Please Explain: The NBA

Despite the topic seeming a bit too obvious for me to want to tackle, I just can’t ignore the NBA. A little background check on me would enable you to discover that professional basketball used to be my favorite sport. During the 1980’s, the NBA was the most exciting, well-played team sport in the world. While the Lakers and Celtics were dynasties, there were other great teams, as well. The 76ers during the early 80’s were the most exciting team I’ve ever seen, while the Pistons of the late 80’s were the toughest. To give you an idea of how good the top teams were in the league during this decade, the Milwaukee Bucks won the Central Division every season between 1980 and 1987, but not once played in the Finals.

 

The 1970’s started great for the NBA, as the Knicks and Lakers waged some of the best battles in league history. After these 2 teams last final showdown in 1973, the NBA began to fall off, as the rival ABA siphoned off many of basketball’s most exciting players. During this period forgettable teams like the Warriors, Bullets, and Sonics won it all. Only the 1977 Trail Blazers were a team that could have competed with the best of the past decade.

It has been chronicled many times about how Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought the game to a new level, when they joined the NBA in 1979. I possess no contrarian arguments to this view. These 2 men, who were not particularly fast or strong, had the rare ability to dictate the pace of the game. At no time has anyone this tall, been such brilliant playmakers. Not before, not since. No basketball players have made their teammates better than Bird and Magic.

During the 1990’s, the NBA became even more popular, as the star-power of Michael Jordan catapulted the sport to ratings only behind the NFL. This was also the time that the quality of the game began to slip, as the isolation play became a feature of most offenses. Clearing out most of the floor to allow the brilliant abilities of Jordan was often thrilling, but it damaged the free-form nature of the game.

To try to combat this type of offense, coaches began to over-manage play, especially through clutch and grab defenses. After Jordan retired, the game steadily lost national attention, as the key to winning became who has the best big man. Shaquille O’Neal is an immovable force, as his 4 championships this decade point to. Tim Duncan is more versatile in what he offers, but his robotic style is not fun to watch. Hard to question Duncan’s production, though, as he is about to win his 4th NBA championship. Since Jordan left the game, these 2 men have won 8 of the past 9 NBA titles, with the only exception being the boringly efficient Pistons, who won it all in 2004.

While the addition of foreign born players have brought more outside shooting and passing back to the NBA, these players seem to lack the drive and killer instinct of a Magic or Bird. The influx of these players has helped the marketability of the NBA overseas, but it has made it harder for U.S. fans to connect with the players. It is a natural instinct to bond with athletes you relate to.

A good example of this is auto racing. It was not that long ago that open wheel racing was more popular than stock car racing. While there are many reasons why NASCAR has become such a phenomenon at the same time Indy Car has been left in the dust, a major part of it is the total American domination of NASCAR by the Jimmy Jeffs and Dickie Dales. Indy Car has too many fur-n-ers getting the checkered flag.

The issue of race is often used as a major reason for the NBA’s decline. I think this is an overrated factor. The greatest force in raising the popularity of the league was Michael Jordan. During this NBA ratings bonanza of the 1990’s, only one of the Top 25 players in the league was white, John Stockton. During each of the past 3 years, the MVP has been white, (Nash and Nowitski). Not since the 1950’s have there been so many top-notch white players in the NBA. While the thug behavior of players like Allen Iverson and Ron Artest might have turned off some of its fans, it is the product on the floor that is the NBA’s biggest problem.

The league has been proactive in trying to fix some of its strategic problems, but I’m not sure what can be done to make it better. It kind of reminds me of what happened in tennis. Much like the NBA, tennis hit its pinnacle during the 1980’s, as personalities like McEnroe, Connors, Evert and Navratilova made it arguably the 4th most popular sport in the U.S. During the 1990’s, tennis continued to prosper, but the quality of the game began to decline, as the mix of improvements in racket technology and the overall athletic ability, created quicker points which took away some of the strategy of the game. The improved nutrition and training methods have built better bodies in all sports, but it has negatively impacted tennis and basketball, as brute force has eclipsed much of the grace that used to be such a key component to success.

