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There was a time, when as a young boy, my ultimate dream in life was to become a professional athlete in the NBA.
Now, as a 5’ 11” man who can barely heave the ball to the rim from the three-point line, I see the reality of that dream pretty clearly.
Yet, there was a time when I shot hoops outside every day of the week on a rusted and bent, slightly shortened, makeshift goal (our backboard was made with painted red plywood). The goal was low enough for me to dunk like my hero at the time, Eddie Jones (the Temple Owl turned NBA All-star), or, if I was feeling lucky, I shot the ball from the far end of the yard. Rain or shine, even in the snow and ice, my buddies and myself (but mostly just me) would bounce the leather ball for hours on end with the fantastical dream of making it to the grand stage of the NBA.
It was an innocent time. A time when you thought you could be like the heroes of the game: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Years later, I can think on that time and smile about it.
The NBA meant something important then. It was the place where the truly spectacular electrified audiences and a dunk made your heart race. Where Dr. J danced above the air with angelic grace and when dunk contests were passionate battles between Dominique Wilkens and Michael Jordan. Where Clyde “The Glide” Drexler rose above the rim, and a little guy named Spud Webb made us all believe a little more in dedication, drive and commitment. It was the hallmark of the brand.
I remember begging my parents to get the newspaper each day so that I could read the sports page and study the box scores of the previous night’s games. I know I was a nut, but I loved the game. The funny thing is, I can guarantee I was not the only kid so immediately caught up in the enigma of the game. It’s what the NBA meant to us kids.
Now, as a man now who still loves the game of basketball like no other, the passage of time has opened my eyes to the definitive nature of the NBA’s brand. I can now say unequivocally:
“NBA...please just go away.”
Now, in the fourth month of a belabored lockout that hinges on collective bargaining agreement issues (such as: player and owner salaries, salary cap and overall revenues for teams), the greed and arrogance of the NBA has been on full display. I’ll be the first to admit, the brand of the NBA has turned me off. And should it come back any time soon, I certainly won’t be tuning in.
As it is these days, the NBA is in dire need of rebranding and, if significant rebranding changes do not happen soon, die hard basketball fans, like myself, will just have to find their joy somewhere else (and truth be told, most of us have found that basketball joy in watching the college game).
So, I ask both the NBA owners and players, when is enough, enough?
The first problem is that thugs represent the NBA brand. Some are even criminals who feel they are beyond the law. The NBA has become a place where players physically attack spectators, brawl with each other and yell out derogatory comments on court and stand trial for an assortment of convictions.
But what bothers me the most is the inherent greed of both players and owners.
This lockout, in particular, is insidious. It is represented by adults acting as children, bickering over millions of millions of dollars — as if these athletes have earned the privilege to act as demigods. As it stands now, the owners are complaining that the NBA is a broken system and are complaining that, according to their books, they are losing millions.
In response, the players think the NBA system is fine and that the owners waste money on, as the elite players see it, the bad players of the game. Truth is, money is massively wasted on all players.
In a world where Kobe Bryant makes $25 million a year to put a ball into a hoop, when do we finally put our foot down and demand a change? Sadly, with the lockout in full force, the real people who are suffering are those stadium employees who are suddenly out of work due to the petty bickering of the “higher ups.”
It is time for the reset and rebranding buttons to be hit for the NBA.
Maybe people are finally tiring of the NBA. Around the same time that the NBA lockout occurred, the NFL (a much stronger sporting brand) also was having its own lockout. The difference? The NFL’s lockout was plastered all over ESPN’s SportsCenter. People really cared about their football. Why? Because the brand of the NFL still represents heroism.
But where is all of the “to do” about the NBA’s lockout in the media? Take a look at EPSN.com and there is not even an article mentioning the lockout of the NBA on the main page.
You see, maybe even the sporting world (even if they have a hard time admitting it) does not even care about the NBA. When your brand is built on sniveling, whining, spoiled and arrogant babies, who, at the end of the day, really cares or wants to care about you? Even more, who would want to be these players? I remember wishing to be Michael Jordan jumping from the free throw line to dunk. Is that same feeling alive today?
At the end of the day, it all is very sorrowful. Why? Because in the heart of those adults who now couldn't care less about the NBA is a little child once had a youthful dream to be a part of it and to be like their heroes. Until the NBA brand can again embrace that magic, it will continue to fall by the wayside, wallowing in its own avarice.