NBA General

The NBA Needs A Leader

by Trevor Freeman

My biggest objection with Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw being suspended for Game 5 was not the complete injustice of it.  And that is saying an awful lot because the fairness of David Stern’s decision to suspend the two of them was only a slight notch below Vince McMahon forcing Bobby Lashley to have to defend his ECW title against him, Shane McMahon and Umaga in a handicap match on the last pay-per view.  My beef with the commissioner lies in the absolute lack of testicular fortitude he put on display when he cancelled his scheduled appearance in Phoenix after making the suspension decision.  

This is not the first time David Stern has shown that he is an incompetent twit who may also be smuggling a pair of raisins under his boxer shorts.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the other “moves” he has made over the past fifteen years that have helped the NBA get passed by the NFL as the premier professional sports league in our country.
1.  Moving the TV deal from NBC to the current conglomerate.

Instead of keeping the NBA on NBC, which was a raging success, Stern decided to go with this NBATV, ESPN, ABC (for about 3 regular season games a year) and TNT format.  This has been an unmitigated disaster for the NBA.  In what world did it make sense to not make the NBA available for the many people who do not have cable?  How many people with cable did they think were going to shell out $199 a year to watch the NBA?  It was a move that made no sense whatsoever.  

Let me use this analogy.  Two bars open across the street from each other.  One is named “NBA” and the other is named “NCAA”.  The one named “NBA” has a nice lounge area, flatscreen TVs, a large menu, hot bartenders that don’t even pretend to be interested and a guy giving away mints, cologne and hair gel in the bathroom.  The girls who frequent the bar are nice, but they expect drinks to be bought for them before they even begin to give you the time of day.  Oh…..and a pint of Yuengling costs $8.  Meanwhile there is another bar directly across the street called “NCAA”.  No flatscreens but plenty of regular TVs, no lounge-type furniture but plenty of wooden four seat tables in the back.  No guy giving away mints in the bathroom.  However the bartenders all have big breasts and give off that “you may get lucky if you keep tipping well” vibe, the chicken wings are fantastic and a pint of Yuengling costs $3.  Which bar would you choose to go to?  I think we all know the answer to that question.  All of us…….except David Stern.  Because the pro game has to compete with the college game during the same time slots, the only thing leaving NBC did was help college basketball pick up a larger number of casual fans.  

2.  Moving the minimum age rule to one year out of high school instead of three years like the NFL’s.

Stern might as well have handed over his nutsack at the negotiating table when he caved on this.  All year long, we heard that “the NBA is going to adopt the NFL’s policy” then they just completely caved under veiled threats of litigation.  Anybody who follows the sport of basketball knows that if players were forced to stay in school through their junior year that it would impact both the NCAA and NBA games in an extremely positive way.    

The NFL’s rule is something that the league has gone to the mat for and will do whatever it takes to defend.  You know why?  Because this rule is a vital part of why the league has been so successful.  People grow attachments to certain players in college and they then follow that player into the pros.  Players also become recognizable brand images due to their success on the collegiate level.  To top it all off they are more ready to make an impact because they are older and stronger.  The NBA needed to put this rule in and they failed.  It is as simple as that.

3.  Instituting a dress code for the players.

Do you want to know why the league has a perception of thuggery?  It is because its management caves into media pressure and does moronic things like instituting a dress code for its players.  

Josh Hancock was wasted, had an eighth of Missouri’s finest herb, and was talking with a female acquaintance when we crashed his car around midnight (about what…..I think a solid assumption can be made).  Is this any better or worse than Stephen Jackson firing off his gun at a strip club?  If the NBA wasn’t so concerned about its public perception then nobody else would be.  I guarantee it.