While I’m on the NBA and tennis comparison, are there 2 great athletes who mirror each other more than Pete Sampras and Tim Duncan? Both of them seem like great guys, who have always conducted themselves with class. They both have a fluid nature to their game that at times looks effortless. On the surface, they seem to be what sports fans claim they want in their superstars. Sampras and Duncan are just a couple more examples of what people say they want often being not what they really desire.

It is no secret that NBA ratings are declining year after year. So what is there to discuss with this topic? Declining ratings or not, the league still has millions of fans and is able to fill most of its arenas. I have gone from someone who loved professional basketball more than any sport to someone who can’t watch more than 5 minutes of a game. I’m not one of those everything was better in my day type of guys, so it isn’t nostalgia why I think what I do about the league. For example, I think Major League Baseball is better game now than it was back in the 1980’s.

The one thing that the NBA can point to in selling itself is that it shows off the features of high-definition TV more than anything else. (Greg Popovich is done no favors by it, though.) Despite this technological advantage, I would still prefer to tune-in bad 1980’s graphics replayed on ESPN Classic over today’s NBA. Give me a 1988 Atlanta Hawks/Boston Celtics battle…NBA on CBS, with Brent Musberger behind the mic…Larry Bird coming up in an epic battle versus Dominique Wilkins…You are watching what greatness, is all about….And this was just a Eastern semi-final playoff series.

If you are still a fan of the game, Please Explain why I’m off about the NBA. Outside of an occasional playoff game, I just don’t understand the appeal of the 2007 model.

39 thoughts on “Please Explain: The NBA

  1. 1.  Keep in mind that I have never been a fan (I’ve seen less than 10 games on TV—zero in person), so this is largely speculation:

    1) The schedule is impossible to follow. When do these guys play anyway?? NFL is on Sunday (mostly), MLB? Everyday (mostly). Granted this may not explain the drop in popularity from 10 years ago, but it explains one reason for my disinterest.

    2) The race thing. Jordan may have been black, but he wasn’t ‘rapper’ black, if you get my meaning. The black stars of the 80’s and 90’s went golfing with Alice Cooper and Bobe Hope, today’s NBA star fires weapons at strip clubs—or at least that’s the perception. You get the impression that you wouldn’t mind MJ living next door, Ron Artest , not so much.

    3) I think you are on to something about the size of today’s player…the court seems cramped and entirely too small these days. The NBA could use to add about 15 feet side to side and 20-25 end to end to the size of it’s courts to open things up.

    Again, as someone who has zero interest in the NBA, take this with a grain of salt.

  2. 2.  This point was initially made by Mike (guess which one) on Mike and Mike in the Morning. He contrasted the NBA’s promotion of itself against the NFL. The NFL, though filled with many charismatic players mostly promotes TEAM vs. TEAM battles, rather than PvP. Though every team has its noteworthy star–Petyon, Brady, etc–people tune in each week to watch two teams battle each other. The NBA on the other hand, probably due to the glutton of marketable stars it had in the past two decades, promotes PLAYERS VS PLAYER battles. This seems to be a risky bet. Ratings and popularity–from their perspective–depend on whether two great players will play against each other. Football on the other hand, is a success each week no matter the teams playing each other–and two stars battling each other is just icing on the cake.

    I don’t hear the complaints about two small market teams playing each other in the Super Bowl that I hear in the NBA.

    For me, I’ve noticed that I tune in less and less to games not involving the Lakers. I just have no interest. Though I enjoy basketball much more than I enjoy football, I can watch any game of football and be entertained–not just 49er games.

    (I am admitting that advertising and promotion does have an affect on me, though I hate to say it.)

  3. 3.  1 Football has the same crime problems the NBA has and it hasn’t hurt their ratings. I don’t understand the double standard.

    Chick Hearn used to talk about increasing the size of the court. Not by 15 feet, but at least ten inches to a foot.

