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Basketball: The Decline and Fall of the N.B.A.

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posted on Jan, 11 2006 @ 11:02 PM
When I first came to this site, I feared that December through March would be predominantly filled with basketball posts. Ever since the end of the Jordan Era, I've paid SO little attention to the NBA I have no idea, from one year to the next, who the best players and teams are.

Who is it now? McGrady? Duncan? Shaq? Good ol' Kobe? I haven't the faintest idea. And other than the fact Detroit, Miami and San Antonio are major forces in the playoffs, I don't know anything about the teams, their players and how they figure to do in the only part of the year I might watch (with guilt): the last 2 rounds of the playoffs.

Well, y'all have certainly assuaged my fears, I will give you that.
Nobody here gives a s--- about pro hoops, do they?

Many of you, I presume, are old enough to remember 10-20 years ago, when Magic/Kareem/Worthy et al. vs. Bird/Parish/McHale et al. had many millions of people who normally didn't care riveted to their screens.

It was like 1973, when many tens of millions of Americans were glued to their screens for the Belmont, watching a sport they normally cared about just like they cared about soccer--i.e., not at all--and were rewarded with arguably the greatest performance in the history of American sports, when Secretariat won the Belmont by a preposterous 31.5 lengths, in a time no horse has come within TWO SECONDS of, some 32 years later. (Yes, you read all of that right.)

Magic and Bird, and their mutually great supporting casts, did the same thing for hoops, and delivered the same riveting excitement, except they did it round after round, year after year. They spawned literally tens of millions of new fans, who stayed with the game deep into the 1990's, as the man who was either the #1 greatest player ever, or #2 behind Wilt, seized the public's imagination anew and won with regularity.


And please don't blame it all on the Artest thing in Detroit. It's like the game's once-enormous fan base has vaporized. And I think this is a great place to ask about it.

Charles Barkley, whom I have always found obnoxious in the extreme, not to mention bigoted against women, but often right in his bottom-line observations, has said he "would not follow the NBA if [he] were white." Is it really that racial a thing?? I'm sure I've mentioned before that of my five very close, longtime male friends, one is a famous actor and ex-athlete (all-American, no less, and he was famous for that before he became an actor). He watches hoops, but he'll be 60 in 2 months and is disgusted by the players today (black AND white)--not just in their mechanics, which he thinks suck (and he should know, since he played point), but also in their on- and off-court conduct. He did NOT feel that way 10 or 15 years ago.

And all the white guys I know, while not knowing nearly as much about the game, feel the same way about the current batch of players.

WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK??? Are the current players really THAT sorry a bunch of human beings? Have they taken what was a suddenly thriving, ultra-popular sport 20 years ago, and destroyed its popularity in the past 10 years? And what percentage of the damage is done on the court, as opposed to the off-court stuff, a la what certain football players have allegedly been doing lately?

The perceived differences about the NBA, then and now, are just so huge. The game got this gift of sudden, immense popularity, and now it's like its players have p*ssed that all away. In baseball, I almost always blame the owners far more than the players (except with steroids), but THIS seems to be a series of major wounds inflicted almost entirely by the players. And STERN, unlike the idiot child who headed MLB for so long, really has been a good commish.

OK. I've said my piece.



posted on Jan, 13 2006 @ 08:57 AM
OK, here's my opinion (not knowing what the hell I'm talking about hasn't stopped me yet).

It ebbs and flows. Before Magic and Bird, there was a low period. Then they came along and after them, His Airness.

It's about personality and compelling story lines (Bird vs Magic, Chamberlain vs Russell, West vs Robertson etc.) You just don't have that today. Nobody really cares about the current crop of "stars" because they're largely perceived as a selfish, pouty group of borderline thugs. Stern's gone a long way for image protection/damage control but he can only do so much.

