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.