  4. 4.  I still do watch some NBA ball b/c I like the game of basketball itself, and b/c I enjoy watching the most gifted players, who I think are the most amazing athletes in the world. With that said, most of what you’ve written above sounds right to me.

    One minor quibble; Shaq was hardly the factor on his fourth championship team that he had been on his previous three. Miami won b/c Dwyane Wade put on a Jordanesque performance (and got Jordanesque treatment from the refs) in the finals. Shaq’s performance was forgettable in 2006.

  5. 5.  I am a huge, huge basketball fan, but these days I only watch college — I haven’t watched an NBA game in close to 10 years. Basically, I like passion with my sports, and even a mid-major college basketball game has about 1,000 times more life than an NBA game. The NBA fans and the players are so dispassionate and seem not to care one iota about the game, and that attitude carries over to people like me. I like teamwork, hustle, fundamentals, and intelligent play, all of which can be found in far greater quantities in the college game than in the pros.

  6. 6.  Even though I am a big NBA fan, I agree with many of the points you made. However, the NBA is still the most entertaining combination of athleticism and skill. For me personally, I am more of a fan of the entertainment of the NBA rather than the competitiveness. I will never care emotionally about the Lakers like I do about the Dodgers, but a regular season Laker game has a better chance of being entertaining than a regular season Dodger game, if the outcome of the game cannot be gauranteed. To continue using my teams as an example, I love watching Kobe play, even if the Lakers lose, because he consistently makes improbable athletic plays. On the other hand, there are very few things that can happen that will redeem a Dodger loss (and most would be negative, like Juan Pierre somehow injuring himself). Rafeal Furcal making an amazing play at shortstop is pretty much forgotten if the Dodgers lose. If Kobe makes a crazy shot, I will be talking about it with a coworker the next day even if the Lakers lost. And that basically comes down to the undeniable fact that basketball has a better aesthetic than any other sport (you can make an argument for hockey in person but not on television). So if we agree upon that as a starting point, then we can get your main question about what’s going on in the NBA. One question you might want to ask yourself is, ‘do I watch college basketball, and not the NBA, or have I just stopped watching all basketball together’?

    In 2007, it is usually a mistake to watch the NBA for competitiveness rather than direct entertainment. The reason is that for even the most skeptical personal, the main problem with the NBA is the credibility of the competition going on. The NBA has been proactive as you said, but if rules change every couple of years, who’s to say this year’s MVP is really the best basketball player and not just the beneficiary of rule changes. In addition, flopping has become a huge problem. It’s one thing for a soccer player to flop in the middle of the field, it is quite another for a basketball player because those called fouls lead to points more often than not. One of the most vocal critics of the NBA in the media is Bill Simmins who happens to be interviewing the NBA commissioner tomorrow at espn.com. I would ask the comissioner, ‘if you cannot make the NBA competition genuine and the league entertaining at the same time, despite your many efforts, why can’t we just choose’? And let’s choose entertainment. If you can’t agree with that sentiment, then I’m sorry to say the NBA in 2007 or the near future is not for you.

  7. 7.  If I had to rank my favorite sports teams in order, they would be the Dodgers, Lakers, and Broncos.

    That said, outside of the Lakers I really don’t like watching the NBA. The last time I watched a non-Lakers finals game was probably back in the Jordan years. I’d rather watch a Devil Rays-Orioles game on Extra Innings than a random NBA game. I’d rather watch a Texans-Raiders game than an NBA game.

  8. 8.  If the Lakers were in the finals, you can bet ratings would be sky high—Lebron vs Kobe.

    The NBA is a ‘stars’ league, and if the right stars dont match up in the Finals–then you get poor ratings.

    Plus, the NBA season is just so long that I think people are tired of basketaball by the middle of June.

    Shorten the season–makes every game more meaningful—will lead to higher ratings.

    I also think the early entrant rule will make the NBA more popular bc the stars of tomorrow will become better known in college before they make it to the NBA.