4.  Killing the “game” atmosphere

If there is anything the NBA should regulate it is the amount of crappy music I hear during each game. At some point over the last fifteen years, a decision was made to turn every NBA game into a trip to the China Club. What they haven’t realized is that when people go to games………they go to watch basketball.  We aren’t there to hear “Let’s Get It Started” twenty-six times over a three-hour period.  We don’t need a cue to start yelling “defense”.  All we need is a basketball, players, a few coaches and some quality hot dog and beer vendors.  This is so easy yet it gets screwed up at 93.2% of all NBA games.      

The NBA was once the dominant professional sports league in this country.  It mattered.  When Magic, Larry and Michael were executing their craft it was appointment viewing.  Over time, that love of the game disappeared with the casual fans whose support the league and its owners are so desperately seeking.  In my opinion that support eroded due to the laughable leadership of one person.  The owners of the teams in this great league need to take a step.  Fire Stern.  Get back on NBC.  And get the game back where it belongs.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]  

3 replies on “The NBA Needs A Leader”

Beg to Differ Not that it really matters, but I’ve got a few things to take issue with.

Point 1: Quick search shows cable penetration in the US to be about 85% of households… so the NBA most likely opted towards a healthier TV contract (i.e. more money for the league) while losing a couple of fans here and there.  Chances are, if you’re a sports fan, you have access to cable and ESPN.  Seriously, how many people do you still know without it?

Point 2: The problem is not a matter of caving, it’s a matter of league differences… the NFL often cites physical immaturity of younger players in a violent league as the primary reason for age-restrictions – it’s not age discrimination if there’s a legitimate point about young guys not being ready to join the big boys.  The NBA, however, cannot use that argument…phenoms like Lebron and Carmelo show that younger players can definitely succeed that the pro level.  So that, it would seem, would give people a case for age-discrimination.  I’m surprised they’ve managed to keep the restrictions they currently have in place.

Point 3:  I hate playing the race card, but I think that people just react differently to stories about different leagues.  When benches clear in baseball, people look forward to the chippiness and call it a scrap…when it happens in the NBA it’s a thuggish brawl.  Big, BIG double standard, and it has nothing to do with the NBA.  But no one in the media demanded a dress code, the NBA understands it has an image problem and tried to address it.  Simple as that.

Point 4:  here I agree 100%.

Still, I don’t think this is Stern’s fault.  After all, he was also commissioner during the glory years you described.  Just my two cents.

Stern The problem is that when you moved most of the NBA games to cable you detracted from the chances of the casual viewer stumbling onto games, plus you eliminated 15% of the people that own televisions in the country.  I believe there are only 15-20 regular season NBA games on ABC per year.  That is horrifying.  The leagues needs to get back to having doubleheaders every Saturday and Sunday on network television.  It gives the league more exposure.  Do you think the NFL would ever move their games from Fox and CBS to ESPN?

The reason why you put the age restriction in is because it increases the profile of each player and makes them a brand image before they get to the NBA.  It is easier to do this with guys that have been in college for a couple years.  Plus it will improve the overall caliber of the league.  Guys like Sebastian Telfair would have been forced to learn how to play instead of getting thrown to the wolves.  

Still… I still think that casual viewers will stumble upon games, and you’d think ESPN and ABC (being part of the same parent company) could probably make a shift if they were truly concerned.  Still, I think that if you don’t own cable, you’re probably not really going to care if you stumble on a game.

As far as the NFL goes… that’s exactly what they’re doing. NFL network gets random games?  The coveted Monday Night Football slot going to ESPN?  Not quite the same level, but each football game counts for more than an NBA one.

Finally, I agree with you about cultivating a product, I’m simply stating the problem with the age-limit defense for the NBA…obviously it’s beneficial for the NBA to have many players develop before hitting the league, but unlike football, they can’t justify it AS much in terms of defending themselves form an age-discrimination lawsuit.  There are too many high-school to superstar cases to argue otherwise (even if the development took a few years in the league).  The NFL can just argue that a 19 year-old will get killed playing with 300 pound behemoths, but the NBA doesn’t have that route.

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