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Is a Head-Butt Worth $35,000?

For Phoenix Sun Jared Dudley, it most certainly was. We’re collecting various NBA fines to ask the same question: did he get his money’s worth?

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

In January, we sifted through the $1.7 million in fines the NBA had handed out by that point in the season, highlighted a handful of them, and examined them to figure out whether or not the players involved got their money’s worth in each instance.

Since then, the NBA has nearly doubled that amount in fines (it’s up to $3.35 million right now, although we’ll be past that number soon, with the Serge Ibaka–Robin Lopez fight that happened during Tuesday’s Bulls-Raptors game), meaning it’s a proper time to look through all the new fines and figure if the players in this go-round got their money’s worth. This batch, which comprises five plays but features eight fined players, includes slaps, kicks, pretend guns, head-butts, and so on. The NBA is so much fun.

The Infraction and Fine: Nearing the end of the third quarter of a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, the Lakers sprinted out on a four-on-one fast break. Brandon Ingram, currently my favorite NBA player based on those magic brooms from Disney’s Fantasia, drew in the defender (Malcolm Brogdon) and then scooped the ball over to Nick Young for an easy layup. On the layup attempt, though, Brogdon whopped Young while trying to block the shot, to which Young responded by shoving him, to which Bucks center Greg Monroe responded by shoving Young by the throat, to which Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell responded by shoving Monroe in the back, to which I responded with, “Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight,” while I watched the game at home. The NBA fined Monroe $35,000, Nick $25,000, D’Angelo $15,000, and me $0.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Let’s go person by person.

Greg Monroe, $35,000: Yes. This was worth it for Monroe. He’s a big. Bigs are supposed to be feared. And a good way to become feared is to start shoving other players by the throat every so often. This was a sound investment for him. (The throat is the third-most intimidating place to shove someone. The second-most intimidating place to shove someone is the face. And the most intimidating place is the wiener. If you’re about to get in a fight, and some guy shoves you in the chest, and then your response is to shove that guy back, except you shove him in the wiener, then guess what. You just won that fight.)

Nick Young, $25,000: This is the toughest one to call. On the one hand, Young’s shove doesn’t really accomplish anything. It just happens and then it’s over. There won’t be any sort of echo from it. His reputation won’t change. He’s still Nick Young, lovable jester, you know what I’m saying? So in that sense, it’s a bad investment.

On the other hand, I would guess that Nick Young has spent $25,000 on way worse, more ill-advised things. If you told me, “Hey, Shea, did you hear about that NBA player who spent $25,000 on Snickers? Guess who it was.” Or if you said, “Hey, Shea, did you hear about that NBA player who spent $25,000 on a baby elephant? Guess who it was.” Or if you said, “Hey, Shea, did you hear about that NBA player who spent $25,000 on $15,000 worth of old issues of Maxim? Guess who it was.” Nick Young would be the first player I’d think of every time. So in that sense, I suppose spending $25,000 to shove someone is at least a better investment than a whole bunch of Snickers candy bars. I don’t know. I’m calling this one a draw.

D’Angelo Russell, $15,000: D’Angelo is my favorite character in this whole tiny soap opera. This is him watching Monroe shove Nick:

He sees it happen, calculates the odds of Monroe (or anyone else) attacking him if he attacks Monroe, decides he can escape unscathed, and then shoves Monroe in the back on some The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford shit:

What’s great about this shove is that it isn’t just an ordinary shove. It’s a very D’Angelo Russell shove. What I mean is, sure, he’s shoving Monroe, but he’s doing so from literally as far away as possible. He’s leaned all the way forward at the waist, stretched out forward juuuuuuuuuuust enough to get his hands on Monroe so afterward he can say that he definitely shoved Monroe and not be lying. “I’m almost certain D’Angelo’s favorite character from The Wire was Namond Brice,” is what I was thinking when I watched this replay.

After the D’Angelo shove the skirmish is fully realized. We’ve got an angry Nick Young, an angry Greg Monroe, an angry (and perfect) Brandon Ingram, coaches running in, refs running in, other players running, a crowd going yo-yo, and commentators ready to call the action. It’s all going great. There’s a great, big tangle of arms and torsos and egos. Let’s see how far D’Angelo, who helped work everyone up into a frenzy, has decided to inject himself into the fray …


D’Angelo Russell is great.

D’Angelo definitely got his $15,000 worth.

The Infraction and Fine: During the third quarter of a February 24 game between the Bucks and the Jazz, Giannis Antetokounmpo completed an and-1 against Jazz center Rudy Gobert. When Gobert realized that he’d been called for a foul (and not Giannis, whom Gobert was saying extended his forearm), he sprinted over to the ref and touched him on the arm to get his attention. The second ref, standing just feet away, called a technical on Gobert. Later, the NBA fined him $25,000 for coming into contact with an official.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Absolutely not. This one was way different from the instance earlier this season when John Wall shoulder-bumped an official out of frustration. That one was like a Greek drama. This one felt much more innocuous. Look:

See? There’s nothing there. Give that gigantic Frenchman his money back.

