Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mor(e)on the NBA

In a press availability quoted the other day, LeBron James said that he thought the NBA was better in the '80's, when there were 10 teams with two or three All-Stars each, and implied that contraction back toward the 24 teams of that era (from today's 30) would be healthy for the league.

With all due respect to the King, that's a bunch of baloney. The '80's NBA was full of bad teams--many of them (Kings, Clippers, Cavaliers) are the same that are bad now. If there was such parity, why was it Celtics-Lakers every year in the championship?

On the other hand, this season is shaping to be a Golden Era-type season with at least a half-dozen teams of true championship caliber.* There will be fantastic Conference finals, even some great Conference semifinals, not just a good Finals matchup.

Then, it will all be screwed up--and I blame the owners, as usual. They caused the problem with excessively generous contracts to second-tier players; now they want to dump their problem on everyone else: the fans, the players, I'm sure they'll blame the networks, the ball and sneaker manufacturers. The answer to their problems, though, is not a work stoppage and contraction, but better marketing and expansion--of their minds.

There are certainly bad, money-losing franchises, but I can't think of any bad NBA cities--places which don't turn out committed fans for good teams. I'd say move the Clippers and Nets to South America and Europe, respectively--let them play a few "home" games in their old cities (ones that already have successful franchises, so they won't lose so much), and watch the merchandise money flow in as never before. Asia and Australia would make sense, too, in an expansion--not contraction--to 32 teams (which would work better, as the NFL has shown). There's plenty of top-quality talent in the world to fill out that number of teams. Oh, and change the name to the "WBA".

*The obvious ones are Miami, Boston, and (post-blockbuster trade) Orlando in the East, along with the Lakers, the perennially contending Spurs, and the Mavericks (Dirk and Co. looking better than ever this year). One should also include in the mix the rising Chicago Bulls, the Utah Jazz, and Oklahoma City Thunder, and there are a couple of other dark horse challengers (Phoenix, New Orleans, Denver, and the surprising New York Knicks).

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