I hadn’t seen this show and had only vaguely heard of it until I flipped to it on my personal seatback television while taking a redeye to Boston two nights ago. I wouldn’t have paid much attention except former Celtics PG Kenny Anderson was on the screen yelling at his ex-wife. So I selflessly decided to watch Basketball Wives instead of Going the Distance, meaning that I will never know if Drew Barrymore and Justin Long managed to maintain their long-distance relationship.
The Celtics sit at the center of the Basketball Wives universe, specifically the 1999-2003 Celtics. Antoine Walker’s ex-fiancee, Eric Williams’s wife, and Anderson’s ex-wife are all prominently featured on the show. The C’s connections don’t end there: Basketball Wives is produced and generally supervised by Shaquille O’Neal’s ex-wife Shaunie, and the fourth major cast member is, hysterically, Michael Olowokandi’s ex-girlfriend Suzie. As we all remember, Michael Olowokandi finished his career with the Celtics before bidding goodbye to the game in 2006 and tearfully watching as his jersey was lifted to the Garden rafters. The mother of Dwight Howard’s baby is also on the show.
All these women have ended up in Miami, probably because it’s very easy to get stock footage from there, and they spend the bulk of their days eating brunch and comparing notes on how the players mistreated them. There’s a dinner summit in the episode I saw in which Eric Williams’s wife recalls that Kenny’s “girl” used to sit two seats from her at Celtics games, only for Kenny’s ex to reveal that the girl was Kenny’s mistress. Another “famous” clip has Eric Williams informing his wife, on cable television, that “basketball is an emotional game, and when things get crazy on the floor, we need that extra “you know” when we come home…except sometimes it has to be on the road.”
As you can see, the show is an absolute mood-annihilator. One wonders why the people at Video Hits One would put on something this depressing rather than I Love the 90s Part Deux. Basketball Wives is basically about people who cannot make sense of the world outside of the NBA basketball bio-dome. Their lives have essentially ended with their careers/marriages, because rather than rebuild they seem intent on destroying everything they come in contact with. This applies especially to Antoine’s ex Evelyn, a worse decision for him than financially supporting seventy of his friends and relatives. She’s the worst, but everyone on the show comes off looking completely villainous, so much that you wonder why their faces aren’t blurred out like on Cops.
Basketball Wives makes an NBA career seem like a gypsy curse, like once you enjoy the fruits of it you have to live with the consequences for the rest of your horrible life. Honestly, enough episodes of this show could probably destroy my interest in basketball. I’m serious. Luckily I had to turn it off because two of the characters started shopping for vibrators and I was sitting next to a 13-year-old girl.
It’s sort of comforting, though, to realize that this show probably tells us less about the lives of ex-athletes and their families than it does about the 1999-2003 Boston Celtics.
Ryan reminded us recently that these turn-of-the-century teams brought basketball back in Boston (before it left again two years later). But this era was marked less by competitive teams as by the catastrophic financial recklessness of Antoine and Kenny, Vin Baker’s alcoholism, Paul’s near-fatal stabbing, everything about Ricky Davis, and now, poor relationship maintenance. Not a stable professional sports franchise.
In fact, the practice atmosphere for these teams was probably a lot like Basketball Wives itself, with Kedrick Brown and Erick Strickland clawing at each other and pulling out each other’s weaves while Mark Blount helplessly tries to remind them that they used to be friends. Can we close the book on these Celtics teams at this point? Should we blame Rick Pitino for everything? Who was the best I Love the 90s panelist? Answers: yes, sure, those two guys where one had glasses and the other was Middle Eastern or something.