By Eric Ratkowski
In case you have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, team Lebron (aka Miami Heat) won their first NBA title by defeating Oklahoma City.
The Heat were undoubtedly the better team and it was apparent from pretty early on they were not going to go down.
While most of America hangs its head in shame, I am continuing on with my life as if nothing happened.
Admittedly since the Pistons traded Chauncey Billups, I am not an avid NBA follower. I will watch a game occasionally here or there, I keep up with the draft, standings etc… but I prefer football, hockey and college basketball.
Unfortunately, fan bases don’t consist entirely of die hards.
The NBA may take a minor step back or two in the eyes of the average sports fans because of what has happened these playoffs starting with this most obvious…..
Lebron James finally got his ring and is dominant.
I hated Lebron, most of America hated Lebron, I am surprised that at the time of this post Cleveland hasn’t been reduced to rubble. A major reason people watched these NBA finals was in hopes that upstart OKC could delay him winning for a year longer. It was going to happen but dammit not this year.
Everyone wanted the memes about Lebron being ringless to continue.
However, Chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” reigned down on Lebron when he dribbled up the court, ran back on defense, shot free throws or even appeared on the jumbo tron faking cramps (He may have been hurt but damn was it overplayed). The man deserved it. He out-balled anyone and EVERYONE that stood in his way this year.
So now what?
There is no doubt that losing last year a complete shot in the gut to the Heat. They came back humbled and more determined. A part of me hates to admit this, but I do not think I hate Lebron as much as I once did (Mario Chalmers is another story) because I believe he is finally starting to get it 9 years later.
In other words, I do not hate him enough to openly root against every move he makes.
If the Heat get say a 2x NBA MVP white point guard who is at the tail-end of his career looking for a ring, they will win another title soon. Lebron is just that good, Wade (even with a declining body) still has some swagger, Bosh is starting to find his role and they have a knack for plucking players out of nowhere who fill in nicely (see Cole, Norris).
Lebron earned his first title and barring injury will probably get a few more. In reality, until he starts getting close to Jordan in terms of legacy, will people follow as closely?
People have been forced to “witness” his greatness. There has to be a period of time where “greatness” begins to pave its way towards “greatest”.
Everyone is excited for that first title, but until he reaches that level of dominance the next few (yes I said multiple) will not mean as much.
The question becomes how many people will follow the ride all they way through?
Something is fixed.
I am sorry but between the Tim Donaghy scandal, the Hornets being given the number 1 pick in this years draft, the constant no calls; I cannot watch every game and believe that the best team won.
Is it coincidence that arguably the NBA’s two most marketable teams made it to the Finals? That in order to get there they had to essentially beat the “old guard” in the Spurs and Celtics. More than likely, but those questions are popping up.
Maybe the league is squeaky clean, maybe all of my thoughts are wrong, but outside of boxing (rigged and not a damn person will convince me otherwise) I do not see this even coming into question in other leagues.
The average fan does not know the Hornets had a decent chance at winning the first overall pick nor fully grasp the concept of super star calls. If a person wants to fully embrace a team, they had better feel that the game is closer to being based on pure talent instead of being tainted WWE style with bad referees and conspiracy theories.
The officiating is awful.
A main reason people have a major problem with the NBA is the lack of clear cut officiating.
Before I hear the “He hates the Heat argument”, it should be made clear that I have no dog in this fight and that calls certainly went against the Heat as well.
I am fine with Lebron and Wade getting superstar calls, Lebron is the games best player and Wade’s pump fake is straight filthy. Durant got some as well (see game 4 foul on Shane Battier) so all is fair and love and war.
Some calls can go either way, the game is called by humans. I can live with those. What I am concerned about is the blatant no calls or the phantom calls. There is a point where “let them play” impacts the outcome of the game. O no my friends, this is not just concerning the Finals either.
I apologize that I could not find a video but while watching crunch time of game 2 between Philadelphia and Boston in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, I literally saw Andre Iguodala jump twice on one leg and hit a floater to tie the game. I could not think of a more blatant example of a travel that has to be called considering it had considerable consequence on the game. THESE are again the moments where you start to wonder.
I stopped playing basketball in fifth grade but I have a basic enough knowledge to know that jumping on one leg with the ball is more than likely illegal.
Baseball, football and hockey all have moments where calls are called wrong. However, in most of those cases the plays can be reviewed.
