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Monday, May 10, 2004

More on the NBA and Early Entry: My recent post concerning the decline in television ratings and the possible tie with younger players drew considerable talk in the Comments section. For those of you that might have missed them, here are some excerpts.

David makes a great point about the pampering of basketball players, almost from birth:

    Elite basketball players, like most elite athletes, are pampered and told they are the best. They are frequently much better than everyone else who they play, and there is no need to work on fundamental basketball skills, such as passing, since the success of the team is directly related to how much that athlete handles the ball. Basketball is also the only sport (of the Big Three) where one player can, and is encouraged, to do everything.

Mike points to other evidence, namely the amount Lebron James has helped the Cavaliers ratings and attendance and suggests the low numbers could be due to being in the first round of the play-offs:

    [W]hat would the ratings have been if Lebron and the Cavs had made the playoffs instead of the Celtics? I suspect a Lebron-Pacers matchup would have done MUCH better than did the Celtics-Pacers fiacso. Going on that, maybe we should deduce that the NBA would be better off if MORE high school kids skipped college.

In response to that, I say that Lebron James is most definitely the exception, and not the rule. He is a phenomenal athlete that has been nothing but good for the league, but his season, combined with Carmelo Anthony's, may just be a flash-in-the-pan, not a sign of things to come. In any case, just because he is enjoyable to watch does not mean that the game he plays in is that enjoyable. Let's see how the ratings do in the next two years when a lot of the hype wears off. As for the first round argument, the games lost to regular season baseball games. Not even special ones, just plain-old regular season games. Maybe that is an argument for losing the first round of the NBA play-offs, but I think it definitely says something.

Finally, Chris thinks perhaps the problem is only skin-deep:

    I'll throw this out there: There's nothing in the NBA that can't be solved by another white star.

    Simplistic? Perhaps. But it's tough to ignore the fact that in the 1970s, the perception of the NBA wasn't much different than it is right now, with the picture of self-absorbed players who don't play hard -- high school guys or not. Once the league stopped placing limits on black players on their rosters (and especially after the merger with the ABA), the league reached the point where it was too black.

    Suddenly, Larry Bird shows up and while Magic and Jordan play a large role, the NBA has white guy among the top two or three players in the league. And it's even better that he leads his team to the NBA Finals five times in his first eight years, including three titles.

    Not coincidentally, the NBA could do no wrong. Not even one of the most catastrophic draft classes of all time, 1986. Not even the carping about the lack of defense in the league.

I think that the problem is more than race -- the league did pretty good with a guy named Michael, but race does factor into this picture. Chris has much more, which can be read here.

Finally, Michael Wilbon has a fantastic read on how dreams of the NBA has the potential to ruin many a young life.


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