Should the NBA Exist?

Oct 29, 2011 by

Good Riddance

It is inevitable; sometime in the near future the NBA will open the season.  When that will actually occur is anyone’s guess.  Soon, players will step back out on the court with their laced up Air Jordan’s, baggy shorts, and a sleeve of new ink up and down their arms.  The reports being pushed out this week contain no information of true progress.  The media throws up ill advised jump shots by reporting on the 15 hour talks occurring this week with owners and players.  Fourteen hours too long in my opinion, but then again professional athletes put this much time into playing Call of Duty, so what do I know?  I guess for the hardcore NBA fans, the news of any dialogue is nice to hear, a stretch in positivity for sure, but we can allow for that.

It is the same sad story in the NBA.  Owners cry poor pitiful me, I am losing my shirt.  Billy Hunter and the players call them out on their bullshit.  David Stern sides with the owners.  NBA employees go without paychecks.  Fans move on to college hoops.  Years from now, this cycle will again repeat itself when this new labor agreement is up for renewal.

I am beginning to question whether the NBA is sustainable as a league.  Sure it offers unemployable people, such as any one of the NBA in-studio clowns on TNT, the ability to earn a paycheck.  Laker cheerleaders bouncing around courtside is always favorable on the eyes, and nobody wants to miss a second of one of the highly entertaining Mark Cuban tirades towards referees.  Unless there is a match up involving the Mavericks, Lakers, Heat, Celtics, and on occasion the Spurs, the games for the most part are unwatchable.  The talent pool is drained, the majority of the teams are downright pitiful, and play is average at best.  Why anyone would waste a perfectly nice evening watching a regular season game, or the first two rounds of the playoffs, is beyond my comprehension.

While the NBA might no longer be viable, the game itself certainly is.  Basketball is a worldwide phenomenon.  It’s a game that has minimal costs associated with it, very much like soccer.  Kids from any economic background can play.  Even the goddamn Philippines love this game, with NBA players being worshipped every bit as much as native hero Manny Pacquiao.  Billy Hunter and the players know this and they know it well.  The owners know it too, and while they might be showing a poker face, even they have to think hard about how feasible they can make this league.  The owners sound like General Motors once did, spouting to anyone that would listen that their product was superior, even though deep down they knew the Japanese were breathing down their backs.  You think NBA players are running around the earth playing exhibitions games because they think Puerto Rico is an enjoyable destination in October?  Fuck no; they are accepting to play in these games because they know that marketing their brand will catch on like wild fire.

Make no mistake about it; this is the real crux of the issue.  Globalism, it’s not just for corporate America, it’s the future of professional basketball.  The NBA owners made their billions in a previous life, and instead of embracing a concept they’ve already employed in past endeavors, they just want to pass the time playing fantasy sports.  Whether you believe they care about losing money or not, in the end, all they want is for David Stern to hand them a championship trophy over a shower of champagne in June.  That is all, nothing more than a fantasy title to boast to their rich circle of friends.  They mask their ego and stubbornness with faux revenue issues during labor negotiations.  No one is buying it anymore; everyone not named David Stern that is.

The NBA players union, if they really want to stick it to the suits who sign their checks, should take their talents not to Miami, but to Barcelona or Buenos Aires.   Do you want to boost Greece’s economy?  Add a professional basketball franchise in Athens and litter the roster with former NBA and Euro all-stars.  (They would have to remove the chicken wire that protects the players from overzealous Greeks throwing their Dolmadakia from the cheap seats) NBA players do have the upper hand in the latest labor stoppage and what they should do is make the NBA irrelevant.  The NBA skipped out on the class when the professor taught the lesson on how franchises can turn a profit: never let the players get as big as the league.  The NFL was the only one who made it to that class that particular day.

The players have worldwide options and now they have the leverage to take that very bold step.  I would argue that Kobe and LeBron could earn double what they are making now in a global league.  Think what the merchandising dollars alone could do for their pockets with an additional billion fans.  Television could reach ratings that heretofore have been unimaginable.  When you have these NBA stars representing countries in Asia, Europe, and South America; the potential is limitless.

Outside the confines of the continental United States there is a wealth of basketball talent.  A global league would produce talent heads and shoulders above what is witnessed during a February game between the Nets and Timberwolves.  Imagine the world’s basketball elite playing on 32 franchises throughout four continents.

The silence is deafening during this lockout.  Fans of the NBA, whether hardcore or casual, are expressing no sense of urgency in hopes of a compromise.  This speaks volumes to what the NBA means in the landscape of American sports.  The prognosis is not favorable; the health of the league is deteriorating rapidly.  My trash can dream will be to look back fondly on the battles between Magic and Bird, and to let it all rest forever in the past as the gates open up to something more appealing.

If I were representing these players, I would walk out of those meetings with owners and tell them if they are interested, franchises will be available for purchase around the globe.  So fuck off with your 52/48 split in shared revenues because the NBA is dead.  We would never have to hear from owners again with NBA franchises in Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Orlando, New Orleans, and, Charlotte crying over why no one supports their shitty product.   For most, rivers of only happy tears will be shed if the NBA folds tomorrow.  I guess except for “Super Fan” Spike Lee.

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