Dear Commissioner Stern: NBA Ain't Got Game

Thursday, 10 Jun 2010 10:25 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Memo to: NBA Commissioner David Stern

Dear Commissioner Stern:

Did you by any chance catch any of the recently concluded Stanley Cup Finals, in which the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six thrilling games? I had hardly heard of any of the players on either squad but didn't mind. The NHL championship games were so exciting, who cared about players' names, anyway?

Then there is the state of the NBA game these days.

You'd have to go far to find somebody who is a bigger hoops fan. When I was a kid, I once sneaked down to the courtside seats at Madison Square Garden — from the nosebleed section — to get a glimpse of Wilt Chamberlain, then in his final year with the Lakers. I probably didn't miss a single Knicks game that Marv Albert did during the team's golden years, way back in the last century.

My point is that I have my hoops street cred. But I must tell you, the NBA game today is a big bore. It's all about guys hoisting 3-point shots and slam-dunking with enough flair to get them featured prominently on ESPN's "SportsCenter" shows.

This is precisely what's wrong with sports in general. All the athletes seem to care about any more is being shown on highlights programs so that Madison Avenue will take notice of them. It's also why the March Madness tournament has caught on across America: Fans recognize the collegiate players' love of the game.

By contrast, the NBA is a league of stars. Who cares if most of these guys play a rather incomplete game — and don't seem to try hard until the playoffs roll around? As long as they're STARS, you must be content, right? Does anybody run plays any more? Why can't any of the players pass the ball?

I'm not one of those pathetic people who is tied to a long-forgotten past and constantly yearns for sports' good old days. But the NBA game on the court was so much more satisfying when John Havlicek moved without the ball and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the artistry of his fabled sky hook.

You lucked out again, Commissioner, when Los Angeles and Boston, rivals stretching back to the 1960s, managed to fight their way back to the NBA Finals (and, by the way, can’t you concoct a name a little more creative than just that designation? We have the Stanley Cup playoffs, the World Series, and the Super Bowl! Those are cool names, you know).

But even Kobe Bryant can’t obscure the lack of majesty in your grand game today. Can't YOU do anything to make the game more enjoyable for us purists? Maybe you can move the 3-point shot line back a few feet? Maybe you could ask the area operators, politely, to turn down the sound on the deafening public-address systems, while you're at it?

Please think of people like me when you convene your committees designed to improve the game. I love basketball and always will. I can only hope, again, to love the NBA.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.

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