We know that Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers takes to the big moment like few other role players in the game. We also know that he takes to attempting to play like few other players in the game — namely the relatively "few" All-Star ones with big athleticism and impressive resumes — though Chalmers' own skill set doesn't warrant such a high-minded opinion of himself. We also know, whether we're reading our Marc Spears' fantastic feature on him or ESPN's Israel Gutierrez's great work on the point guard or watching the cat play on TV that his teammates like to yell at him. A lot.
What we didn't know is the reason why. No, it's not because Chalmers still tends to break plays in the Heat offense or chafes at having the ball taken out of his hands by two of the better perimeter performers in NBA history. No, it starts with a simple line of disrespect, coming from Heat stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Not because they don't enjoy Mario's game or moxie or deft touch late in contests. It's because the dude wears Spalding. Shoes. They still make Spalding shoes, and the starting point guard on a team that is one win away from the NBA championship wears them. While he plays basketball, even. From ESPN:
Privately, LeBron jokingly mocks Chalmers for everything from his sneakers -- Chalmers has a deal with Spalding, which is apparently making shoes now and not just basketballs (who knew?) -- to his taste in food. Publicly, which is basically limited to the basketball court, you'd think they hated each other.
I kind of hate Mario now, myself. I mean, Spalding, guy?
We kid, of course, because we'll always love a yapper. And Mario is a yapper who has been able to handle being tossed into the fire of a clearly rebuilding Miami Heat team (with playoff expectations) in 2008-09, all the way toward being treated as a weak link of sorts as the team struggled to find easy hoops in their Finals loss to Dallas last season, to hanging on to his starting gig even four years into things.
Chalmers is an odd one, but in a usually endearing way. As Gutierrez points out in his feature, he's never really warmed to the whole "the world needs ditch-diggers"-approach, even after being selected in the second round of the 2008 NBA draft. At one point in that rookie year, the feature reports, Chalmers copped to modeling his game after "Chris Paul," which is not what coaches like to hear when they're searching for the next B.J. Armstrong. Then again, before he learned to spot up and pick his spots in the title-winning Chicago Bulls offense, Armstrong also pretended to be a Paul (or, in his case, Isiah Thomas)-type point guard and drive to the hole fruitlessly banking on athleticism he didn't have.
Of course, even four years in, this is sort of what you expect from the guy that more or less made his TV debut as a professional this way:
Don't ever change, Mario. Save for, perhaps, your shoes.