Andrew Rafner is a recently liberated fan and writer from Los Angeles. He owns two Sasha Vujacic jerseys and isn’t sorry about it.
Andrew Bynum is the worst. And not in a “You’re the worst, but we still love you because you’re so awful at everything you do” kind of way, like Britta from “Community.” He’s just actually the worst.
And why, you may ask is arguably the most talented true center in the league the worst? Well, to put it simply, Andrew Bynum is the worst because of his totally shitty attitude and penchant for making the worst possible decision at all times. Honestly, the only dude in the league I can think of with worse body language than Andrew is Daniel Orton of the Magic, but that just may be his face, I dunno.
For the Lakers (specifically their King Douche, he of the rats-nest-under-a-baseball cap, Jim Buss) Andrew Bynum has represented the heir apparent to the hallowed throne of Laker big men, occupied honorably and valiantly by George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal before him. Thing is, while those before him were mysterious (Mikan), gregarious (O’Neal and Chamberlain) and aloof (Abdul-Jabbar), Bynum in his time has proven to be nothing but a petulant child.
In 2005, Andrew Bynum became the Lakers second-ever lottery pick (Eddie Jones was selected 10th in 1994) as they selected him 10th overall out of St. Joseph’s High School in suburban New Jersey. Bynum was taken ahead of a more proven talent, Danny Granger, simply for his potential and team’s history with world-class talent in the middle. The Lakers have always been obsessed with size, and Bynum’s massive — he was pretty fat in high school — frame seemed to fill the hole.
However, the challenge with Bynum was that he was young, just 17 years 0ld (and incidentally still the youngest person to ever play in an NBA game) and almost all the legendary Laker centers had come to the team via trade after having established themselves elsewhere. The Lakers would have to develop Andrew Bynum not only as a true NBA center worthy of the mantle, but also as a person, a fully functional human being. While they have succeeded at the former, the Lakers have failed miserably at the latter.
But this piece isn’t about what Andrew Bynum is good at. We all know that he has perhaps the best footwork of anyone over 6-foot-10 in the league. We all know he is deadly in the post. We all know that Andrew Bynum is a very good basketball player and vital to the Lakers’ success. We can all agree on that. What is currently up for discussion is that Andrew Bynum has a big-time attitude problem, one that has alienated this writer, a born and raised Laker fan, to the point of contempt for the team he was taught to love.
Early in his career, it seemed like Andrew Bynum could do no wrong. He talked about not falling into the trap so many preps-to-pros had. He lived with his mom in a non-descript neighborhood in Los Angeles. He dunked over Shaq as a rookie and jumped and celebrated like just a normal 18-year-old kid would. It was really cute. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was coaching him personally. He loved cars and computers. He was kind of a dork.
As time went on and his value to the Lakers was validated, he became something else. He became this picture of entitlement, this 20-something jerk that says whatever and does whatever they want with little to no regard for how it affects those around them. He was photographed parking horizontally across multiple handicapped parking spaces. He was photographed with a Playboy Bunny on his shoulders while rehabbing yet another knee injury. Andrew Bynum was establishing himself as an asshole.
In 2010, he did a lot to help his image by playing through a torn meniscus and calf muscle en route to the Lakers’ second championship in as many years. But as the Lakers melted down in the second round of last year’s playoffs, being swept by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, Bynum acted as the personification of said meltdown by body-slamming Maverick guard/Ewok J.J. Barea, earning him an ejection and a 5-game suspension to begin the 2012 NBA season. To Bynum, his despicable actions were met with his usual nonplussed hands to the sky followed by removal of his jersey as he was escorted off the court.
This year has been something entirely new for Andrew Bynum. In the past, we could expect him to do something stupid, yes, but it was never calculated. It was usually some kind of folly of youth or transgression easily assigned to inexperience or boneheadedness. In 2012, Andrew Bynum got mean. He became a dick.
He openly criticized Mike Brown at nearly every opportunity. He took inappropriate 3-pointers during meaningful possessions (not to say that it was any worse than the inappropriate 15-footers he’d been taking for years, but this just LOOKED worse), leading Brown to bench Bynum during the fourth quarter in a March game against Golden State. After being questioned about the incident, Bynum responded by saying “I don’t know what was bench-worthy about the shot, to be honest with you. I made one last [game] and wanted to make another one.” This guy.
Following Three-Pointergate came Huddlegate, an incident concerning Bynum’s admission that he doesn’t take place in Mike Brown’s huddles due to the fact that he is “getting my Zen on.” It was after this that, for the first time in his 8-year career, the Lakers fined him for “numerous infractions.” Andrew Bynum was out of control, and the Laker organization having coddled and protected him since he was 17 had no recourse.
With Andrew Bynum, it will only get worse for the Lakers. This is only the start. The shitty attitude, the lack of hustle on defense, the stray grey hairs, the insulting quotes before playoff games (see: prior to Game 5, when he said “close-out games are actually kind of easy.” And that “teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning.” Non coincidentally, Denver won and JaVale McGee punked Bynum, going for 21 and 14.) You can’t allow bad behavior for eight years, and then all of the sudden when the monster you’ve created turns on you, expect a slap on the wrist will cure all the ills.
As far as Andrew Bynum is concerned, his attitude seems to be “Deal with it.” But as fans of a league filled with the most likable talent it’s ever had, should we have to deal with it? No. That’s why Andrew Bynum is the worst.