Fear and Loathing with Troy Murphy

A couple of weeks ago, I was loitering near 2nd Avenue near St. Marks at 9pm on a Saturday night. And whom do I spy hanging outside a frozen yogurt place called “16 Handles,” but the New Jersey Nets; Troy Murphy. Actually, I’m only 98% sure it was Murphy. But how many 6’11” guys who look like the bastard love child of David Schwimmer and Pat Cummings are there in the greater NY/NJ Metro area?.

He’s wearing a blue velour tracksuit and eating frozen yogurt with a gentleman in a white velour tracksuit in his 60’s who I assume was a relative of some sorts (they both hand those chipmunk/Schwimmer jowls). It’s a rare thing that you get to see a pro athlete of any stripe in an un-guarded, un-mediated, non-job related moment so I lit a cigarette and pretended that I was waiting for someone outside a bar, frequently glancing at my watch and/or cell while stealing furtive glances to see what the fairly conspicuous Mr. Murphy was up to. Yes, it was quite the undercover, bravura performance on my part.

I don’t know how many of you routinely find yourselves in the East Village on a Saturday eve, but it’s a pretty lively spot. And the Fro-Yo places always seem to have a gaggle of teenagers doing what teenagers do–squawking loudly, being a general nuisance, and so on. Tonight’s no different, and Mr. Murphy found himself with a small posse surrounding him and his relative. I could see he was getting pissed, but hey, if you’re hanging around a yogurt place at night, whaddaya expect? The kids eventually start to move on and then…

Well… something truly odd happened.

Troy, out of the blue, bellowed, in what I can only assume was his best affectation of an urban dialect, “I’ll fuck you up, Yo!” in the general direction of the teens.


I was kind of floored. One, why the hostility? It was totally uncalled for. Two, you don’t talk like that, Troy Murphy. I so caught scraps of dialogue that you were having with your relative/Mafioso pal, and that’s not how you normally speak. Did you think affecting a stereotypically urban/”street” dialect would be more threatening? I mean, you already are about 1-1.5 feet taller than everyone around you. And the kids were already leaving. Why chucking alpha male bullshit? Anyway, after his outburst he continued to eat and generally mope around but now I really had to see what Troy Murphy would do next.

Five minutes later, a woman walked by with her dog. It was a cute dog and a kind of cute woman. Troy was eyeballing her/pondering a move when he literally starts barking at the dog.


The woman, clearly disturbed/weirded out, hightails it out of there and the Murph smiles as if that was somehow his intended result. Again, pointless and random hostility in a situation that in no way warranted it. And dear god Troy, why? Why are you generally behaving like an asshat? Do you have so little game that you think that barking is going to make ’em swoon?  Is 16 Handles’ frozen yogurt THAT good that you’ll trade being royally pissed off for its sweet, creamy rewards? You can certainly afford to go anywhere you like for desert, so what gives?

After that, I left. I’m sure he did something else that was icky, but I’d had my fill. I bring this all up not because I want to spread scurrilous gossip about Troy Murphy, but to point out that these individuals, NBA players, upon whom we invest a great deal of our personal, emotional life, are probably complete aliens to most of us. Maybe I’m wrong, but has anyone reading this blog ever gotten to spend any time just say, hanging out with a Knick? Even so, we certainly ascribe very specific personal characteristics to these guys. We act as though we know what Amar’e or LeBron is like because of how they perform their job. Think about that. If you or are were solely defined by our workaday doings, it’d be at best a pretty incomplete picture.

The Murphy incident was a clear reminder that we really don’t know anything at all about these people at all, not as real, three-dimensional human beings. It’s not that that all NBA players are secretly vile, base creatures. In all likelihood, a bunch the cats who one thinks one might fear/loathe because the way they play suggests they’re a bully/goon/thug, are in “real” life, absolute sweethearts. I think the truth is actually far more mundane. I assume that an NBA team is composed more or less along the same lines as any other group of individuals in a work environment. There are going to be a couple of jerks and creeps you don’t like, a few individuals you’d be friends with even if you’d never worked together, and the rest, well, they’re people you really couldn’t care about one way or another. Granted, this is a particularly close-knit job situation, what with all the travel and the media exposure. But my suspicion is it’s not that dissimilar from our own, far less glamorous office or ditch-digging experiences.

