Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dark Days Ahead

The NBA can’t afford this.  Not now.  Not after it just worked so hard to bounce back and build itself back up from the last one of these so-called labor stoppages.  The League has just begun to get itself back to a point of prominence after a decade plus of digging itself out of a ditch. 

The last NBA season that was subject to lockout, 1998-1999, was detrimental to the League in a number of ways.  Not only was it the first in the post MJ era, which was difficult enough to endure, as it eliminated a lot of general enthusiasm surrounding the League,  but then there was the stigma associated with the strike.  Salary complaints by perceivably over-paid athletes worked to sour fans, as did the sloppy play resulting from the shortened season.  These stains on the League’s logo took several seasons to wash away, as the NBA struggled for ratings and star power, seemingly waiting for the next generation’s Jordan to swoop in and save the sinking Association. 

The NBA mulled about in perceived mediocrity for much of the beginning of the new millennium, still recuperating from the retirement of MJ, along with the loss of half a regular season.   The League wasn’t in shambles, but it certainly wasn’t setting the world on fire either; that is until a new infusion of talent began to take over. 

It is fair to state that the NBA’s recent resurgence, led by a plethora of exciting superstars, began with the selection of LeBron James in the 2003 draft.  The buzz that LeBron had built, prior to playing one professional game, was unparalleled, and sparked a new-found interest in the sport for many.  While LeBron may have been the premier, he is far from the only personable young player that has helped pushed the League back up the popularity ladder.  A quick survey of the League’s landscape shows that it is teeming with talent; a trend that fans seem to have taken note of as of late, evidenced by increasing interest and raised television ratings. 

LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Dirk, Kobe, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Amare Stoudemire, and the list goes on.  These are all young (except for Kobe and Dirk, both over 30), exceptional players that people are excited to see, and the League should be taking advantage of this surplus of stars, not shutting its doors. 

With the pool of superstar talent as deep as its been in decades, saying its a shame to shut down is an understatement, especially after such an exciting and successful season. While the NBA has certainly been climbing up the popularity pedestal, a sustained stoppage would have the opposite effect, and much like last time, the results could have a devastating impact on the direction of the League.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kobe Takes Turkey?

If I were part of the Lakers’ brass or a member of Kobe Bryant’s camp, I would not be too excited about the star’s seemingly increasing interest in taking his talents to Turkey.  Although I understand the drive and desire not to miss extended time that could be spent on a competitive court, especially towards the twilight of such a storied career, for a battled and banged-up Bryant, my top recommendation would be rest.  For a man who has logged more than 40,000 minutes of regular season basketball over the past thirteen seasons, not to mention the plethora of deep playoff runs (7 Finals), and Olympic appearances, it seems as though he should be embracing the NBA-imposed break from action. 

This lockout allows players such as Bryant who have been balling throughout the calendar, year after year, a legitimate time to rest and recuperate without missing any actual action or being antagonized.

Of course Kobe wants to continue to play and stay in prime performing condition, but that can be accomplished without shipping himself overseas for a season, risking further damage and deterioration to his aging frame, which he will be looking to maximize in his coming closing seasons.  He could hit the gym hard, fine tune/tinker with his game without worrying about the wear-and-tear of the regular season grind; sounds pretty ideal for an aging superstar trying to remain atop the game.

Since money isn’t an issue for the star, I’m perplexed as to why his people aren’t pushing him to stay stateside during the stoppage, as the influx of income appears to be the only possible perk for someone of Kobe’s stature.  Unlike many of his younger peers who have far fewer miles on their NBA odometers, and are much less distinguished and accomplished worldwide, for whom such a trip overseas might make a lot of sense, it does not seem that Kobe has much to gain/prove/accomplish by taking a trip to Turkey.  It’s not like he needs a Turkish Title to solidify his career, nor does he need the small-scale contract to sustain him until the NBA reopens its doors. 

Kobe has obviously earned the right to control any sort of career decision, and it is certain that he will approach any endeavor with the same excellence and precision that has gotten him to this point; that is not to be disputed.  The decision to jump onto a Turkish team and jeopardize the conclusion of one of the NBA’s most memorable and successful careers however, is up for debate.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

“Sports are one of the great metaphors for life, and watching athletes perform is like watching different ideas about life playing themselves out.  Athletes aren’t just fascinating for their physical skills, but for what their performances tell us about human potential and character.” – Shawn Carter, Decoded (140)