Beyond the Bison: The NBA's decline into irrelevance

By Julian Dorey

Columnist

The NBA is a mess.

From the domineering, dictator-like behavior of commissioner David Stern at the top to the unintelligent fight for more money of every teams’ 12th man, the 2011 NBA lockout appears to have no sunrise on the horizon.

The Dark Age that has been looming over the watered-down establishment since Michael Jordan walked away a champion in 1998 appears to be ready to rear its ugly head.

For years, the casual American sports fans have slowly shied away from the professional hardwood action. Sports enthusiasts throw the same dull—yet somewhat justified—excuses out there every October, when the league usually prepares to tip-off its season:

“They don’t play any defense.”

“It’s a selfish sport.”

“Small markets can’t make it anymore.”

“If you don’t have ‘that guy’—what’s the point?”

Perhaps some of these statements are warranted. Perhaps they are not. But that’s a different argument for a different day.

As of right now, the current NBA season has entered a fatal stage amid the lockout proceedings. If the NBA Players Union decides to “decertify” this week, the chances of a partial NBA season may be decertified along with the imprudent union.

Meanwhile, basketball experts are devoting a lot of talk to the notion that after the NBA pulled in its best TV ratings in years last season, a cancelled season would kill the league’s momentum.

I say: what momentum?

It pains me as a lifelong basketball devotee to question the very sanctity of the sport’s highest level. But how can’t I?

LeBron James and his Miami Heat cronies are the only reason the league witnessed such a “revived interest” with the national audience last season. And, on the heels of yet another diminutive effort during the real “crunch time” of the postseasonJames has officially developed into a punchline.

The truth is, after flaunting their TV ratings in the first season since Miami put together their embarrassment of riches, Stern and other league executives revealed just how short-sighted and unqualified they are with a task as grand as handling the number one professional basketball league in the world.

It leads me to wonder what happened to Stern. I don’t care who you are—you don’t just last 27 years as the commissioner of the NBA without some decent organizing abilities. When did he lose the common sense that elevated him to his unheard-of status among the professional sports ranks?

Everyone knew that the Miami Heat phenomenon would provide the league with an enormous spike in their TV ratings.

For a maximum of two years.

If the Heat were dominantfans would quickly realize it and move on. If they didn’t live up to expectationsfans would call them a joke and move on. The NBA would inevitably continue its fade in significance even after a quick jolt of life.

And the Heat, from the big-market city of Miami, are at the heart of the NBA’s biggest issues. The NBA isn’t like the NFL or the MLB. You don’t have the so-called “small market” teams like Green Bay and St. Louis winning titles. No, the NBA is polluted with prima donnas who seem insistent on “padding their legacies” (before they even have them), on compiling stats that meet their self-entitled standards (at the expense of their teams), and on hijacking franchises with the stubborn intent to play in a big market city—thus completely eliminating any hint of loyalty, graciousness, and honesty the league once had.

Forget the Heat and their “ratings effect.” The NBA has a league-wide epidemic on their hands. James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade aren’t the only evils in the NBA’s universe. Players like Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and even Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are guilty of exhibiting the same virtues.

I lost faith in NBA players a long time ago. Because of that, I side with the owners’ stance on the makeup of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). But the respect I have for their “ability” to impose their much-needed will onto a new agreement is at a very low level.

When a product has so many flawed aspects to itquick fixes eventually run out.

The league has pulled every trick possible over the last decade in an effort to conceal the damning problems with its general direction.

They allowed LeBron to be crowned “the next Jordan” while still in high school. They allowed the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers to use deep-rooted, league-wide connections to pull off severely unbalanced trades in order to “rekindle” the sport’s greatest rivalry. They failed to prevent the current “player-businessmen” issue ahead of time during the last CBA negotiations.

Did the league not learn its lesson from the last extended lockout in 1998-99? Did it pay no attention to the extended, depressive aftermath of the 2004-05 NHL lockout that resulted in a cancelled season?

The executive board’s widespread ignorance and severe inability to foresee the unfortunate set of circumstances now at hand has led me to the point of cynicism.

Moreover, it has led me to lose faith in a sport that has provided me with more memories than any other.

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