Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gainer's Thursday Thrashing: The National Basketball Association

Well another Thursday has come and, yes, I do have another Thrashing for you to enjoy, hate, or feel nothing about.  As a friendly reminder, a thrashing is defined as a "clear victory."  In my rants, I will be 100% right 100% of the time.  You may argue your point but I will tell you to cram it up your cramhole.  Yes you are a loser, I’m a winner.  Deal with it.  I won’t bore you any longer with my lame introduction.  My topic is relatively simple yet complex.  It is the NBA or the National Basketball Association.

I was actually enjoying watching Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks shattering LeBron James’ dreams last June in the 2011 NBA Finals.  Playoff basketball is actually very good as the players seem to figure out they should play hard and, frankly, it’s very impressive.  The playoff commercials always describe it as the second season and unfortunately that is true.  An 82 game season leads to, um, how should I describe it?  A lazy, boring majority of games.  I would venture to guess a veteran player who understands the grind plays at 100% for about 1/3 of the season if he knows his team is a playoff team.  Now for those of you who disagree with that assessment and see a player’s stats, let’s face it, most All-Star players 80% effort is better than depth/scrub players 110%. 

Watching Dirk win Finals MVP and seeing Chris Bosh crying as he walked back into the locker room seemed like the right justification for whatever the Miami Heat put us through last year.  As a Cavaliers fan, of course I wanted to see LeLoser lose but what the Miami Heat showed us last year, with all their stupid antics, is that the NBA, while obviously popular, is a lost cause.  Then the inevitable lockout occurred. Experts and analysts were saying this was the real deal.  It could easily last the entire season.  I honestly hoped it would.  It seemed like, if anything, the players could use a dose of reality for a year.  The game they loved would be taken away and maybe, just maybe, they would come back the following season renewed in their efforts and attitude.  Then of course the lockout shockingly ended and a 66 game season was finalized starting this past Christmas Day. 

What happened to all those championships you were supposed to win?
A part of my soul ached hearing this news but a part of me also asked, “Ok, it’s back, would an entire season lockout actually changed anything?”  It got me thinking that probably it would not.  The game of basketball, when played at its finest, is a smooth up-tempo style of game with aggressive defense, skilled passing, and smooth shooting.  However, with the back and forth nature of dribbling the ball, the long 12 minute quarters, and an excessive amount of timeouts, the game also can be very slow.  Just watch the final 2 minutes of a game sometime.  Fouling and timeouts are just outrageous!  It’s truly a shame too because as I grew up my favorite sport was basketball.  I loved playing from elementary school rec ball to eventually a starter on my varsity high school basketball team. 

I hated #23 growing up but man o man do I miss his incredible desire to win no matter the cost.  
I miss the days of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, and even Charles Barkley!  Sir Charles, by the way, was great this past weekend on Saturday Night Live.  I always liked him because he just said whatever is on his mind and knows he’s got major issues to deal with i.e. gambling and weight loss.  I remember those Olympic Dream Teams in the 90s and I thought this is great basketball.  It seemed basketball was at an all-time high.  I think professional basketball turned for the worst very soon after when high school seniors became eligible for the draft and were being taken #1 overall or in the first round of drafts.  We all know people aren’t perfect.  Kobe Bryant was one of those kids taken high in the draft and he’s had quite the roller coaster of a hall of fame career.  For every Kobe, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James you have an Eddy Curry or Kwame Brown.  I am not saying these guys lack talent but you have to wonder how the maturity level has affected the league.  Look back to when you were 18 years old.  Imagine being courted by billionaire owners and current millionaire players.  Then imagine being handed that hat by Commissioner David Stern in the first round.  How awesome would that be? For some, the transition has been smoother than others.  You then are critiqued for every single move by the media and expected by the fan base to turn around a franchise.  It’s the ultimate challenge.  You wonder how Greg Oden feels being injured all the time or John Wall as the Wizards are easily the worst team in the league.

Remember Sebastian Telfair?  No?  Hyped high school players don't work out that much. 
The NCAA one and done rule certainly doesn’t help much.  One year of college hoops.  Whoop-dee-freakin-doo.  Sure, you get one year of better experience at the collegiate level.  But let’s be honest, it isn’t the level of skill we are worried about.  It’s the mental capacity of players to handle a career in professional sports.   If you recall your freshman year of college, it was pretty much a continuation of your senior year of high school.  You showed up on campus not knowing really what to expect, you took some basic classes, and just hoped you finished the year with decent grades and an idea of what you wanted to do the rest of your life.  It wasn’t until that second or third year that each of us started defining who we hoped to become. 
The game has great players, great talent, and probably the best athletes in the world.  I don’t really care that the game now is predominantly black or European.  You are always going to have a handful of prima donnas.  You are going to see great games like last night’s Clippers and Heat overtime slug fest where you begin to think, hey, maybe we are turning a corner.  To make an honest change to a sport, it starts with the players.  I am not saying it is up to the players completely because we all know that would be insane but the system certainly puts them at a disadvantage. 

We are killing a great college game because the NBA is a joke.
I believe the best fix would be to make players go to college at least 2 years before eligible.  In the NFL you have to be 3 years removed from high school to be eligible.  Why? Mainly because of the physical aspect of that game.  Why can’t we have a similar attitude towards the mental aspect of the NBA?  The NBA is easily on top of the sports totem pole in terms of being viewed based on its individual players.  It’s defined more by its players than its teams.  It’s always LeBron vs. Kobe or the Big 3.  In fact, the best players just flock to certain teams or markets just to be more popular.  Small market teams don’t stand a chance because players just want to leave eventually.  That would lead to my next fix of contraction of teams.  If we are going to have more meaningful regular season games, let’s just put the best players on a smaller amount of teams.  This would lead to more passionate basketball on a nightly basis. 

It's too bad this game isn't real life! BOOMSHAKALAKA
I honestly hope to see some of these changes in the near future.  I love the game of basketball.  When I’m just sitting around the apartment, I usually have my basketball in my hands just flicking it up in the air.  It’s a game that takes great endurance, skill, perseverance, and dedication.  When played at its finest, it’s arguably the best sport to watch because you can see and feel every emotion on a player’s face.  So, this is my call out.  NBA, please, do something.  I feel like the sport is teetering.  Please don’t fall back down the hill.  Finally, on a completely unrelated note, David Stern you suck and Ron Artest, you should change your name every season, I enjoy hearing announcers say your fake name Metta World Peace when you shoot.  

Let's pray we never see this again...