  9. 9.  The basketball season is essentially meaningless. More than half the teams make the playoffs and even the small fraction of teams that don’t, have at least a small chance of getting a top pick. What incentive do teams have to put out consistent effort over the season? Even a poor team like the Lakers is guaranteed a playoff spot.

  10. 10.  I think as the amount of money in basketball increased so did the defensive intensity and it’s really cut down on the fluidity of the game. It happened in hockey and soccer as well. I don’t think anyone is to blame – it’s a side effect from improved fitness and increased financial incentives. Games where fluid passing is valued also value disrupting that passing.

  11. 11.  Scott, I’m with you on this one. I used to be a fan back in the 80s through the early 90s, but I think it’s one of the teams you mentioned — those great late-80s Pistons teams — that killed the NBA for me. They began the trend of suffocating, mugging defense that found its nadir in those wretched, unwatchable Heat-Knicks battles in the mid-90s.

    I also started losing interest when dunking and getting your highlight on SportsCenter that night seemed to become the engine that drove the game. Dunks were cool and awesome when I first saw them, but they’re really nothing more than a playground trick. Watching someone go coast-to-coast through the defense for a fingertip layup is infinitely more exciting for me.

    Or would be, if I still cared.

  12. 12.  I have had a similar track to Scott, though I was not as dedicated an NBA fan to begin with.

    As an example of what really jumped the shark for me — I dunno it must have been an early 90’s playoff game with Patrick Ewing’s Knicks. At the buzzer, the ball got in Ewing’s hands just in front of the foul line. He may have bounced the ball once, feinted left, ducked right, and took 3 and a half steps to the basket for the score and the win. Announcers gushed over his heroic veteran play.

    I think the NBA transition was quite deliberate: They cashed in on the show, and left the sport out to hang. Every televised sporting event is about the ‘sport’ and about the ‘show’ around it. League execs and television execs are constantly fiddling with the formula if you ask me. In baseball, you see FOX desperately trying to shower ‘value added’ over their presentation, but it seems incongruous with the ‘sport’ of baseball. Basketball/NBA, however, bought into all that stuff hook, line, and sinker by letting its sport change to enhance the show: Most particularly, a relaxation of the travel call and an arbitrary nature to the foul call.

    I would watch an NBA game, and a team would really dominate another team for three quarters. Then suddenly, mid way through a fourth quarter, the once lesser team suddenly goes through a run, and pull out the game. I would look at the TV, and feel that the result did not reflect the better team that game. This has happened to me very consistently, even as I watched less and less.

    Parallel to this, I think another problem has been arising. The court dimensions, and indeed the game, have been designed when athletes were not so strong and so athletic. The court is too small! It’s not the height of the basket, it is two 250 lb centers with gigantic arm spans sitting in front of the basket, it is a 6’6” forward who is so lightning quick that giving him three steps to the basket is akin to putting every one else in lead shoes.

    The court and the rules would have to change to get me back, and here is a proposed starting point: Go to an Olympic style court with larger dimensions and larger key, and start forcing people to dribble the ball to the basket by going back to the old travel rules. The big guys have to move around more with the larger key. The quick guys have to utilize proper holes in the defense while putting the ball to the floor. X’s and O’s would begin to come back.

    Btw, from my perspective the College game has pretty much undergone the same negative transitions as the NBA.

    Also, Btw, along with the sheer aspect of athleticism in individuals, the X’s and O’s are a critical component of viewership. Viewers are, among other things, looking for a shared experience. They can’t share extraordinary athleticism, even though they admire it. But they can always share the strategies, and imagine to themselves “I could have designed that play!” The balance between athletic talent and X’s and O’s can’t sway too far to one side.

  13. 13.  3 I’m equally uninterested in the NFL, so the double standard puzzles me as well…I can only guess that the helmets give the players a modicum of anonymity that helps fans get past the off-field thuggery.

    BTW, I watch the Illini pretty regularly (one of the things Scott and I disagree upon—Boo!! Haweyes!!).

