NBA / Feb 22, 2010 / 2:30 pm

An Open Letter to Hedo Turkoglu: “Don’t be stupid.”

“I talked to a couple of other doctors, a couple of other friends and they really kind of told me the same stuff that these guys told me. It’s not that I didn’t believe (Raptors doctors), but (friends) called me because they heard I wasn’t going to wear the mask and they said, ‘Don’t be stupid.'” – Hedo Turkoglu to The Toronto Star, February 7, 2010

Dear Hedo,

Let us start with some history.

On January 12, 1968, two games before the “Game of the Century” between UCLA and Houston, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had his left cornea scratched in a ferocious rebounding battle with Cal’s Tom Henderson. Despite missing the next two games, Kareem played hurt against Houston and was held to just 15 points in a losing effort. What became evident later on was that the scratched cornea would be the first of such injuries that would lead to Kareem’s development of corneal erosion syndrome. Yet, after his eye became the target of scratching upon scratching, Kareem took advantage of the opportunity to bolster his Hall of Fame career with the image that would come to define it: the 7-1, lanky, all-time leading scorer, who wore goggles.

Only in basketball does injury provide the opportunity for memorable players to become truly unforgettable. When Kareem started the trend, goggles on the hardwood became a common form of injury prevention and post-injury protection, ranging from kids rocking them in junior league to the iconic faces of James Worthy, Kurt Rambis and Horace Grant. Goggles became cool. But before Amar’e Stoudemire graced the court with a pair of slick Oakley’s after suffering both a partially torn iris and a detached retina last season, there was a noticeable gap of years that goggles remained dormant in the League. It appeared the end of goggles was imminent.

For any player, a distinctive persona is hard to create. But in 2004 and 2005, David Stern made it even more difficult. With the “Malice in the Palace” in 2004, Stern made it near-impossible for the true bruiser to exist in the league. Laimbeer, Oakley and Artest spent years defining themselves as extra-basketball enforcers, but now we may never see a guy that can single-handedly clear a bench again. In 2005, Stern implemented the famous dress code, and gone were the off-the-court personas of Rodman and Iverson that generated public interest for the league and created entire subcultures across the world. The league has become, and will continue to become, tame and polished, and the opportunities for players to create lasting images will be increasingly limited.

This is why Kareem was so ahead of his time, and it is why players who wish to survive their playing years have learned to embrace injury. With the declining presence of goggles, Rip Hamilton has solidified his place in history as the recognizable man in the mask, and he knows it too: “I love it. It’s like my identity,” Rip said. “If someone doesn’t watch basketball, an old lady, they always know who wears the mask. It’s my identity and I’ll wear it the rest of my career.” The mask is an opportunity for no other reason than the proverbial old lady that Hamilton cites in the formation of his identity. Thousands of players have entered the minds of fans and exited just as quickly since 1990, but facial accessories make their mark on a fan’s conscience, if only for a little longer.

Grant and Rambis were good. They were truly valuable to championship teams. But they are not Hall of Famers. And though Rip may forever tread the same waters as them in a pool outside of the Hall, he will always be remembered as “that mask-wearing shooting guard with the sweet mid-range jumpshot,” just as his predecessors will likewise be remembered foremost for their goggles.

Hedo, after reluctantly agreeing to start wearing a mask after suffering an orbital-bone fracture below your right eye, you ditched the mask on Saturday against Washington and dropped 16-6-5. Still, you achieved these numbers at what cost?

According to the National Post, you fought the idea of wearing a mask so much before reluctantly agreeing and then ditching it again, that you were willing to sign a waiver clearing the Raptors of any responsibility if you sustained further injury: “They want me to be careful about it, but like I said, it’s not really helping me out. It’s still uncomfortable and I appreciate all the concern, but I’m a grown man and I make my own decisions and I decide not to wear. Just try to focus on my game, not on my face.”

But what if your face is inextricably tied to your legacy? What if the very memory of your Paul Pierce-like game depends on this mask? Sure, you say that the mask is uncomfortable, but not only do you risk further (serious) injury and place your commitment to the team under scrutiny after GM Bryan Colangelo implored that you wear it, but you are putting your very legacy in jeopardy. If you want the chance to be remembered far into basketball posterity, Hedo, listen to your friends and wear the mask: “Don’t be stupid.”

What do you think? Should Hedo wear the mask?

Follow Adam on Twitter at @FloBombin.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.

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  • quest???

    WTF?????…………………..

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    if you ask me, his face already looks broken.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    “ball.”
    ………….

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    Dear Dime,

    REMOVE THIS ‘YOUR COMMENT IS TOO SHORT’ BULLSHIT!!!

  • geoluhread

    wonders if Kobe should keep his tape on his finger.

  • thedoc
  • http://bt.davka.info/ SparkyJ23

    Too late, moving from the magic was about as stupid as it gets

  • Kermit The Washington

    Wow. We’re reeeealy stretching for something to talk about today, aren’t we…

    LOL

  • Kermit The Washington

    And yeah, Heckler’s right. It’s dang near impossible to make sarcastic comments with this “your comment is too short” crap

  • http://www.innoutnba.com In-N-Out Lucas

    Haha, I like this article. He really should though.

  • Ape

    will anyone give a rats ass if Tyrone Hill wears a mask?

    greg oden should wear a mask on his knees.

  • http://dimemag.com realtalk

    Hedo may be stupid, but not more stupid than this article.

  • Brown

    Unless the mask somehow gives him the ability to put the ball on the floor and stop camping out at the three-point line, I could care less.

    It’s almost like he lost a step or three when he signed with the Raps. He’s painful to watch.

  • 12 Days

    By far the stupidest article ever written on dime.

  • the cynic

    i don’t get it, what’s the article trying to say?

  • dagwaller

    Haha, some funny comments here, Ape, I liked yours.

    Lots of hate for some reason. I liked the article.

    Ball.

  • Kevin.H

    ………………….
    ball
    …………………..

  • nikita

    …….ball……

  • TIP

    Who’s Flomenbaum? New writer? If so, I hail thee! (I’ve actually seen 1 or 2 of your articles here and there…still recent, though)

    But damn…no heads or tails on this one. You’re telling Mr. Turkoglu to wear the mask, not because it will prevent him from further injury, but because it could strengthen his legacy…wow.

    About the too short comments, that’s a problem from wordpress. This site is basically a blog…how cheap.

  • quest???

    I didn’t get much out of this article, and I’m just gonna use this space to say that I FUCKING LOVE ALLEN IVERSON. SERIOUSLY. HE’S LIKE THE LOVE OF MY LIFE.

    PS: I watch AI highlights in youtube and I get high. No kidding. I LOVE AI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Nice article Flo-Bomb. I don’t get what people don’t understand. The NBA is just as much about marketing as it is about talent. Hell, life is all about marketing. You think the guys on Jersey Shore have any talent? No. Are they making more money right now than the majority of us? Yes. As Rip said, he’s known as the mask guy. If you were to do word association, the word “mask” would probably be the first thing that comes to peoples mind of UConn, Pistons or even champion (he’s won a couple).

  • fLaVa

    wtf is this???

    this is the worse article i’ve read online…..EVER..

  • geoluhread

    @Aron

    Rip makes it work. i don’t think Hedo personality would make the mask work. doesn’t seem like the marketing type when he speaks.

  • JAY

    Turkoglu is a baby. The game is 90% mental. He played sh!tty with the mask on because he believed it would hurt his game. If he went out and gave it an honest chance it would have been different.