Where Emotions are Emojis, DeAndre Jordan Doesn't Have to 'Be a Man' and He Doesn't Have to 'Grow Up'
DeAndre Jordan spent most of yesterday holed up in his Houston home as basketball players flirted, emojis flew, and interpretations of masculinity swirled. Yes, DeAndre went back on his word to the Dallas Mavericks, but let's cut him some slack. With the rest of the NBA world acting and tweeting like children, stop insisting that DeAndre 'be a man.' Stop insulting his manhood.
Seriously, DeAndre was far from the most immature person yesterday. Don't believe me? Just watch.
After originally committing to play basketball with the Dallas Mavericks on July 3, DeAndre Jordan had second thoughts about leaving the Los Angeles Clippers. He called his former coach and his best friend on the team. He wanted to stay in Los Angeles. The team arrived, new contract in hand, yesterday afternoon and "barricaded" the doors until midnight.🏠🏠 🌙🌙
Listen, I love emojis. They are dope. Emojis are even better when NBA players tweet them out. Emojis are the invisible ink pens and decoder rings of the NBA. Sign me up for the upgrade.🔥🔥🔥
It's worth considering, however, if NBA players love emojis because they simplify, abstract, and distort actual, you know, emotions.
Between the collective immaturity of everyone involved, the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the wild west free agency period engendered by its 9 day moratorium during which time players and teams and agents can discuss but not sign new contracts), we cannot throw DeAndre to the wolves. 🐺🐺🐺
I still haven't figured out why we insist on pretending that professional athletes exist in a vacuum. They have families, some of which are broken. They have feelings, which get hurt. No amount of money can replace an absent father figure, or repair a damaged psyche.
Even millionaire athletes like DeAndre aren't isolated from the shrapnel of the masculine mystique. Too many boys, and later, men, are emotionally fractured, unwilling or unable to access emotions because of the pervasive tropes of manhood - aggressive, competitive, focused on external success.
DeAndre grew up in the Third Ward neighborhood of Houston, Texas. He grew up without a father and leaned heavily on the wisdom of his mother, Kimberly Jordan-Williams. She could only afford to pay for one of her four sons to play organized youth sports.
She didn't choose DeAndre. Kimberly chose his older brother, Cory, a baseball pitcher.
After a growth spurt, Kimberly quit her job to counsel DeAndre through the college recruitment process. A few years later, she accompanied her son to Madison Square Garden for the 2008 NBA Draft. DeAndre knows how much his mother sacrificed: “The way our society is today, a lot of people don’t have fathers,” DeAndre says. “My mom is everything.”
Given his background and his childhood in a single parent household, it shouldn't surprise us that DeAndre and his relationship with masculinity has yet to fully form. It should surprise us even less if his definition of masculinity and honor isn't the same as mine or yours.
Would you want to play with this guy? Would you want to play with a guy who high fives everyone except you, repeatedly?
On the one hand, DeAndre went back on his promise to play with the Dallas Mavericks. On the other, DeAndre gained respect from his employer, and my respect along with it. Too many times athletes placate the public instead of prioritizing their own happiness. DeAndre had the courage to assert himself, despite a potential public relations backlash.
And, in the process, he gained some masculinity - - the healthy kind - - by winning a small battle with honor.