  14. 14.  I’m pretty much in the same boat. In the 1980s, baseball was always 1, but the NBA was 1(a). Now, while I still follow the Yankees as closely as ever, I barely notice the Knicks. Clearly, the relative quality of the two teams is a factor, but I tuned the Knicks out starting with the Riley years. For a whole combination of reasons, the NBA is now a much slower, bigger, physical and individual game. Even as exciting as LeBron James recent one man show was…it was an example of the larger problem.

    For all the knocks MLB always gets, I think it is the one sport that has actually maintained or improved the quality of the on field product. The NBA has become mundane and the NFL has opted for mediocrity. I hope MLB continues on its own path.

  15. 15.  I’m in the same boat-basketball was probably my second favorite sport behind baseball in the late 80’s/early 90’s. As much as I wanted to see Ewing get a ring, the play was maddening at times. You can only appreciate “great” defense when the offense is respectable. With the NBA hanging its hat on a “star” driven format as opposed to a team emphasis, offenses became predictable. The absolute destruction of a competent fast-break really made me start to tune out. You can only see a 3-0n-1 break fail so many times because the ball got chucked out of bounds before even getting a shot off that you really start to question why you’re wasting your time. The Lakers/Celts may have engaged in high scoring contests, but they also knew how to play solid D.

  16. 16.  I didn’t “get” the NBA until I started watching the Phoenix Suns 2 years ago.

  17. 17.  I don’t follow the NBA like I did in the 80s, and 90s but that’s mostly because I am so invested in baseball that I just don’t have time for another sport. Also, the fact that the Knicks are horrible doesn’t help. In the early 90s, New York sports was dominated by the Pat Ewing Knicks. Actually, I think the game is more exciting now that in was 5-10 years ago. I like the up-tempo style of teams like the Suns and Mavs. It’s hard not to admire what a great TEAM the Spurs have been. That said, I’ve become a fair-weather NBA fan–and I much prefer pro ball to college hoops: I only really tune into the playoffs.

  18. 18.  This is a tough one. I also was a huge NBA fan in my teen (basketball-playing) years in the ’80s, rooting hardest for Parish and Bird and the rest of the Team From My Geographic Location, but also loving the whole league from Sidney Moncreif’s Bucks to George Gervin’s Spurs to World B Free’s traveling circus. Since then I’ve found my interest waning. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in Celtics country anymore, so it’s harder to get that passionate attachment I once had (plus they have profoundly sucked for years).

    On a more general note, I think if the Spurs and Suns were somehow playing in the Finals you wouldn’t be seeing too many “What’s wrong with the NBA?” stories right now. Instead you’d be seeing two fantastic teams facing off, just like in the glory years. I know I’d be watching every minute of it.

  19. 19.  I agree with a lot of you concerning how NBA used to be high on the list of favorite sports, but has since fallen off. To me, the star quality is “different”, in that what made a player or a team star-worthy was a lot different in the eighties and early ninties than it has become.

    But then again, the nature of the game changes every decade, so it could be that what we found to be quality has changed with the new generation of players, and the NBA has had a problem catching up with prevailing tastes (as opposed to trying to maintain the highest levels of success from the past).

    What was it about Bird and Johnson that made them stars? Not only the unique qualities in their games, but how those qualities affected the rest of the team. Also, their stars seemed more open to collaborating with each other as opposed to competing for marketing attention. The teams that repeatedly went to the playoffs had clearly identifiable stars, or sought them out from teams that clearly could not compete with them.

    Today, it seems that the definitions have changed again, but regressed for different reasons. When Jordan came into the league, the NBA was suffering some falloff because the same teams were competing over and over with the same style and same results. Jordan took what Dr. J began (a unique and inventive style of play) and took it to another level, which the game adjusted to as much as Jordan adjusted to the game.

    There lies the issue: Today’s players are either trying to or forced to compete with Jordan’s legend. Even when a team like the Detroit Pistons or the San Antonio Spurs play team ball, they are forcefully compared to Jordan’s Bulls, where every player had a name and a specific role in support of the master. The way the game is marketed now is to find and anoint a successor to Jordan, who could make his team better and take over the game by himself at any given moment, as opposed to Jordan’s team; without whom he could never have won even one championship.

