Thursday, July 8, 2010

Off-Topic: The Next Step in the Downfall of Basketball Integrity- Lebronification 2010

Full disclosure: I think the NBA blows for the most part. I think it's blown ever since the 90s when Jordan retired. The funny part about it is that it doesn't blow because of the talent or skill of the players. Guys like Kobe, Lebron, and Wade are just as talented as some of the heroes of NBA lore. No, the reason the NBA blows now is two-fold: 1) Because of 24 hour media and NBA analysis, and 2) because of the door that MJ opened when he achieved mega-stardom. However, neither factor carries the sole brunt of ruining the NBA, they achieved it through a symbiotic relationship, one feeding off the other.

But it really all started with Jordan, because Jordan was the first basketball player to turn himself into a brand name. There were great players during the 80s and 90s, but none harnessed the power of marketing the way Jordan did. Everyone had to have the shoes. Everyone had to have Nike stuff. Every chump playing pick-up ball decided that donning the sweat band on the elbow suddenly made him a lights-out scoring champion. Jordan was an icon the likes of which had never been seen, and he made just a ton of money off of it, so much so that his contract with the Bulls was spending cash in comparison to what he made in marketing.

Jordan truly was the first mega-star. Everyone all over the world knew who he was and knew the Jordan brand name. Jordan was also a "jerk", to use a polite phrase. But no one cared, because he was an incredible basketball player. In all fairness to Jordan, he was also a great TEAM basketball player and a great TEAM defender. The reason Jordan was so tremendous is that he truly, above all else, cared about winning championships; and he knew he couldn't do it alone.

Unfortunately, Jordan's success and mega-star status also was the beginning of the end for integrity in basketball. It's not all Jordan's fault, guys like Allen Iverson had a lot to do with it too. Younger generations of players remember only one thing of Air Jordan, the brand name and the dollar signs. Winning is nice because it brings with it marketability and more dollar signs. But in the end, it's no longer about having integrity or winning as a team. Those concepts have become "boring". As one friend of mine noted in an argument, "If the NBA was full of Tim Duncan's, then everyone's 'desire' for loyalty and humility would, I guess, be fulfilled. And no-one would watch." This statement hits the nail on the head. The quest to have a brand has destroyed basketball as we know it. We now have to have our professional wrestling and basketball served to us on the same platter. Jordan opened a Pandora's box from which we can never return.

Nowhere is it more evident than in the putrid garbage that the LeBron James camp has put together for tonight, which undoubtedly will be watched by millions of consenting viewers who are satisfied solely with being entertained and won't look at the big picture to see how awful this is for young athletes everywhere. For every John Calipari who lauds the move, there are a 1000 other coaches rolling their eyes at what's become of their sport. Forget humility, forget team play, forget the notion of an American role model: this LeBronathon is nothing more than a self back-patting for a guy who has a massive insecurity about others telling him he can't win the big one. It's a quest to become the "King" of marketing, and not the "King" of basketball. And sadly enough, the 24-hour news cycle and ESPN's thirst for ratings is more than happy to oblige the self-proclaimed "King."

This is what basketball has become. The cancerous reach of mega-stardom has seeped all the way through college to the high school ranks. Now you have coaches saying that 5 NBA draft picks in the first round is the greatest moment in the winningest program in college basketball's history, despite the fact that the team couldn't make it past the Elite 8. Now you have high school players telling coaches not to call them, that they'll call you. This isn't a knock against Kentucky, because in all fairness, I didn't hate Kentucky until they got in bed with a slimeball like Calipari. This is a knock on O.J Mayo, who truly epitomizes the next generation of selfish money seekers. And yet the American public is content to just let it slide because after all, it's great drama.

There are exceptions: Kevin Durant could be one of them. Rather than creating a 12-hour docudrama about his new deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he instead sent just a humble tweet to announce that he had signed a new deal. The fact that this is a breath of fresh air is sad all in itself.

I only hope that future players end up more like Durant, and less like LeBron. Unfortunately, that hope is likely a pipe dream.


AD said...

...the day and age when a major announcement being made via is considered "humble," acceptable, and preferable.

You're not wrong, Stanimal. Just another observation of where we are.

Alex Alm said...

This whole debacle is ridiculous. I am so sick of listening to everyone talk about Lebron. But I will be there watching at 9 pm ET. It's like a train wreck, I can't turn away...

Bobby O'Shea said...

Pat Riley screws the Knicks again

Seamus O'Toole said...

"If I hear LeBron James' name after tomorrow, I'm going on a shooting spree."

-- Lindsay Lohan's Manicurist

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more. I can not believe someone can go on national TV and just lie blatantly and repeatedly. And, why the entire bar had to shut up and watch is beyond me. LeBron is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Compared to ut football, the NBA guys are saints...

Report as on July 9

"I want to guess there was seven to 10 guys beating up this one gentleman. All the security then rushed in and were trying to break it up. My husband saw them picking up bar stools and starting to swing them. We got them out the door with security. There happened to be a friend of ours who was an off-duty police officer outside. He tried to help, and he ended up getting knocked out in the street and proceeded to be kicked while he was down on the ground in the middle of Cumberland."

Stanimal said...

Good old Da'rick Rogers. Never ceases to give us a good story.

I love how some of the media morons are defending his actions and saying that it's completely ok for him to take a large dump on Cleveland in his one-hour self-promotional special. I also love how people are hammering Dan Gilbert for sending a letter to his fan base (what's left of it). Now he probably shouldn't have sent the letter and shouldn't have used such strong language, but he has every right to be furious about the way this was handled. Sadly LeBron is REWARDED for this nonsense.

But once again, LeBron's not a bad guy for leaving Cleveland (his right, it's a business), it's for having the show at all in the first place. Just make your contract and go do what you do, play basketball. You're a ball player, not a movie star. The greats put ball first, and "global icon" second. LeBron and Maverick Carter might be the dumbest people on the face of the earth.

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