Lebron James is not Michael Jordan. The NBA began its slow and painful death march as Jordan’s final shot fell softly through the net in the 1998 NBA Finals. Since then a parade of imposters has made its way past unimpressed fans. While the talent of James cannot be argued, he doesn’t create the awe that Jordan so frequently left spectators saturated in. How can a sport with such incredible athletes fail to produce a star that can change the course of their league? I have a few theories that may be worth considering. They may also be garbage and my thoughts could just be the bitter complaining of a Sacramento Kings fan. You can decide that on your own.
One of the biggest problems with the NBA is their blatant attempt to force the torch of the future into any hand that will accept it. Dwayne Wade won a title and David Stern couldn’t wait to chuck the future of the league into his hands. Even though Wade enjoyed the benefit of a healthy Shaq, he was still considered in the same breath as Jordan. Jordan killed people with Bill freaking Wennington and Luc Longley. Where are they now? Probably ducking as they enter a Denny’s somewhere in Iowa. The proverbial torch cannot be forced into the hands of players who don’t have the ability to carry the NBA. Lebron may be able to take the NBA to the next level, but he will have to do it after he sells out his team and heads to New York. Which only adds to the perception that NBA players have no sense of loyalty.
Another issue that I have with the NBA is the lack of defense. Dunks are only interesting when it is done over another player or on a fast break. Players are so afraid of being “posterized” they practically run from any player with a head of steam. Where have the David Robinsons, Hakeem Olajuwons, and Diekembe Mutumbos gone? Well Mutumbo still plays, but at nearly 50 years of age, his effectiveness has all but faded away. There is no toughness. The last realm of pure basketball lies in a select few college programs. Louisville’s full court press is a refreshing take on basketball. That being said, I am certainly not against fast paced basketball. My favorite team displayed some of the best offense and worst defense of the last 20 years. They lacked toughness and that is why they could never surpass the Lakers. (Well that and the ref scandal that ruined my entire 2002) The lack of defense can be rectified, but it has to start with the youth.
The NBA caters to select teams and creates a fan base that is unfairly lopsided. People in Sacramento are Lakers fans and you can find Spurs fans that live in Phoenix. Whether this is the NBA’s fault or that of an America culture that is sickeningly enthralled with jumping on band-wagons is unknown. The only way to fix this disturbing issue is to promote local team pride. As a former resident of Phoenix, Arizona, I learned to hate with a passion the drastic increase of Steelers memorabilia after the Super Bowl. America loves underdogs, but hates losers. The NBA has this same problem, but to an even greater degree than the NFL and MLB. The promotion of bigger market teams, creates a situation where small town teams do not have the means to be competitive. The last time a small market team won an NBA Championship was the Seattle Supersonics in 1978-79. Thirty years of big market bullies dominating the scene is definitely frustrating for all those fans not from Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, or Miami. Of the 61 NBA Finals, only four champions have been small market teams. This only helps confirm my theory that the NBA chooses which teams it wants to win on a season by season basis. Like I said before, I may just be a bitter Kings fan. At least Ralph Nader agrees with me. Back in 2002 Nader dropped this line about the inadequacies of the NBA.
“Your problem in addressing the pivotal Game 6 situation is that you have too much power. Where else can decision-makers (the referees) escape all responsibility to admit serious and egregious error and have their bosses (you) fine those wronged (the players and coaches) who dare to speak out critically?”
I’d like to follow up Nader’s complaint with a theory of my own.
There are no underdogs in the NBA, only teams who do not have the support of David Stern.