    We don’t have that, and since we’ve gotten used to this, plus we’re not getting what we want, we move on. Thus, the down ratings. This is what the NBA has locked intself into, so I don’t feel bad for anyone involved.

    Perhaps the game gets better in quality if the talent that’s chosen and the staff that coordinates and coaches that talent focus on fundamental soundness as opposed to pure athletic ability/potential. But then, those aren’t sexy enough to market now, considering again whomever the target market is (maybe the marketing is missing the target or hitting the wrong mark). E@$% shares a lot of the blame for this, as even current star players and coaches have complained that players are focused more on making highlight reels instead of winning games.

    I don’t even watch anymore, considering that my team is the Knicks{cough-cough}; style over substance, not to mention a healthy dose of egoism and incompetence drove this team to ruin (mediocrity has never been so distastefully lowwww…) and that’s only the front office… well, all-in-all, if quality entertainment is defined by style over substance, then it’s no wonder we’re having this conversation.

  20. 20.  I would agree that the Suns are the most exciting team to watch in the league. The style they play, though reminds me of a run and shoot team in football or a great hitting team in baseball. During the playoffs, defense (or pitching) takes over. The Celtics and Lakers of the 80’s played really good team defense and the passing game was run through Bird and Magic, who were really tall. Nash is my favorite player to watch in the league, but guys his height, who are his team’s best player don’t end up winning championships. I want to be proven wrong, but I don’t think it will happen.

    I considered discussing how making the court larger would open the game up some, but this would also expose how bad most players shoot from mid-range. I don’t know if I blame the 3-point shot, but players don’t seem to have a mid-range game anymore.

    I do believe making players play in the NCAA for a year will help the league a bit, as it gives people a chance to build interest in them, before they get to the NBA. Sure Oden would have been a big story right away, but most high schoolers are like Kevin Durant, who can really raise their awareness level after a year in the colleges.

    I didn’t mention my love of college basketball, as I figured most who read here know how big of fan I am of it. I watch every Big 10 game I can, and love all of the NCAA tourney, my favorite sports event. The college game holds up because the physical ability of the players isn’t so great that it creates a stalemate on the court. There is no sport I can think of where by being a bit less talented makes for better viewing, besides college and pro basketball.

    I do think Eric Enders nails the part about college b-ball is played with a passion level that rarely exists on a pro level.

    If the Spurs and Suns were playing int he finals, it wouldn’t be much better ratings. Lebron is the biggest TV draw, outside of Kobe, in the game right now and Cleveland is more on the radar for people on the east coast and midwest than San Antonio and Phoenix are. The only team that could have noticeably raised the NBA tv ratings is the Lakers, as Kobe brings in some non-basketball fans. The power of the league being on the West Coast has hurt national ratings, especially with such strong NBA cities like Boston and New York being so bad.

    Possumbait brings up an interesting point about how a team can dominate for 3 quarters and still lose. This does seem to happen more and more, when I watch the games. Since I’m not John Hollinger or Dean Oliver, I guess I will never put the time in to discover the statistics of why this is happening.

    KAYVMON did the best job of explaining why the NBA is able to get the ratings that it does. I can’t get into any sports just for the sheer entertainment of it. If that was the case, why not just have one big slam dunk/3 point shot competition every night. I will admit that the NBA game has lost so much of its charm that I would prefer to watch these type of skills competitions over most regular season games.

    The NBA has to be worried about how many fans it’s losing in this country. At the pace it is going, within 10 years 25% of its fans will be overseas. This might enable multi-national corporations to fill up its advertising time, but the arenas will be half-full. I don’t know what David Stern can do to bring the game back to what it was during the 80’s, but he does need to do something.

    Here is a radical idea which I know will never happen (meet the Players union), but I do think it would solve much of the current malaise in the game. Instead of 5 on 5, let’s go with 4 on 4.

  21. 22.  20: “Nash is my favorite player to watch in the league, but guys his height, who are his team’s best player don’t end up winning championships.”