The Infraction and Fine: During the fourth quarter of a game between the Wizards and the Nuggets on March 8, Markieff Morris, after having the ball slapped out of his hands by Mason Plumlee, kicked Plumlee in the genitals. Morris tried to make it look like it was part of his natural motion, but it definitely was not. He was ejected from the game, and later fined $25,000 by the NBA.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? No. Absolutely not. Markieff kicked a person in the genitals and he got fined $25,000. Draymond Green kicked a person in the genitals last year and he got to go the Finals and then he got Kevin Durant on his team. That’s a way higher return on genitals-kick investment.

The Infraction and Fine: During the fourth quarter of a January 23 game between the Heat and the Warriors, Zaza Pachulia, who I am a very big fan of because I always like when NBA players have brows that look like building awnings, slapped Luke Babbitt in the face after they got twisted up with one another following a free throw. The NBA fined Pachulia $15,000.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Can I say two things here?

First, let me answer the question: Yes, I say he got his money’s worth, only because I feel confident that, were we able to peek in on Zaza’s monthly expenditures, we’d find a line specifically for fines doled out for slapping people. I think he plans for it the way normal people plan to pay their mortgage or for groceries. It’s just a part of his budget. Tussling with people is just a thing that he does, and feels compelled to do. It’s an affliction, really, and he’s living with it, and I respect his courage in dealing with it.

Second, I legit cannot stop watching the GIF of Zaza slapping Babbitt. I don’t know why it’s so funny to me. I think it’s because it doesn’t really look like Zaza is slapping him with any sort of malice. It’s not like the time he got into it with Jason Richardson, or the time he got into it with Kevin Garnett, or the time he got into it with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, or the time he got into it with Nikola Mirotic, or the time he got into it with LeBron James, or the time he got into it with James Harden, or the time he got into it with Russell Westbrook, or the time he got into it with Patty Mills. It seems more based in curiosity than anything else, like Zaza is trying to figure out what Luke Babbitt is, similar to the way a baby pokes at a cat when it sees one for the first time. Zaza really is a top-tier NBA character.

The Infraction and Fine: During the second quarter of a game between the Wizards and Suns on March 7, Jason Smith (Wizards) set a very healthy screen on Tyler Ulis (Suns) that knocked Ulis clean off his feet. Jared Dudley, who I was surprised to learn is a Ride or Die, jogged over from the other side of the court and head-butted Smith on Tyler’s behalf. Brandon Jennings, who I was not surprised to learn is a Ride or Die, pushed his way into the middle of the ruckus and made what the NBA determined was a gun gesture at Dudley. Both players were ejected, and afterward were each fined $35,000 by the NBA.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Jared Dudley for sure got his money’s worth. This is where Dudley was when Smith hit Ulis with his cement truck chest:

That’s a good 50 feet away. Dudley was way over there, saw the collision, decided, “You know what? I gotta head-butt this guy now,” and then jogged all those feet and head-butted him. As far as head-butts go, I have to believe that that’s the farthest anyone has ever traveled to deliver one. Even Smith, who was literally staring at Dudley as he approached, was caught off-guard by the move, which you can tell because as soon as he realizes he’s just gotten head-butted by a dude who came from 50 feet away he immediately shouts, “What the fuck?”

Before this moment, most head-butts had come from inches away, maybe a foot. Dudley revolutionized head-butting here. He’s a head-butt trendsetter, honestly. And $35,000 seems a small price to pay for head-butting your way into not only the head-butting history books, but into a position of prestige within the head-butting community. So, I say again: Jared Dudley for sure got his money’s worth.

Brandon Jennings, however, did not. This is him pointing his finger gun at Dudley:

In any other scenario, this would be a fine and respectable move. Brandon Jennings is very clearly familiar with pre-fight finger-gun blustering, and I will admit that he is good at it (solid form; appropriate and correct use of two fingers to represent the barrel of the gun; using the dominant hand to make the gun; etc.). This is not any other scenario, though. This is Jennings, his reputation (and $35,000) on the line, toe-to-toe with Jared Dudley, founding father of the long-distance head-butt, genius, savant.

More is required here than a simple finger gun. Pretending to hold an imaginary shotgun would’ve worked, as would’ve pretending to hold imaginary Uzis. Pretending to hold an imaginary bazooka launcher during an NBA square-off would’ve been groundbreaking, and pretending to throw an imaginary grenade would’ve made Jennings the first active player to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But just an ordinary finger gun? No go. That’s an L. Brandon Jennings did not get his money’s worth.