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SportDime - by Book It


July 9th 2012 16:27
The NBA as a league is the closest thing to WWE wrestling when talking about the mainstream team sports. It's not the NFL, MLB, or NHL. The NHL isn't mainstream in the United States, but the NBA has always grappled with being a third stringer behind professional baseball and football. The modern NBA carries a stereotype congruent with hip hop and rap culture, because obviously many of its players on rosters are African Americans. Unfortunately, when casual basketball fans or fringe NBA fans look at Chris Singleton, Deshawn Stevenson and Kevin Durant, they most likely see the same thing and come to the same conclusion about the NBA and what many of its players represent. Such representations aren't shared among the populous, but only a certain niche of the population.

The NBA used to have playoff games and national games on tape delay in the 1970s because ratings were so low. Basketball has grown since the 1980s, but it remains the one league that has to constantly try to reach out and expand to new fans. That's why the NBA has played exhibition games in Europe and Asia, where the sport has risen in popularity. David Stern succeeded Larry O'Brien and is credited with taking the league to new heights. But it's very rare you get a guy so marketable and likeable by sports fans (Michael Jordan) who single-handedly propels the sport and turns it into a must-see event.

The NBA has tried various storylines and marketing strategies to continue an upward trend, but no one player seems to have the same kind of cache Jordan had when the NBA reached its zenith in terms of national popularity. Kevin Durant is an emerging, young star the NBA should look to build around without a doubt. For one, he's not covered in tattoos and is well spoken in interviews. Second, you see his family watching him courtside and his mother hugging him after every game. One problem. He's in Oklahoma City and while that means little to me in terms of identifying him as a superstar, the larger populations in bigger cities are what drive news and names. And while the formation of "Super Teams" is anything but a new concept in any team sport, the amount of media and news coverage nowadays makes it seem like idea of a "Big Three" started with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.

It's not, but as each decade and era passes, the past is forgotten. But the NBA is a big city league. The Celtics and Lakers own the most championships in NBA history. Sure, luck is involved in all sports, but if you are an NBA team in a big city and the team isn't run by someone like Isaiah Thomas then you have a legitimate shot to win. The Knicks won two titles in the 1970s and lost in the 1999 Finals, but have been in the mix up until around a decade ago. But bad luck and terrible contracts from management won't help your cause.

It's a big city league and I hate that because what hope do the Pacers, Bucks, Rockets, Hornets, Bobcats, Raptors, and Timberwolves really have to sustain a long period of competitiveness? The Portland Trailblazers have a billionaire owner Paul Allen who isn't opposed to spending money. So do the Dallas Mavericks and most recently the Brooklyn Nets. Teams like the Spurs and Thunder are the minority of well managed small market franchises. Those don't come along every day. That's why I respect the job Gregg Poppovich did in terms of scouting and development. San Antonio was deplorable before getting help from the "Twin Towers." But two Hall of Fame centers alone wouldn't have guaranteed a prolonged era of success as a basketball team. Small market teams need humble stars to build around and great role players in the starting lineup and off the bench to compliment them.

The fact Oklahoma City got to lock up Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for five seasons is rare just because of the vast number of big names who bitch and moan about wanting to go to a bigger city (Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and Eric Gordon to name a few). Steve Nash has now joined the crew and the only team I truly dislike in sports, the Los Angeles Lakers. I used to like Nash but now he just comes across as another veteran chasing a ring because he can do that playing for the Lakers. Good for him if he wins, but I'll put an asterisk next to his ring and I'll take John Stockton over Nash any day of the week now that he sold his soul to Jack Nicholson. Hopefully that's one of Nicholson's daughters I often see sitting next to him courtside because she looks like a teenager.

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1 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Giancarlo Greco

July 10th 2012 03:03
Great post! I too lost respect for Steve Nash for selling out. I believe that excuse that he wants to be close to his kids is total BS. If staying with his family was THAT important he would have stayed in Phoenix.

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