White Worm, White Whale, White Elephants
Over the past week, there was some non-link-worthy speculation as the presence of PEDs in the NBA. The logic: Players got bigger and faster in baseball and football, and look what was just beneath the surface . . . so why not us? To their credit, the authors aren't pointing fingers—nor do they have the slightest bit of credible evidence to back it up—but believe that, as an analogy, the similarities are simply too juicy to ignore.
These arguments have already been refuted using the most obvious ammo. The league tests like crazy for them, reporting any semblance of a positive result with glee, since all are diet pill-related; unlike baseball or football, there hasn't been a wholesale shift in the numbers or physique of the league as a whole. Is it really plausible that only Dwight Howard and LeBron James have discovered HGH, and the rest of the NBA is in the dark? Plus, while stronger and faster is of immediate benefit in baseball and football, in basketball, skill is at more of a premium. There's a reason why terms like "skills" and "game" are so important to fans and players alike, and while the NBA combine is at best misleading, at worst, a version of that year's scouting drunk and tied to a burning sailboat.
But for yours truly, what makes these insinuations so absurd is the very nature of the pro baller. Not to get all quasi-essentialist on you, but what propels most players to to the top is some version of indvidiual arrogance or confidence, stemming from the fact that when they take the court, no one can fuck with them. From that age where everything becomes to jump off for them, who they are—a seamless combination of mind, body, learned tricks, and attitude—allows them to absolutely steamroll everyone they come into contact with. Except for sometimes in AAU, or if they play at Oak Hill, or are fortunate enough to train with Tim Grover. Compare that with football, where most players are trained as good soldiers meant to excel at a particular task, to fit into a role, or baseball, in which skills are so atomized as to become impersonal. Of course those two sports would welcome a third-party that could up the numbers, heighten the measurements, bring one closer to the unspoken—yet certainly formal—ideal that informs their training. These players are learning function, and to that end, to dispense with some of themselves. That's a lethal combination just begging for a chemical substance to play a key consulting role.
Now consider basketball and the ego. Admittedly, if one were to construct the perfect player in a vat, in the most mechanistic way possible, there might be a way to bio-chemically optimize the process. I guess that would make sense psychologically, if not technologically—as of yet, no one's suggested that PEDs improve court vision or shooting form. In this country, though, that's not how players are made. They start to play, they are, and they pick up stuff along the way (or not). In short, if there's a way forward, it's clearly defined by both their strengths and limitations. Otherwise, why wouldn't everyone take drugs to turn into Durant or LeBron?
LeBron is one of names most frequently whispered. At which point, really, would PEDs have intervented in LeBron's development? When he was 16? When, as a rookie, he was merely one of the best players in the league? Forget the whole "they want to be fast" line of argument—why exactly would a player as at home on the court, as joyous in his identity as an athlete, suddenly decide he needed to conform to a non-existent standard? Who the fuck thinks "I'm the most unholy combination of speed and size the league has ever seen, but everyone knows I could be a little more that?" Becoming LeBron James is a tremendous accomplishment; deciding to become more LeBron would run counter to the entire project of perfecting self and style.
Addendum: Point raised in the comments section that stuff like HGH aids in recovery, and has nothing to do with what I've outlined above. Given how long it takes guys to come back from ankle and muscle and side problems, how back spasms have ruined careers, and that guys only ever rush back from wrist and finger problems (that's the scene of the crime?), I find this highly unlikely.