| wall street journal wrote:|
The Most-Yelled-At Man in the NBA
- June 20, 2012, 7:30 p.m. ET
As Point Guard for Miami's Ego-Laden Heat, Chalmers Gets Tons of Abuse; 'Hard Candy Shell'
People have been yelling at Mario Chalmers his entire life. His
father was a sergeant in the Air Force. Bill Self, his coach at Kansas,
was at least equally ruthless. Today, it's his teammates from the Miami
Heat. They treat him like a glorified grocery bagger.
Chalmers, the team's point guard, has the uncomfortable job of trying
to distribute the basketball fairly on a team that has the NBA's
most-renowned trio of high-maintenance superstars: LeBron James, Dwyane
Wade and Chris Bosh
The role seems simple: pass the ball to somebody more famous and get
out of the way. But the math works against Chalmers. He plays with three
high-scoring superstars, but there is only one basketball. "It's not
always a bed of roses," James said of the situation.
"The mental pressure alone could crush you," said assistant Heat coach Ron Rothstein.
On Tuesday night, Chalmers had a fairy tale moment. His rare 25-point
outburst against the Oklahoma City Thunder helped lift the Heat to a
3-1 lead in the NBA Finals coming into Thursday's Game 5. While walking
to the locker room, Wade gleefully yelped Chalmers's name. "That kid
isn't afraid of any moment," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We all
But let's be sure of one thing: Tuesday was an anomaly.
The typical interaction involving Chalmers consists of Chalmers
saying nothing—while somebody else screams at him. It's usually
impossible to tell what Chalmers's teammates are saying, only that the
language isn't suitable for print. Late in Game 2, a TV camera caught
Bosh conferring with Chalmers as they made their way to the
bench—although "conferring" isn't quite the right word. Bosh, who is
6-foot-11, crouched down to get in the 6-foot-2 Chalmers's face while
his jaw seemed to unhinge like a Venus Flytrap. Bosh said it was a
miscommunication over a defensive assignment. "Guys just want to get the
best out of me," Chalmers said.
Some of these episodes have been making their way around the Internet
in recent days, captured for posterity on YouTube: Wade scowling, James
barking, Bosh shrieking. Asked if he had seen any of the clips, Heat
forward Mike Miller smiled, reclined in his chair and said: "I have no
comment on anything." He did, however, compare Chalmers to an M&M:
"He's got a hard candy shell."
Grant Long, a former NBA player who now does analysis for Thunder TV
broadcasts, said he finds the vitriol surprising because Chalmers is a
fourth-year player. Veterans typically reserve that sort of treatment
for rookies. "But when you look at this team's makeup, who else are they
going to go after?" Long said. "Dwyane's not going to chew out LeBron.
LeBron's not going to chew out Dwyane. Bosh isn't going to chew out
either one. So it all falls on Chalmers. 'Why did Dwyane miss that
shot?' 'Dammit, Chalmers—it was your fault!'"
Long said it actually can be useful to have a player in that role,
especially when a team is laden with stars. If James doesn't feel he can
be brutally honest with Wade (and vice versa), he can use Chalmers to
broadcast the message. "It's one of those deals where, 'I'm yelling at
you, but I'm hoping this other guy hears it,'" Long said. "When s---
hits the fan, he's the guy who gets blamed."
Life could be worse for Chalmers. He has a three-year contract with
the Heat worth $12 million, with the team holding an option for the
final year. He owns a 5,500-square-foot condominium, which he bought
from the rapper Drake. He is rich and handsome, a professional athlete
basking in the sunshine of South Florida.
The twist is that Chalmers was once an
alpha dog himself. At Kansas, he authored one of the most iconic
moments in the school's proud basketball history. With 2.1 seconds left
in the 2008 NCAA championship game, Chalmers nailed a game-tying
3-pointer over the outstretched hand of Memphis's Derrick Rose. Kansas
won in overtime. Chalmers has a tattoo that reads "Mister" on one biceps
and "Clutch" on the other.
Self, the Kansas coach, said Chalmers
has no memory, and that might be his greatest strength. He can miss 10
shots in a row and be convinced the 11th will go in. "Things do not
bother him," Self said.
Ronnie Chalmers, Mario's father, spent 22 years in the Air Force and
coached Mario's high-school basketball team in Anchorage, Alaska. "I
wouldn't say I was strict, but I had boundaries," he said. When Self
hired Ronnie to be his director of basketball operations, Mario got it
even worse. "I was tough on him," Self said. "I didn't want guys to
think he was the teacher's pet."
It turned out to be good preparation.
Ever since James signed with Miami before the start of last season,
Chalmers has been getting the full treatment. In the Heat's Game 7
victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals,
Chalmers appeared to miss a couple of open teammates on one possession.
James leaned into him during a timeout and breathed fire. Chalmers
turned his back to him, inserted his mouth guard and walked toward the
James and Wade both say they wouldn't be so hard on Chalmers if they
didn't think he could handle it—and none of it is personal, James
said—but Chalmers has defended himself more this season. "If I feel I'm
doing something to the best of my abilities and they don't feel that
way, I have to voice my opinion," he said.
For what it's worth, Wade said he likes it when Chalmers fights back.
"He actually thinks he's the best player on this team," Wade said.
"That's a gift and a curse."
Yet Self said Chalmers is a perfect fit for the Heat because he
"understands where the bread is buttered." Neither a high-volume shooter
nor a point guard who dominates the ball would be able to play
alongside Wade and James. Chalmers typically takes one or two dribbles,
then gets rid of it. His job isn't to create offense for himself.
"I don't know if Chris Paul or Tony Parker could play the same way
he's playing," Self said. "Their talent level is so good, but those guys
need to have the ball in their hands."