The NBA fined Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka $25,000 for punching Blake Griffin in the groin on Sunday. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James of the Miami Heat think that was not a fair punishment, but their reaction was not to come to the defense of Ibaka.
Instead, Wade and James accused the league of hypocrisy for giving Ibaka a much more lenient punishment than what Wade got for a similar foul earlier this season.
In late December, Wade struck Ramon Sessions of the Charlotte Bobcats in the groin with his foot. Wade denied intent (the incident happened as Wade fell to the court following a blocking foul by Sessions), but the league came down on him hard.
Wade was suspended without pay for one game, losing just over $200,000 in pay (his annual salary is just north of $17 million).
Wade called foul on social media Tuesday afternoon, tweeting, "All I can say is WoW... and I get suspended and lose 200 grand." For good measure, he added the hashtag #someexplainingtodo.
James came to his teammate's defense on Twitter. "So explain to me the difference?" James asked. "My teammate gets a 1 game suspension and 150k+ [taken] away from him for his groin altercation." James opted for the #strangetome hashtag, but his biggest contribution was the phrase "groin altercation" to the English language.
Ibaka struck Griffin in the crotch with a closed fist, a very similar play indeed. The league also upgraded the flagrant foul 1 Ibaka was given on the play to a flagrant foul 2, which would have gotten Ibaka ejected had it been called during the game.
The NBA seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth, issuing a large cash fine but one whose value is not nearly as high as what Wade gave up.
However, Ibaka is only earning $2.25 million this season. Wade's fine represented 1.22% of his annual salary (call it the "groin altercation penalty ratio"), Ibaka's is 1.11%. A $200,000 fine would represent close to 9% Ibaka's salary, which is quite a large proportion for an isolated incident.
Ibaka's punishment may seem less costly than Wade's, but at his (small by comparison) salary, Ibaka is likely feeling a similar level of pain.