, your opponents are millionaires, and your fans make them, and you, millionaires. My friend, who sides with LeBron, notes that he has been on the receiving end of running up the score in his playing days. "Yes," I joked, "but never with chalupas on the line." More to the point, however, my friend wasn't a millionaire when he got the score run up on him (at least, I hope he's not holding out on me). He didn't have a big bag of money to cry into.

The concept of sportsmanship is not a rigid, inflexible doctrine that must be slavishly adhered to with no regard to the particulars of the situation. Like with everything else, context and dynamics matter. I hope Varejao still realizes this, no matter how much wrongheaded teammates and coaches admonish him for doing the right thing.

Comments and Conversation

April 13, 2007

Tim Adkins:


Any NBA player that complains about someone on the other team jacking up shots to win the fans a free anything should:

a) play some jackal-like garbage time defense;

b) work harder in the first 3 quarters to avoid getting down by 30; or

c) visit the team proctologist to have that no-fun rod removed from his posterior.

April 15, 2007

Tom Kosinski:

Kevin, you are right on the money. I cannot believe that the Pacers even cried about it. 11 points, or 14 points is NOT running up the score. It would be different if he slowly ran down the court, pointed a finger in all of their faces and laid it in and did a big whooping dance.

I’m tired of the NBA, its nothing but thug culture anyway. LeBron can go cry in his big bag of money. No, wait, maybe he should give the bag of money to Taco Bell and buy everyone at that game a Chalupa…

April 16, 2007


Good commentary. I was there and my friend and I cheered when AV chucked it up. We wanted the chalupa for a ‘gas’, but we were hoping he’d hit it.

To be fair to the Paceers (and LeBron), they probably didn’t think it was a big deal, but they were asked about it 20 times by the press in the next 24 hours. Have to say something… might as well take the sportsmanship angle.

April 17, 2007


The Chicago Bulls did the same thing very recently, I think to the Knicks, and were totally ripped for it!

April 17, 2007

Ash Haque:

I honestly couldn’t care less about the whole Chalupa ordeal, but this article does remind me of the whole Knicks / Nuggets brawl, where Isiah Thomas was complaining about the Nuggets running up the score, which coincidentally was one of the main reasons that the fight even started.

Maybe its thought that Isiah Thomas needs to get his ass fired, but I’ll have to side with you / Varejo / the fans on the whole issue.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site