I think part of it is also that a lot of the better players jump directly from high school to the pros before they've had a chance to establish a national identity. Bird, Magic, Jordan, and most players of that era were nationally known as college atheletes and NCAA tournament stars prior to going to the NBA. They brought a following with them. Now, the guys coming right out of high school have nothing but a big contract and a rep but no real national identity (with a few exceptions). Far different than the guys that were in the national spotlight for 3-4 years in college and played in the tournament. These high schoolers don't have the opportunity to emotionally mature at the college level prior to being given a huge wad of cash and dropped in the NBA. Nobody's ever kicked 'em in the butt. They've been told since grade school how great they are and have never had to be accountable. Yes, that happens with the college guys too, but there's a big difference between an 18 year old right out of high school and a 21 or 22 year old that's been through at least a few years of college.

A high percentage of the current crop (in my perspective) embrace the whole urban hip-hop gangsta persona which is off-putting to a large percentage of the population. (Hey, they can do what they want. I don't care. But Barkley has a point).

All the rim hanging, chest beating, mememe garbage that goes on is not conducive to building fan interest to a large number of people. For a sub culture that seems to thrive so much on "respect", they sure don't seem able to exhibit much of it.

Which is why we're getting our willies knocked in the dirt in international play. Another topic completely, but I say keep the NBA off the Olympic team, use college players who want to be there and buy into the concept, let Bob Knight coach 'em and we'll win.

But I could be wrong.

BTW, I live in Indianapolis and the Pacers are still hugely popular.

posted on Jan, 13 2006 @ 04:37 PM
Dear Yeah Right,

I think you make a good point about the high school student thing, how they have zero established identity, zero fan base, etc., when they come into the league.

And you're certainly right about the twisted, demented concept of "respect." Let me tell you a quick, sad story:

One of the biggest legal "victories" I have ever won for a client, I regret to say, was the reversal of a second-degree murder conviction in a killing which occurred over "disrespect." Basically, my guy liked to bully these two young guys; they sought help from a big guy; he told my guy to back off, in front of young women; and my guy, publicly shamed, did what any reasonable man would have done: bought a gun, lay in wait for the other guy, and shot him three times in the head.

The idiot judge had to pick THAT case to make a textbook error of huge constitutional proportion, violating the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause. If the prosecutor had had any brains, he'd have said, "Yo, judge, I want to win this case, but I don't want to have to try and win it again in 3 years."

My guy was SUCH a punk that, at the time I won the appeal and his murder conviction was thrown out, he was in the infamous SHU at "Pelican Bay Prison" in far northern California--the worst prison in the country. You have to really earn it to be sent there... be a huge troublemaker IN the joint.

If you're disgusted by that story, try being in my shoes. I did my job--hating every minute of it, but knowing that if I deliberately tanked it, I would be more morally guilty than any of the Black Sox were in that World Series (think about it). The result of the judge's idiocy was that, because witnesses were now unavailable (in Mexico), my guy got to plead to manslaughter and do only 3 more calendar years. Without the error, he would have seen a parole board every 3 years after doing his first 15, but he would NEVER have been granted parole. De facto life without parole (cops and lawyers call it "lwop.")

So there you have the "disrespect" sickness carried to its most sick, most extreme and most horrible. And it happens that way every f'ing day in this country--in the Crips and Bloods, the Nortenos and Surenos, the Aryan Brotherhood, and all sorts of much smaller gangs of imbeciles, plus people who want to pretend their gangsters, for god knows what reason.

So YEAH RIGHT, you have made me aware of something I should have realized a long time ago: It is pro athletes--and far more than any others, pro basketball players--who are promoting this infantile notion of disrespect and the things a "man" must do when he encounters it.

You know, it's exactly as idiotic as the cr@p gunslingers would do over disrespect in episodes of "The Rifleman" and other mega-violent black-and-white TV westerns of my youth. I laughed at it as a child, because it seemed so laughable that someone would want a gunfight to the death over someone's accidentally bumping into him, or someone's looking at him wrong.

And now we have it, everywhere, for real. And we have the same fatal violence in response to the most minor forms of youthful violence. Hell, when I was a teenager or young adult, if you fought someone, you let him get up after you knocked him down, and vice versa, and if he was the one still standing when it was all over, so be it. Nowadays, it seems like the worst damn thing you can do is win a fist fight. In the mid-to-late 1970's, when my alcoholism was in full "bloom," I got in a ton of fights and won most of them, because I was invulnerable to pain (until the next day) and quick to rage.