Basketball has its use of instant replay, but its so miniscule that I am not entirely sure what the rules on it are.
For example, if the refs has an opportunity to review the Derek Fisher Game 5 flagrant, they probably would have realized that Fisher was protecting himself from the human freight train that is Lebron James. If Fisher just takes that charge, he is probably dead. On second thought, maybe they wouldn’t because half the refs have no idea what they are doing.
For David Stern to fully endorse the refs is ludicrous. I understand that their is a great influx of younger refs due to many retiring and others being close to retirement so things may not be perfect. However that is no excuse for the refs not performing adequately.
Take what Roger Goddell is doing with the referee’s of the NFL as a comparison. The NFL’s contract with its officials is coming to an end soon.
Outside of Ed Hochuli’s massive arms being their normal glorious selves, the quality of officiating was below-average this past year (still miles ahead of the NBA).
Instead of backing down and throwing support behind the refs, the NFL refuses to meet the refs demands on a new contract and is beginning to train replacement refs.
In other words, “get your stuff together and you will be able to keep your jobs”.
The NBA blatantly does not have the manhood to do anything like that.
However, there is room for improvement in the NBA. The league has all the star power in the world to be great, but a few minor changes need to be made.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE:
David Stern needs to step down.
A majority of the reason the NBA has no fortitude is that I don’t think Stern is with it anymore. Between him completely botching the Lakers and Hornets trade, all of the conspiracy theories and whatever the hell he was thinking when talking to Jim Rome he has definitely lost a step.
Don’t get me wrong, Stern has done a massive amount for the game of basketball. He has expanded it across the world in ways no one would have deemed possible.
However, he seems to have lost his touch.
By Dan Hauser of dailyshootout.com
“Hopefully this whole situation with Jim Rome will not be a black eye for what has been a great career for the commissioner, but if he continues this “angry old man” act this might not even be the worst thing to happen before he steps down.”
There is a possibility that everything that has been deemed rigged has no credibility, but the idea that those curious about the integrity of the NBA is more than a vocal minority is terrifying. The integrity of a league should NEVER come into question barring crazy circumstances that no one could predict.
(Update: Stern plans on stepping down in 2014. Still believe he should step down sooner)
The Drama Needs To Stop
Under Stern’s watch, teams have lost a good deal of control over their players. This is partially due to owner fault as well, but players now feel that they have the ability to dictate where they want to go.
It is one thing for a player to sign in free agency with a squad. However, if a player to constantly demands a trade, then takes it back, then demands a trade again with only a certain list of teams, it gets annoying.
Just as the Brett Favre madness deafened the ears of NFL fans for a little bit, bratty stars complaining about their team will take its toll on NBA fans. Change the perception that the NBA is comprised of a bunch of spoiled stars and maybe fans will begin to embrace them as people.
If a star wants a trade, that is just peachy, fill me in when it happens instead of weeks of speculation that isn’t even close.
Create a New Villain
I need someone to hate and someone to avenge my hate. Lebron was our villain but now he has humbled himself in order to chase greatness. The guy is still an asshole, no one is going to deny that, but only those in Cleveland are going out of there way to root for him to fail at this point.
Now who is going to get me fired up about the NBA?
There has to be either some random diamond in the rough story or some villain to hate to draw interest from the average fan,
Who is the next guy we are going to harass to produce?
Kobe has his rings so nobody will say a word to him.
Carmello Anthony? Likely option but he just is not on the same level as Lebron in my opinion.
Rose/Durant? Both great stars who are due for a ring. However, fans legitimately like them and both are considerably young.
An interesting case will be Dwight Howard. He is one of those aforementioned superstars complaining about his team on a consistent basis. If he gets that trade and still cannot win, then who knows how public perception will turn.
Create a Blood Rivalry
On the other side of the coin, the nation fell in love with Oklahoma City. They will be at the top of the NBA for awhile and more than likely win a title. However, no one on that team seems capable of hate.
The NBA needs a Bird’s Celtics/ Magic’s Lakers, early Jordan’s Bulls/ Isiah’s Pistons type rivalry.
To me James’s Heat / Durant’s Thunder just doesn’t get my blood boiling.
The Celtics and Spurs are close to the end, possibly the Rose lead Bulls could be that team.
Well ladies and gentleman, here is a prayer that the Cleveland Cavaliers develop some hall of famers and make this interesting, otherwise we may be in for a pretty dry run.