I don't care about the NBA
I really don’t. Not even a little bit. I probably watched a grand total of 15 minutes of the NBA this year, and 10 of them were Game 7 of the Finals. I almost cared this summer during the Free Agency of Doom. I thought I cared, even said I cared, but on the night of “The Decision” I was too busy reading a book to remember to turn it on. I could have caught the SportsCenter recap of it that night, but I chose instead to watch Diamondbacks – Astros highlights on the MLB network.
However, I read a couple articles written by friends about the NBA and they brought back memories of a time when I had once cared about the NBA. When I was younger, I was that kid in the teal Pistons jersey shooting hoops and reliving the days when Thomas and Dumars ruled the court. I was up late watching the new and improved Bad Boys win the title in 2004 and the year after when the Spurs snatched the title from their hands.
Oddly enough, I’m still a basketball fan. I enjoy watching and playing the sport very much. I have a yearly March Madness tournament and I tried to attend as many Michigan basketball games as I could. The problem does not lie within the sport itself, it’s the organization that has taken this game that I like and destroyed it.
My biggest problem with the NBA is that they’re not playing basketball. Oh sure, its some sport that vaguely resembles basketball, the general aspects of basketball are all there: one team tries to put the ball in the hoop more times than the other. However, the similarities between basketball and the NBA end there.
One of the reasons I love sports so much is that they are universal. The games played at the lowest levels resemble those played professionally. Granted, there are some differences, but the majority of the rules that apply to you in those leagues apply to the athletes who participate at the highest level. It allows those who have played to connect with the athletes even though they are not competing with them.
But the NBA has completely warped the game of basketball into something I no longer recognize. The league has slowly bent rules, allowing for small infractions in an effort to “preserve the flow” and “make the game more exciting”. There is only one small problem with that, because now players are moon walking from the 3 point line to the hoop. Traveling and Carrying, two of the more fundamental rules you learn when you’re playing the game as a kid, no longer exist in the NBA. And when it does get called, the players are outraged that the ref would have the gall to penalize them. Lebron all but spat in the face this rule after such a traveling penalty was called on him that cost the Cavs a win against the Wizards in 2009. When asked to explain the call, the official’s response was “3 steps on the move to the basket. Basic travel call.” Any youth league player, coach or official would back that statement. Not Lebron. He believed that it was a “bad call” and that “they need to look at it and they need to understand that’s not a travel.” Specifically he said that “I watched it again, and I took a ‘crab dribble’ which is a hesitation dribble, and then two steps.” This is how badly the NBA has perverted this game; one of the faces of the league has no idea what a basic traveling foul is. Caron Butler seemed to find James’ statement lacking in credibility as well, commenting “’Crab dribble’ is when you, uh, travel…That’s the hottest thing on the market right now.” In order to clear up the confusion, I called Merriam-Webster and they are going to add the word “crab dribble” to their dictionary in 2011. The listing will look something like this:
crab dribble: vb 1 a hesitation dribble before taking two steps towards the basket in the sport of basketball. 2 see: traveling
My second complaint stems from my first one. I understand how excessive traveling and carrying calls could stall a game out and thusly lose viewers. The NBA is right that there is a certain flow to a game. Yet, when I turn the game on, there is no flow at all. This is because it’s impossible to have flow if every time the defense thinks about breathing on a player with a big name while he is headed for the hole, they get penalized. Granted, the name on the back of the jersey generally makes an impact on how he is officiated in every sport, but none of the sports have favoritism like the NBA.
This is a list of the top 10 players ranked by free throws attempted in the 2010 regular season (the parenthesis indicate the amount of free throws attempted during the season).*
1) Kevin Durant (840)
2) Dwight Howard (816)
3) LeBron James (773)
4) Dwayne Wade (702)
5) Amar’e Stoudamire (632)
6) Carmelo Anthony (612)
7) Chris Bosh (590)
8) Dirk Nowitzki (586)
9) Corey Maggette (551)
10) Gerald Wallace (544)
*Take note that the top 3 players averaged over 10 free throws per game.
So, when Wade, James and Bosh signed with the Heat, 3 of the top 7 leaders in this category are now on one team, and combined they took 2065 free throws last season. The slogan for this new super team should be “Root for us, we’re going to get all the calls anyway!”
Of the 10 players I just listed, only Maggette was not an All Star. And, just in case someone wants to use him as an example, Kobe Bryant came in at #11 with 541 (3 less than the #10 spot) and he ranked #1 in free throws attempted in the playoffs with 183 (his teammate Pau Gasol came in second with 158). That’s right, the two best players on the team that won the championship were also #1 and 2 in free throws attempted during the playoffs. It’s even harder to argue against some bias if you look at the stats from Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their second title in a row. With the roster the Lakers had this year, I don’t think anyone would dispute that the better team won that series, but my problem lies within how they won it. At the end of the game Kobe Bryant had attempted 15 free throws, Pau Gasol attempted 13, as a team the Lakers attempted 37 free throws. Think about that, 37 free throws in a game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics? They attempted two more free throws as a team than Kobe attempted by himself. The Celtics took 17 free throws and the Lakers took 37, a difference of 20, and yet the Lakers only managed to win by 4 points.
Everyone who follows a specific sport has a favorite athlete, and the greatest players of their respective generations have exploits that can only be considered legendary. When I was younger, I would spend hours alone shooting at my basketball hoop, recreating the epic buzzer beaters of Jordan, Bird and Thomas (ironically enough my team was usually down by 1 point). Soon the buzzer beater will be replaced by the free throw, with future generations practicing “clutch free throws for the NBA championship”.
While I’m on the subject of officiating, I’d like to discuss the pink elephant in the room in regards to the NBA. Tim Donaghy, a referee who admitted to fixing games for the mafia, filed a court document that claimed, among other things, that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers andKings was fixed. He claims that he “learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men, always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night it was the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series.” The Lakers won that game, attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter and went on to win the Title that year.
Naturally David Stern has denied the accusation and attacked Donaghy’s credibility. Most people believe that the NBA is not fixed, however with all that evidence stacking up and all those stats you see, doesn’t just a little bit of that doubt creep into your mind? I mean, everyone wrote Canseco off after he named all those players in his book, and lo and behold every single one of them has been tied to steroids since then. What if Donaghy is actually telling the truth? While I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, there is a fair amount of evidence that suggests that the NBA may have successfully headed off one of the biggest scandals in the history of sports.
You know, I think I finally figured out what the NBA is. There is another “sport” out there that involves fake refs and staged competition. Another confederation of athletes that sold away the legitimacy of the sport they play in favor of higher entertainment value. They have colorful casts of characters who perform every night even though the script already says who is going to win and who is going to lose.
The NBA is the WWE with a ball.