During Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals—a match-up between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder—Warriors forward Draymond Green drove to the hoop and, in the process, appeared to not-so-accidentally kick Thunder center Steven Adams directly in the, er, kneidlach. This week, NBA chatter was afire when the league made the decision not to suspend Green, an E-40 enthusiast, following its review of a controversial play the day before.
The refs called a flagrant-1, but the league upgraded the foul to a flagrant-2, with a $25,000 fine. Green was not suspended.
Pundits and players alike have weighed in on the decision, with much of the discussion centered around intent. Did Green intend to kick Adams? Was he simply trying to sell a foul, with the kick coming as an unintended consequence? Did it matter? For his part, noted wordsmith Green graced us with this pearl in his denial of malicious intent: “I’m sure he wants to have kids one day, I’m not trying to end that on the basketball court.”
Which got me thinking about the intersection of basketball, intent, and Talmud—because naturally. According to Rashi—and look, my Talmudic credentials are, suffice it to say, limited, so please take the following with an entire salt mine—intent is immaterial when it comes to handing out punishment for crimes (here: fouls) such as the one that Green committed. Rashi clarifies this with his commentary on the following verses from Shemot 18-19:
18. And if men quarrel, and one strikes the other with a stone or with a fist, and he does not die but is confined to [his] bed…
19. …if he gets up and walks about outside on his support, the assailant shall be cleared; he shall give only [payment] for his [enforced] idleness, and he shall provide for his cure.
Now, Adams is still alive and mostly healthy albeit for a groin contusion. Rashi explains that Green would only be required to be imprisoned for an injury that would halt Adams’s ability, for any amount of time, to perform the duties of his occupation (i.e., gettin’ buckets, bangin’ the boards). “The Torah teaches you here,” he writes, “that they will imprison [the assailant] until it becomes apparent whether [the victim] will get well.” As evidenced by Adams’ presence on the court for the following game, he is decidedly well. So Rashi is firmly in the anti-suspension camp. (Right? Roll with me here.)
But what of the fine? Citing his interpretation of “a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” (Shemot 21:24), Rashi clarifies that, rather than have Green receive a swift kick from Adams in return, Green should have to pay restitution for any lost time on the job for Adams (“If he cut off his hand or his foot, we asses [payment for] the idleness”). And, like we said before, Adams did indeed play in the following two games…
From Rashi’s mouth to Adam Silver’s ears: no blood, no foul.
Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.