And NONE of the guys I ever beat up went home for a gun or knife or aluminum baseball bat. You know? You accepted your asskicking? Believe me, accepted my share of them.

But now, god help you if you win a fight. The other guy just HAS TO "get an equalizer" and blow you away, or at least use a tire iron to beat you within an inch of your life. Or have three or four other "men" do so. And if you're perceived as looking at the wrong person with "disrespect," or talking to him with "disrespect," well, you'd better apologize quickly or god knows what will happen.

YEAH RIGHT, as I read your letter, all this sh*t came together for me, and the awful memories of that major professional "victory" of mine from late 1997 crawled back into my brain and tortured me anew, and you know...? I am certain you are right.

QUESTION: Since this cr@p never happened until about 25 years ago, and since it happens ALL THE TIME among members of black, Latino, white and even Asian gangs now, and is done fairly often by gangsta wannabes, obviously major forces have injected it into our society. It's NOT TV, because TV shows sure don't glorify those thugs. I doubt movies depict them positively, either, though I could be wrong.

But YeahRight is right-on. I may not watch much hoops, but "the glory of me" is definitely what the game's become about.

You know the old football saying about how, when you get in the endzone, you should act like you've been there before? There's a complementary saying for hitting a home run, but I forget it. Well, hoops players (even awful ones) score lots of field goals. Shouldn't THEY act like they've done it before? Shouldn't decent defenders act like they've stolen a ball before? Wouldn't Wilt, Oscar, Magic, Bird and Jordan have gotten exhausted if they'd gone berserk every time THEY made a great play?

So yeah. I agree with you. And I think this "mememe" cr@p has done a lot more than just contaminate the NBA and empty seats. I think it's infused our society--or various portions of it, including among all major racial groups except perhaps Native Americans--with sick and perverse notions of: (A) what it is to be a man; (B) what is "respectable"; (C) how one should respond to an act of "disrespect," or to an act of violence which doesn't threaten anyone with serious physical harm; and (D) how a man should respond if he's in a mutually chosen fight and loses.

YeahRight, we longtime criminal lawyers sometimes think we've got society and the justice system "wired" because of how long we've been involved in it. Hell, I've been to visit people on San Quentin's Death Row, and not just once. You should try that experience one time, if you want to see what an oppressive, scary, grim environment feels like.

But you've made me aware of a "bigger picture" connection I failed to make. And I DON'T think the gangsta "culture" gave rise to today's NBA. I think that to a large extent it was the other way around. I just never thought about it in the right light, or put it all together, until now.


Baseball History Nut

posted on Jan, 14 2006 @ 01:15 PM
You're more than welcome, and I appreciate the feedback.

Sorry it brought up an unpleasant memory, but I'm sure you realize you did your job and you aren't responsible for a judge's (and prosecutor's) mistake.

I'm not sure what we can do other than raise our own children to understand what respect really means, and not glorify the unglorifiable (if that's a word). Unfortunately, they'll still have to make their way in a world that won't always value the same things. One of the lessons I try to teach my son is that the only person you really need respect from is you. Don't ever give someone else the kind of power over you where you feel the need to do something stupid, or out of character, for their "respect". The ones worthy of your respect will be the ones respecting your doing the right thing. And it IS hard. If it was easy, everyone would always do it. Think about who you're trying to impress. Screw 'em. They're not worth it.

I don't think we're going to fix this one today. But it's nice to know somebody else sees the connection.

posted on Jan, 16 2006 @ 03:29 PM
yeahright, you've made some good points here. For me personally, though, it's got to do with my team, they haven't been doing all that well since the departure of Stockton and Malone, but seem to be putting together at least a playoff team this year. Call me a fair-weather fan, but I don't really follow the league that much when I don't get to see the Jazz, and that can be few and far between when they aren't playing well.

Another note, I remember when new TV contracts came up a few years back, soem were saying (I think it may have been Barkley) that having too many games on TV would hurt the league. That could also be a part of what is happening to the popularity of the league.

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