Does the NBA Have a Steroid Problem Hiding in Plain Sight?

Stephen Jackson

I have a hunch that baseball writers care more about steroids and PEDs than baseball fans. For one, any opportunity to moralize is an instant cure for writer's block. But more importantly, harping on offenders now makes writers who should have asked better questions several years ago feel like they're making up for lost time.

Will basketball writers someday be moved by feelings of guilt? Earlier this month, Tom Ziller made a compelling argument why NBA fans shouldn't worry about a steroid problem until there's actual proof such a problem exists. But how are fans supposed to see proof if those with access don't pursue it?

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle published a puff piece by Janny Hu describing Stephen Jackson's new training regimen, which includes increased weightlifting supplemented with meal-replacement shakes.

The result? Jackson has reportedly gained "10 pounds of muscle" (weighing a career-high 235 pounds) while posting the best numbers of his career and maintaining maintaining the stamina to lead the league in minutes per game -- all the while being just weeks shy of his 31st birthday. Here are some excerpts from Hu's article:

"I don't know how he put on that much weight," said Kelenna Azubuike, the Warriors' resident bodybuilding champ. "But I guess it's all muscle."

[...] "This is the most I've lifted and the most I've been in the weight room my whole career, and it's starting to pay off," said Jackson, who usually plays at 222 or 223 pounds.

"I was thinking that I didn't need it, but as I see now, it's the most I've ever weighed in my life and I still have my speed, so it's definitely helped my game a lot."

[...] Warriors coach Don Nelson believes that Jackson's increased strength has also helped his stamina. Jackson has played an NBA-high 40.3 minutes a night while being asked to do everything on offense and usually defend the best opposing player - regardless of size or position.

[...] "He's like a monster now, there's no calming him down," Azubuike joked. "You can't really tell him anything now. He's got the muscle, that's what he says."

Until I read this article, I never would have suspected Jackson as a possible steroid user. Now that I've read it, I don't have any proof he's juicing but I certainly have more questions. (Other writers seem to agree.) Sudden weight gain? Check. Age-defying improvement? Check. Increased stamina? Check. Anecdotal evidence of a hot temper? Check and check.

I'm literally baffled how any journalist -- let alone one working for a paper that razed entire forests covering BALCO and Barry Bonds -- could raise so many red flags without actually asking more questions about how he bulked up so quickly so late in his career. Perhaps it's impolite to broach the subject for an innocuous notebook item, but then again, perhaps it's a topic deserving of greater space and scrutiny.

I don't know for a fact that the NBA has a steroid problem, but considering PEDs have infected nearly every other organized athletic endeavor both amateur and professional, I have no reason to think the league is immune. (I also find suggestions that basketball is an activity in which steroids don't actually help to be downright silly. Steroids help people run faster, jump higher and recover quicker -- something all basketball players must do.) Hindsight will always be 20/20, but we've learned enough from other sports not to be blind to the present.

Does the NBA Have a Steroid Problem Hiding in Plain Sight? originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Tue, 17 Mar 2009 01:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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