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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Gunplay

By Royce Webb

According to one NBA player, 60 to 75 percent of NBA players have firearms. Given that, the league has been fortunate to have as few gun-related incidents as it has.

That’s especially true when you listen to how we all talk about the game.

It’s a violent sport, and I’m not referring to flagrant fouls.

Players shoot all the time -- they fire away, they launch from outside, they let it fly, they have a quick trigger, they hit baskets, they shoot the lights out, they’re right on target, they’re long-range bombers.

Players steal the ball, trigger the fast break and throw bullet passes for slams.

Teams unload a barrage on their opponents -- and reload.

Coaches always want a lockdown defense and an offense with a lot of firepower.

One NBA broadcaster routinely substitutes the word “gun” for “shot.” As in: “Rip with a 15-foot gun.”

When a jumper goes in, it’s “right between the eyes!” in the lingo of one of the NBA’s most popular play-by-play men.

Pete Maravich was Pistol Pete. Chuck Person was The Rifleman. Adam Morrison is Ammo. Andrei Kirilenko is AK-47.

Allan Houston was “a quiet gunslinger,” according to the New York Times.

Reggie Miller was a deadly gunslinger, in the words of countless writers, broadcasters and fans. NBA.com says he “had a penchant for the spectacular clutch shot in gunslinger fashion that made him a feared and despised opponent.”

Miller’s trademark gunslinger gesture has been copied by Kobe Bryant, who is a “cold-blooded assassin,” as stated on NBA.com and thousands of other sites -- that expression of admiration for Kobe's killer instinct is so commonplace it’s a cliché.

And Gilbert Arenas, just suspended for bringing guns to an NBA locker room -- and making light of his predicament by miming gunplay on the sidelines before a game on Tuesday -- is Agent Zero and Hibachi, an operator known for heating up and firing away without conscience.

A violent vocabulary is as much a part of the game as the lines on the floor.

You think those are just words?

Royce Webb in an NBA editor at ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter here.