    It can happen. Ask Isiah Thomas. Well, don’t ask him now, but check his two rings.

  22. 23.  Ok, I will give you that one. Damn. Hey, why don’t you go back to your baseball card collection and quit making me look bad. (defensive sarcasm alert) 🙂

    One major difference between the teams. Pistons were built for playoff basketball, while the Suns defense is nowhere as tight, as much as I love watching them play.

  23. 24.  20 – While I enjoy watching college basketball, the biggest problem isn’t the quality of play or of the players, but the combination of the game being about 15% shorter while having a shot clock 50% longer. The NCAA title game this year was a perfect example of this problem: the game never seemed close despite the fact that the lead was only 12 or so most of the game. Sure, you have the occasional choke in that situation (see: Illinois), but for the most part, a double digit lead in college at the 8 minute TV timeout is safe. In the NBA? A 10 point lead can be gone in the time it takes to go to the bathroom.

    This is related to the issue of one team being able to dominate most of the game and still lose, though, and you can see it in the way the teams play. As long as the difference is in single digits, nothing that happens, except for injuries and fouls, make much difference before the last 5 minutes. I think this is both good and bad, in that I find myself quite often not even bothering to watch the first few quarters of a game I’m only marginally interested, but I think it also leads to more exciting finishes in general.

  24. 25.  23: “One major difference between the teams. Pistons were built for playoff basketball, while the Suns defense is nowhere as tight, as much as I love watching them play.”

    Yeah, I have to agree with you there (those Pistons really were custom made for playoff bruising); still, I’m trying to generate some hopefor the Suns from the idea that things might have been different for them against the Spurs without the big suspensions.

  25. 26.  “Football has the same crime problems the NBA has and it hasn’t hurt their ratings. I don’t understand the double standard.”

    Wrong. The crime and thuggery at the NBA is at a significantly higher percentage. That’s the difference. A football team has about 4.5 times as many players as a basketball team. So if you have one criminal on your NBA team, that’s almost 10% of your roster. A single NFL player is only 2% of the team.

  26. 27.  26. Actually you are wrong. Doing various searches, I found that 35 NFL players were arrested in 2006, making an arrest rate of just under 2% of all NFL players. 8 NBA players were arrested in 2005 (I couldn’t find 2006 numbers), making for an arrest rate of exactly 2%. Would you care to justify your claim that thuggery is at a higher rate in the NBA.

  27. 28.  26, 27 – Maybe a better formulation would be that people expect football players to violent misanthropes and they don’t expect it of the NBA But even that formulation is fundamentally wrong. Because the issue isn’t thuggishness it is race. It is also how the two get conflated.

  28. 29.  I do think there’s something to the notion that thuggery is more disdained in basketball because for football players, violence and thuggery is basically the job description, so people aren’t as scandalized when football players are thugs off the field too.

  29. 30.  I guess I can’t really explain the NBA but I can pile on some reasons why its not a very interesting league right now.

    1. The Eastern conference with once historically great franchises like the Celtics, Knicks, 76ers is horrible. I think if the East could truly compete with the West more consistently interest may pick up.

    2. As others have mentioned the lack of diversity among the players does hurt the league. I think the NBA players as a whole are better behaved than the NFL, but as of 2007 the NFL is so Teflon that no one cares. Everything runs in cycles and the NFL will have its day of declining interest and ratings.

    3. The embarrassing failures of the USA national team comprised of NBA players. They did great for the first 8 years 92-2000 but starting with the 2002 World Championships and the 04 Olympics they have showed exactly why the league has deteriotated so much. Having NBA all star team without a player who can hit a 20′ 3 pointer says volumes about the style that American professional basketball has drifted towards.

    As I said everything runs in cycles and the NBA will rise again. From what I understand the league almost folded before Bird/Magic and came back to become more popular than ever. Something or someone will capture the publics imagination sometime in the next 10-20 years.

