Larry and I agreed that we needed something on LeBron James’ “The Decision,” the worst reality TV show ever. That responsibility fell to me. Writers block followed. I loved the Knicks and the NBA when I was a teenager. More recently I’ve described myself as a die-hard Knicks fan who was dying hard. In truth, I can’t stand the NBA and haven’t been able to for years. The league is a joke. I’d tried to write a narrative explaining how this change of heart developed, but each attempt was poorly written. Instead, I give you some of the NBA’s lowlights over the past few years:
- The Knicks are a laughingstock even though they play in the Mecca of Basketball, a city with a rich basketball tradition that is being trampled (the easy stuff first).
- The NBA, where caring happens. Also, where laugh out loud one-sided trades bring Pau Gasol to the Lakers and Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. And people think the Yankees have an unfair advantage.
- Has an MLB umpire ever gone to prison for throwing a game? Has an NFL referee ever done time for cheating fans out of a fair outcome? Well, it’s happened in the National Basketball Association.
- Despite the Tim Donaghy scandal, and a general consensus that officiating in the NBA is horrible, the league has done nothing to fix the problem.
- To make more money the NBA has made its playoffs unbearably long. The opening series is now 7 games. There can be up to 4 days between pivotal playoff games to give them the best TV slot possible. The ESPN hype machine goes into overdrive in the interim, making sure that I do not care at all what happens.
- It remains true that you only need to watch the last 2 minutes of any given game.
- You will see 9,000 free-throws and 1,100 TV timeouts during those minutes.
- Ron Artest, hero of the Lakers in game 7 of the NBA Finals, punched not one, but many fans in the stands during a game.
- Accused sex offender Kobe Bryant shot 6-24 from the field in that same game and still won Finals MVP.
- Paul Pierce was carried off the court in a Finals game in a wheelchair. He returned later that game.
- You’ll only see more dives in the Olympics and more flopping in the World Cup.
- The game televises badly. What’s with all the wide-angle shots of all 10 players? Show me the two guys playing on the ball! I own an oversized HD flatscreen for close-ups, not aerial shots!
That’s just a sampling of the many reasons I can no longer watch the NBA. The combined effect of all of this has turned the league into a sideshow to me. The players are spoiled babies. The games are more about hype than substance. The product itself is poorly televised and boring to watch.
Beneath the surface, I’d had a glimmer of hope that the NBA would redeem itself. I still love basketball, after all. LeBron James personified that hope, not because he may have signed with the Knicks, but because he was a superstar living up to the hype, doing it in his hometown, not making any mistakes.
“The Decision,” brought to you by Vitamin Water and Bing, changed all that. LeBron revealed himself to be the ultimate product of the NBA, a 24-7 marketing machine whose ego was the only thing larger than his body. Who does he think he is? What is wrong with him?
It wasn’t just that LeBron, ESPN and the NBA somehow thought it was appropriate to dedicate about 72 consecutive uninterrupted hours and counting to what was essentially a glorified job offer (in a recession, no less). That was bad. But the program itself made it worse. Fans were told this was the greatest free-agent signing ever. We were treated to gaudy images of LeBron in action. There were commercials, lots and lots of commercials. The whole thing was contrived, and bizarre.
Adding insult to injury, LeBron made the worst basketball decision possible, one that had already been leaked to boot! Instead of being a lone star in Cleveland, Chicago or New York, the NBA’s biggest star ran off the stage. He chose to be the number 2 to Dwyane Wade’s number 1. In the process, he’s made himself public enemy number 1 a bunch of places (not only are they LIGHTING HIS JERSEY ON FIRE IN CLEVELAND, which is awesome, but Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert was so enraged by LeBron’s decision that he penned an exceptionally childish and petty rant in Comic Sans of all fonts!), and tarnished his legacy forever. Also, the Heat still need a center and may not emerge from this as the best team in the East.
This, sadly, is what I’ve come to expect from the NBA. Ask yourself if this could happen in any other major American sport? It couldn’t happen in the NFL. Roger Goddell runs that league like a prison. Alex Rodriguez actually tried something similar before the 2007 World Series and it blew up in his face accordingly. But the NBA allowed this to happen, and ESPN has tried to sell as many commercials around it as possible.
I won’t know for certain until the Knicks start playing, but I think for me this was the final nail in my NBA coffin. I would have accepted any other outcome more than LeBron’s terrible TV program to announce a poor decision that had already been leaked (he looked miserable, by the way.) I’ve been losing interest in the NBA’s terrible product for years. Now, the sideshow has become too much. I think the NBA fan in me is dead.
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