Lest y’all think I’m shunning Knick uber-fandom, I’m still seriously geeking for the new season (3-5 start notwithstanding), the point of this little ditty is to remind myself that as we stand and cheer (or boo) it’s super important to separate the performance from the performer, and that the people in Knicks-emblazoned gear are just that: people.



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Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

16 thoughts to “Fear and Loathing with Troy Murphy”

  1. Pretty strange…and hanging with your elderly relative (father, uncle) to boot. Tho he is a mid 20s guy from Bergen County so the urban/hood/Soprano extra affectations are probably not totally out of character but the barking is another story.

  2. That’s a pretty weird story. With one odd comment, well, maybe he’s goofing around, acting out a little because he’s annoyed, being hostile in an ironic way. Random barking at a dog, though, that’s something else.

    I actually HAVE spent time hanging out with a Knick, but, well, it was Steph, 2-3 years ago. And he is fairly crazy, but to hear about his childhood kind of explains it – doesn’t it make it OK, but does provide the context to understand how/why he doesn’t have any real sense of what normal people’s lives are like.

    Not that there are normal people. But people who aren’t batshit crazy.

    Now that I think of it, his life would make a pretty amazing documentary, a follow up to that one he was in when he was a kid. He’s a very complicated dude, has a lot of really positive, warm instincts, but obviously, many many demons as well. But to your point, Robert, yeah, these “heroes” are just people, some of them boring as the most boring people we know, and some of them fantastic guys, some of them wife-beating assholes, and some of them just troubled, complicated overgrown boys from the projects who have been treated like gods since they were kids because of a talent few possess. I don’t know many star athletes, but I know a good number of Hollywood people, and it’s amazing any of them can keep any perspective whatsoever given how much ass-kissing they receive on a daily basis. Few of us would be any different than the worst of them we see in the gossip columns…well, excepting maybe Mel Gibson.

  3. Excellent, and hilarious, piece. What’s also important to remember is that much of the press, for all of their bloated masturbation, hasn’t the faintest clue about what these dudes are like outside of a gym or a press conference. Troy Murphy may bark at dogs, but he sure as hell doesn’t bark at dogs in front of reporters. So when Chris Broussard tells you about what kind of dude LeBron is, take it with a grain of salt. He, like us on our couches, sees a sliver of a complete identity — a persona, and nothing more.

  4. “Maybe I’m wrong, but has anyone reading this blog ever gotten to spend any time just say, hanging out with a Knick? Anyone? Bueller?”

    I went to high school with Channing Frye’s cousin and went to summer camp with Doc Rivers’s son (Jeremiah, not Austin), and my best friend worked for Bill Bradley on his radio show.

    That’s all I have for you.

    More to your point though, I was recently alone in a hotel gym with “Iron” Mike Tyson. I said hello and then cut out as if he would live up to his sports persona by pinning me down and biting my ear off.

  5. “Do you have so little talent picking up women that you think that barking is going to make ‘em swoon?”

    Great post RS! Perhaps we could draw up a list of pickup lines for Yo Murphy? I always preferred “Hey baby, I could drink a tub-full of your bath water.”

    Anyone catch the Celts-Heat last night? Damn I hate it when I have to root for the Celtics. Aside from the win, my favorite moment of the evening came from DWade’s post-game interview:

    “We’re the best 5-4 team in the league. How about that? But we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

    Yeah, DWade, you’re the best 5-4 team, but your also the worst 5-4 team. The Heat are the only team with that record. I love revelling in their misery. Lets hope it continues.

  6. I know this os off topic, but I have a few comments.

    I think every Knicks fan understands that Wilson Chandler is a poor 3 point shooter, but I think he’s been getting a bit of a bum rap on this forum.

    Wilson has issues with shot selection. He clearly takes some 3 pointers too early in the shot clock when a better option might still become available and also shoots some ill advised shots in coverage instead of moving the ball. He has to stop that because he’s hurting the team. But it’s not nearly as bad as it looks.

    1. At the start of the season Wilson was told to develop a “scorers mentality” off the bench (multiple press reports). D’Antoni thought the team needed another aggressive scoring punch off the bench to replace Harrington and gave the job to Wilson. Wilson didn’t just decide to shoot a lot of 3s and jumpers again because he’s an undiciplined fool. He was told to shoot them. He has the green light. It’s on the coach.

