Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron James and Why the NBA Sucks

Somehow, the LeBron James announcement hype provides a clear view of why NBA basketball is a joke. It’s national news, tonight on a one hour ESPN special, LeBron James, who grew up in northern Ohio and played for the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, will announce with what team he will play in a very lucrative free agent deal. Whoopee, most people don’t watch the NBA until the final round of the playoffs if there are still interesting teams standing.

Given a basketball team’s relatively small size and the extent to which clutch players mean everything to a team’s success, the hype surrounding the sports’ superstars has gotten way out of hand but aside from the unbelievable wealth they are paid, there’s another element present that really turns the sport into something of a farce. Widely reported in the 2010 off season is the extent to which star players playing buddy/buddy with each other have been attempting to assemble agreements and strategies to attempt to get signed together on a team they mutually agree would fit their interests. Is this not collusion?

College hoops has it all over the pros. That more teams make the playoffs than go home makes the regular season meaningless. The games are too long. The college game with two 20 minute halves is fast-paced and exciting while many pro games are meaningless until the fourth quarter. The athletes are so big, strong, and skillful, the court seems too small and the hoops too low to see the game truly develop. For that, how about watching NCAA women’s basketball?

There are also cultural elements that stink up the NBA. The marketing exploitation where team jackets, player jerseys, and special shoes sell for fortunes but are pitched at young black kids many of whom live in relatively poor families encourages all kinds of horrors among the kids who are often beat up even shot by thugs who want the gear. Players are also getting way too involved in the glorification of some negative aspects of the “street” culture. True, many players, including Mr. James, engage in activities to help kids, they need to develop more of a big picture perspective and use the game as a source of inspiration with good roll models who encourage kids to do good things not just to be the baddest of the bad. Do they come any worse than Kobe Bryant?

Tomorrow, the world will know where LeBron James will play. Other free agent signings will fall like dominos. Games start in October and mean nothing until late April when the playoffs begin and continue for two months. Ho-hum!!!

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