I'm not sure whether this is simple lazy sportswriting or the emergence of mythic "tradition" in sportswriting, but considering the pre-occupations of this blog, let's go for the mythic.
In writing about the NBA, writers often refer to Ron Artest as "mercurial forward Ron Artest." And when I say often, I mean that whenever you read or hear the phrase "mercurial forward" you should assume the name "Ron Artest" will follow. This morning when I google the phrase, "mercurial forward", I get 9,980 hits. When I google the phrase, "mercurial forward ron artest", I get 7,760 hits. Do the math. This morning, on the Internet, the phrase "mercurial forward" refers to Ron Artest about 80% of the time. The phrase is so ingrained in the minds of basketball writers that it nearly reaches the level of Homeric epithet. This is the current culture of basketball writing. What does it mean? Does this justify a mythic approach to basketball? I, of course, say yes. The players aren't just self-mythologizing Big Shoguns or League-promoted X-Men. They are epic heroes in the classical tradition because that is the language with which we, or at least basketball writers (who are an inevitable filter on the season unless you somehow manage to watch every single game), discuss them. What I am trying to say here is that, at the very least, thinking of Ron Artest in the terms of a character in epic poetry isn't just a plausible mode, but is actually a rather common mode, cliche even. So Ron Artest is a Homeric hero? Sure. Now, what other players in the league are discussed in such formulaic and grandiose modes?
Here is the new project: try to find the epithets by which players are consistently and predictively referred to. A special prize if anyone can find an Epithet Certainty Score for an NBA player(JUST NOW INVENTED) that's higher than Ron Artest's 0.775. This is an important first step in developing a useful taxonomy of basketball writing's neo-Homeric traditions and cliches.
Epithet Certainty Score: Divide the Google hits for "[epithet] [player]" by the Google hits for "[epithet]". Leave the results in the comments.
HINT: Surprisingly, "bovine Tim Duncan" doesn't seem to get any hits