I haven’t had an article here on the DOTcom for a while, but I felt compelled to blog a bit about the NBA. I have very fond memories of the Association growing up, sitting down every Sunday to watch the NBA on NBC triple headers that would air. Michael Jordan (you know, that guy from the Crying Jordan meme) was guaranteed to be on every Sunday so that in and of itself was appointment television. Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns would usually be on as well, which was cool because I was probably the biggest Charles Barkley fan growing up, even though he was “not a role model”. That commercial was way ahead of it’s time.
I also enjoyed watching the Seattle Supersonics. You know, the team that Oklahoma City now has? That one? Yeah, names like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, legends. From top to bottom though, the names jumped out at you. Shaq, Malone, Stockton, Kemp, Payton, Ewing, Hakeem, Penny, Grant Hill, The Admiral, and so many more that can be named to a fan of my era, and every player is known. Nick Van Exel, already! Woo!
Then came a different era. Kobe, Iverson, Kidd, Nash, Dirk, Duncan and more were changing the game and bringing it into the next generation, so to speak. You’d have thought that with all of the new blood, the league itself would be in a great position to move forward and then boom, the lockout happened just as their careers were starting. The 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games per team, and top that off with Michael Jordan’s second retirement, I had personally lost interest in the NBA. Seeing the return and the outrage that fans had (attendance was down 2.2% from the season prior), plus with my favorite players from my youth either retiring, or becoming less of a factor and being sent to different teams (Barkley to the Rockets, Hakeem to the Raptors, etc), I wasn’t totally sold on the new crop. I didn’t so much mind Kobe at first, but I had felt that he was being forced down everybody’s throats and by then, my interest in football took over totally.
When ABC took over the NBA coverage, that as well was something that I was not overly a fan of. The presentation of the NBC product was classic and inviting and I wasn’t ready for the change. So, I pretty much distanced myself from the pro game. In that time, the stigma of letting players play right out of high school was taking over. You would often see players come to the podium wearing street clothes, speaking slang and having people that might not have mentally been mature enough to handle the rigors of the the travel and the spotlight, be put on display and the chaos would follow. The lowest point of all of that was when Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) ran into the stands swinging on a fan after a benches clearing brawl between the Pacers and the Pistons. I was done totally. Swore off the pro game, stuck to College Basketball for my hoops fix.
In the time that I swore off the pro game, a fella by the name of LeBron James came into the league. He, and an even newer crop of talent that started to come into the game began planting the seeds to the NBA that we see today. Names like Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, and Kevin Durant were making their way into the league and nobody knew that they would be changing the game a decade later. The theory is that all of these guys would sign contracts where each would be close to one another in terms of free agency. A regular team of all-stars had not been assembled before, so back in 2010 when “The Decision” aired, and LeBron James joined Wade and eventually Bosh in Miami, that sparked in my honest opinion, a true resurgence in ratings for the league.
People were interested in the game again. People wanted to see if this team would succeed. More people wanted to see if they would fail. Merchandise sales were through the roof. TV Deals were expiring and the NBA for the first time in a really long time, was in a position where they could capitalize on this momentum to work on some deals that would bring more money into the league, which would then raise the salary cap.
Fast forward a handful of years to these past few weeks, and the first true year of the larger salary cap. We have seen a lot of players receiving more money than an your average NFL starting QB. More recruiting by players to get other superstars on their teams. We’ve seen the rich get richer, the talentless teams lose their last few pieces of talent. The rise of the Golden State Warriors from mediocrity to the cream of the NBA crop, to having the best regular season record, to now being the team that everybody wants to see fail with the addition of Kevin Durant. Since this year’s NBA Free Agency, in a country where football is king, the talk of the town for the past two weeks has been the NBA. Kind of refreshing to see.
I’ll be curious to see when the season opens how the Warriors fare to their newfound villainous personas. Will the Cavaliers repeat as champions or at least, head to their third straight NBA Finals since LeBron returned to the ‘Land? Will Kyrie Irving ride this momentum train that he began building during the Finals? Does any other team stand a chance? How are the Knicks going to do with the additions of Rose, and Noah? The Bulls and Wade?
I don’t know, but I can promise you this. I’m all in.
You can tune in to John’s podcast, Get Ready, America!, which has the latest episode below for your listening pleasure.