    2. The reason the Knicks are being forced to shoot so many 3s and jumpers is that defenses are trying to take away the #1 scoring option (Amare) by playing zone or stacking the middle. It’s no accident that Amare’s TS% is PATHETIC relative to his norm and he’s turning the ball over so much. He’s often trying to force his way inside, but there’s nothing there. That’s also the reason why Wilson is NOT slashing as much as he did last year so successfully. There’s nothing there a lot of the time.

    3. The average FG% from both 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet in the NBA is about 40%. So if a defense is totally stacking the middle and forcing a team to shoot from the outside, even a bad outside shooter like Chandler is usually better off shooting a 3 pointer than most others shooting are shooting a mid range shot. A 3P% of 30% like Wilson’s is equal to an eFG% of 45%. That’s better than the mid range option for the average NBA player. It’s a horrible scoring option, but it’s the better one.

    4. It’s not so easy to say Gallo, Douglas, Walker etc.. should be shooting more 3s instead. Defenses also know that Gallo would be a better option. So they take it away when they can and try to force the worse option to shoot when possible.

    5. Other than his outside shooting, Wilson is rebounding better, getting to the FT line more often, blocking more shots, and consistently defending the best player at 3 positions well this year. Those are the things we’ve been hoping for.

    So there is no reason to gang up on him because he’s not Ray Allen. He’s a solid role player that’s still improving. He’s just being asked to do more than he’s equipped to do right now and the makeup of the team is partially forcing it.

    In summary, I think the problem here is that the Knicks need to move the ball and space the floor better so Amare and Wilson can get inside more often, do what they do best, and the team doesn’t have to settle for so many poor jumpers. Until Gallo AND SOMEONE ELSE whose strength is 3 point shooting (perhaps Azubuike eventually) step up and punish defenses CONSISTENTLY for sagging off and playing zone, the floor is not going to be spaced properly.

    When we start doing that we can all stop yelling at our TV when Chandler throws up a brick or Amare turns the ball over trying to do too much.

  7. Looks like David Lee is gonna be out a couple of weeks or so. Needed surgery to clean up infection on arm from Chandler’s “bite”. Doesnt look like Lee will be playing vs Knicks next week.

  8. “Actually, I’m only 98% sure it was Murphy. But how many 6’11” guys who look like the bastard love child of David Schwimmer and Pat Cummings are there in the greater NY/NJ Metro area?”

    Hmmm… Not sure what Pat Cummings’ wife looks like, but if they have a son, he could be about Troy Murphy’s age. (And Pat was known to fuck a dude up now and again, yo.)

  9. I once had dinner with Dick Van Arsdale (long ago and far away in a younger universe when I was honored for doing well in a basketball league). He was very staight laced. The most mischief he claimed to do was masquerade as his twin brother Tom to screw with teachers and friends.

  10. Great piece Bob! I’m late on this one.

    I think jocks are like cops. The first one you meet when you’re a little kid with mom is nice and friendly in a Norman Rockwell sense. Now, when you see one he just wants you to be scared of him.

    Dean Memminger scrimmaged with my High School team and that was great. He passed, smiled, and I made one!

    I would have totally said hello to Murphy and tried to chat him up. Everyone likes praise. I would have called him the best 3 point shooting big man in the game and talked about the time Zach Randolph was too busy arguing with the ref and let him get on off unguarded when he was with Indy. That would have nipped the negativity, probably. These guys are meglomaniacs. Any attention is better than none. They’re like my worst students in that way.

  11. danvt: Great piece Bob!I’m late on this one.I think jocks are like cops.The first one you meet when you’re a little kid with mom is nice and friendly in a Norman Rockwell sense.Now, when you see one he just wants you to be scared of him.
    Dean Memminger scrimmaged with my High School team and that was great.He passed, smiled, and I made one!I would have totally said hello to Murphy and tried to chat him up.Everyone likes praise.I would have called him the best 3 point shooting big man in the game and talked about the time Zach Randolph was too busy arguing with the ref and let him get on off unguarded when he was with Indy.That would have nipped the negativity, probably.These guys are meglomaniacs.Any attention is better than none.They’re like my worst students in that way.  

    I was so going to chat him up, but then the weirdness started…

    As a fond reader of “The Last Shot” (a book that included tales of Stephon Marbury’s Freshman year at Lincoln) I really think a “Steph in China” documentary would be GREAT. I wonder how I could get in touch with his people?

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