  30. 31.  11 Actually, I liked those Knick-Heat battles back in the day.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like shootouts as much as the next man, but I prefer “grind it out” defense

  31. 32.  In that case Raf you must be a huge fan of the Cavs/Spurs series. I like 130-129 games. Little defense as possible.

  32. 33.  5 Amen on the college ball over NBA. I grew up in San Francisco a sports-lovin’ kid, but I’m young enough that I just missed Run TMC, so the Warriors didn’t suck me in to basketball; Jason Kidd at Cal and Brevin Knight at Stanford did. I learned not to watch the NBA regular season because I can’t help but notice how little the players work compared to high school and college players with coaches who have actual power over them.

    I skimmed, but didn’t see what I’m about to address, so forgive me if it’s been stated… Competitiveness and predictability are a big problem in the NBA. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that the supposedly “better” team almost always wins, but on the other hand, it’s kind of demoralizing that virtually every playoff series may as well be determined before the tip of Game 1. This season has been a remarkable exception, with the Jazz and Warriors both coming on particularly strong at the end and pulling lower-seed upsets. The NFL has surprise champions. MLB has surprise champions. You have to go back to 1995 to find an NBA champ that didn’t finish first or second in its conference during the regular season, and that was a Hakeem-led Rockets team that was a defending champ! With 16 teams in the playoffs every year, one would think Cinderella has a chance, but she’s lucky if she doesn’t get mugged as she steps off her front porch, and in all the times she’s tried to get to the ball, she’s rarely made it more than a block before the cab overheats. (/strained cliche analogy)

  33. 34.  Also, I’m a huge proponent of the trapezoidal key. It’s even a bit of a joke among my friends. Originally, I thought it would be good because it would discourage sumo wrestling on the block. In the past couple years, I think it’s become an even better idea because it will encourage slashing to the rack by spreading out defenders who don’t want to get called for defensive 3 seconds. A guy like Duncan could still survive with both face up shooting and low post moves to the step and dunk because it would be harder to provide help defense from the weak side, but also guys like 380-pound Shaq would have to figure out how to get the ball on the move instead of planting on the block, getting the ball and going straight up for a dunk. The wider key requires a move to score.

  34. 35.  Regarding the respective thuggery of the NFL and NBA: I think it makes a difference that football players are “covered up” on the field, whereas basketball players should quite a lot of hair and skin (and thus, tattoos). People who are affected by such things probably attribute more thuggery to basketball players whose cornrows/etc. and tattoos make them look gangsta’, whereas you can’t see all that stuff under shoulder pads and helmets.

  35. 36.  I’ve seen, in the previous comments, some references to the NBA over-emphasizing potential, but not a direct disucssion of what, I think, is one of the problems.

    For every Kobe or Garnett there are ten high schoolers or underclassmen drafted into the league who are just not ready. Not mature enough. Not polished enough. Never experienced high-profile, high-level competition. Basically, the most physically talented guys aren’t the players they should be. Eventually that takes a toll on the game.

    That said, the NBA lost me during the latter Shaq/Kobe years. I just don’t need the constant and overriding concern about who’s top dog on a given team, such that its not good enough just to win championships.

  36. 37.  32 I am impressed with the way the Spurs seem to be unbeatable in the playoffs.

    It takes all kinds, I guess. I liked watching the Kings from 99-01, I liked watching the Knicks of the early-mid 90’s. The battles with the Bulls, Pacers, and Heat were something else back then. I liked watching the Trailblazers of the late 90’s when it seemed they had the deepest team in the league. Seems like so long ago.

  37. 38.  I’m with Raf. Besides the current Suns, I don’t like watching anyone as much as the teams Raf mentions.

  38. 39.  I can appreciate a good defensive battle or a shhotout. I just want to see a back and forth game with a close finish. It was painful to watch the Spurs give the Cavs so many chances to climb back in the game, only to see the Cavs clank shot after shot. Here is a good article that talks more about the playoff letdown this year: http://thenewsroom.com/details/413558?c_id=wom-bc-bh
    – Brad from The Sports Desk at TheNewsRoom.com

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