The Problem With the NBA

I have been a basketball fan since I was a young child in the mid 1960’s. This past 2016/17 season was the first time in all the years that I basically did not watch one full game.

To begin with, what was the point of watching, anyone who knows anything about the NBA knew that the two teams in the NBA finals would be Cleveland and Golden State. Cleveland with their hometown star, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, along with some of Lebron’s (the defacto coach and gm of the team) hand picked buddies including Tristan Thompson, was the clear pick in the East. By the way, Thompson, who was signed to an $82 million contract at the insistence of Lebron, can’t throw the ball into the ocean from more than five feet away.

The Golden State deal is even more ridiculous. Kevin Durant choked up a lung in the 2015/16 playoffs, during which his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, had a 3-1 lead against Golden State but they blew the series in large part due to Durant’s pathetic performance. So what does he do? He joins a team that already set an all time NBA record by winning 73 games, so he could finally win an NBA title, which subsequently he did. After working a long day during the season, I would turn on the late NBA game and lo and behold Golden State would be up by 30 points at halftime with Steph Curry shooting 35 footers, playing with his dangling mouthpiece like a ten year old, shimmying down the court after swishing another bomb. Click, I’d check to see if there was a good old movie on, maybe A Few Good Men or Good Will Hunting, certainly more enjoyable watching them for the 20th time than another Golden State runaway.

The quality of the basketball itself is hideous. Set a pick at the top of the key, let your point guard, be it 5’7″ Isaiah Thomas or 6’9″ Lebron, penetrate and either shoot or pass to someone 30 feet away from the basket who chucks up another 3 pointer. The brilliant Ivy League sabermatricians realized a team is better off shooting 35% from behind the three point line as opposed to shooting 48% from two so bombs away. The mid range jumper has virtually disappeared, the big man post game is a thing of the past, and with the elimination of hand checking, defense itself has disappeared.

This style of basketball is being played at all levels, college, high school and even grade school. Back in the day it was emulating Earl the Pearl spinning to the hoop, or watching the Big O, Oscar Robertson or Walt Clyde Frazier backing down their opponents for another classic 15 foot jumper. Today when I watch grade school kids on the playground, all they do is shoot the ball from as far out as they can manage.

So what can a longtime basketball fan do? Firstly, he can hope that as sports styles are cyclical, at some point basketball will bring back some of the classic skills and strategies that made the sport great. A first move in this regard would be to move the 3 point line back 5 feet so maybe the shooting percentages fall to a point where the two pointer comes back into play. Secondly, he can watch football through January, as there seems to be a game on virtually every night, and then pray for pitchers and catchers to hit the baseball fields in Florida and Arizona. The second option seems like the better choice.

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