Kenyon Martin: There Is No Fear Of Tough Guys In Today's NBA

"It's night and day," Martin said, comparing his era to this one. "There’s a lack of physicality all around the board."

The DA Show
April 13, 2018 - 12:37 pm

USA Today Images


Kenyon Martin entered the NBA in 2000. In fact, he was the first overall pick in the draft that year.

By the time he retired in 2015, the league he left was vastly different from the league he entered. 

“It was night and day,” Martin said on The DA Show. “It’s night and day. Certain things with the game of basketball that you expect, certain contact, certain play, certain post play – things like that – and they’ve taken it out of the game all around. There’s a lack of physicality all around the board. Every touch is a foul. Every hard foul is a flagrant. There’s no hard fouls anymore. That’s part of basketball. If you step in a guy’s way and he falls a certain way, they might kick you out of the game. That wasn’t the case when I came in. This whole freedom of movement thing and all that, I get it. You want the game to be free-flowing, but I think they take away from the total aspect of basketball the way they referee it sometimes.”

Martin, 40, was an enforcer. DA wonders if there’s a place for enforcers in today’s NBA.

“I think it has to be a different way,” Martin said. “I don’t think you can approach it the way I did it – or a Charles Oakley or, around my time, a Ron Artest, or a Ben Wallace or someone like that, a Jermaine O’Neal. It’s different now the way you have to approach it. You can still be that, but it’s mostly words now. I think it’s mostly words. Guys do a good job at chirping. It’s talked about now. I think it’s talked about rather than action.”

Martin said players didn’t talk much early in his career – at least not to certain people.

“At any given moment, somebody can go upside your head when you’re going to the basket,” Martin said. “They (would) just get kicked out of their one game, and they’d be back the next game. But now you can’t do that. You do that, there’s big fines and all that. Then guys was careful who they talked to crazy. You watched your mouth on certain guys because you know what they was about. There’s not that fear anymore. That fear is not there because they’re all peers. They’re all the same age. They follow each other on Instagram, Twitter. They go out to eat together. Everything is a hug. Everybody’s hugging before the game, everybody’s hugging after the game – everybody’s friends. Nowadays it doesn’t matter, but you definitely watched your mouth on who you was chirping to in my first seven, eight, nine years in the league.”

DA wondered who was the one guy in the league nobody wanted to mess with.

“Me,” Martin said, prompting hearty laughter from the host. “It’s the honest-to-God truth – and everybody knew it. That’s what it was with me. I didn’t start it with nobody, but I played the game of basketball a certain way. I was willing to take it to the next step if I felt you got disrespectful out there. Let’s keep the respect, let’s play basketball hard, let’s compete – but if you take it to the next level, I’m always willing to do that.”

Martin was an NBA All-Star in 2004 and had a stellar college career. In fact, he was national player of the year in 2000 and forged a special bond with Bob Huggins.

“That was my guy,” Martin said. “Cincinnati was the school, but I went to the University of Bob Huggins. I came out of high school that way, and I brought that to Cincinnati, that mentality, that no-lose, taking no stuff off of anybody. If you want to knuckle up, we can do that. We can go in the room and brawl it out. It all started with basketball, and we had the same mentality when it came to basketball – that no-holds-barred mentality. We’re going to go out, we’re going to compete at a high level, we’re going to play hard each and every possession, and that’s what Hugs appreciated about me and that’s what I appreciated about the way he coached the game. So it worked.”

Looking at the NBA, Draymond Green might be the tough guy in the league right now, but he might not have been 10 or 20 years ago.

“He’s the tough guy of the league now because he’s the loudest,” Martin said. “He’s the loudest out there. He would have had a few more altercations up to this point had he came in (during the) late-90s and early 2000s. He would have had a few more altercations.”