The State of the NBA and Our Perception of It
I am so conflicted about today’s NBA. I can see how the larger public perception of the league frustrates the avid fan. Why? Because I don’t know that the NBA has actually ever been better…I don’t know that it’s ever actually been more popular, either. But, at the same time, I’m just as guilty as anyone of saying, “meh – I’ll tune in in June when it’s Cavs-Warriors again.” Still, the people who aren’t watching the NBA aren’t even saying it’s only about the level of competition.
I don’t really know why – and I don’t really know what to actually think of it all myself. And, I should clarify – I’m talking about the perspective from your everyday sports fan, sitting on a bar stool, talking trash about how awful the NBA has gotten (can you tell this post was inspired by meeting a casual sports fan at a bar and said person not shutting up about the NBA?). So, let’s think this through together here today, folks.
How did we get here?
What is hurting the NBA?
For starters, I think the average fan was turned off by the idea that owners were buying championships utilizing “super teams” and “big threes.” The first time I remember hearing the term “big three” was back when the Boston Celtics managed to get Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce on the same squad. That was a damn good team that won the NBA title in 2008, and lost in the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010.
But, it was probably the Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade-led Miami Heat that really sent the super team sentiment over the edge. People said it wasn’t fair, and that the championships wouldn’t mean as much as earning it the hard way.
And, look – I’m a big LeBron fan, but even I have to admit it. The round the clock coverage of the guy is too much. But, not only is every breath about the tired ‘Jordan vs. LeBron’ debate – it’s every little move this guy makes, every social media post, any time he’s in the gym, whatever! That night, it’s going to be on SportsCenter.
That creates a certain fatigue and resentment that no other NBA player has to face. It’s a large part of the reason I don’t really watch ESPN anymore unless there’s an actual game on. It’s just a bunch of nonsense and hot takes. So, hell – maybe that’s why I’m still a LeBron fan and not bitching about him the way some of y’all are. Shit.
At least in my experience, those seem to be the big things that hinder the casual fan’s enjoyment of the NBA – the perceived era of the super-team and the Jordan vs. LeBron debate. But, there’s so much good about today’s NBA that these people aren’t seeing because they’re tuning it out.
What is helping the NBA?
Well, for starts, this Golden State Warriors dynasty, like them or not, is one of the greatest basketball dynasties of all time. I’ll admit – they aren’t exactly a likable bunch. I don’t actively root for Draymond Green and Steph Curry. But, I’m also not going to sit there and disrespect their talent and skill. I like greatness. I like watching the New England Patriots, and I can appreciate what the Warriors have done. That’s also why I like watching James – dude’s the G.O.A.T. in my book, so the theatrics write themselves.
But, guess what – aside from the Kevin Durant signing, this Warriors team was built through the draft! This isn’t even a super team! Y’all are all getting upset over these super teams, and they aren’t even WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS. Hell, even the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t a super team! It’s been five years since the last super team actually won a championship. That would be the 2014 Miami Heat.
But, it’s not just the all-time greatness of some of today’s teams and players, the NBA has done a masterful job of making the NBA a year-round affair. This offseason and draft was can’t-miss television. I don’t watch it, but they blast the Summer League all summer, too.
They’ve made great strides in making the NBA a global game. You can unequivocally say you’re watching the best in the world when you’re watching the NBA. Players from all over the world come to compete in the United States, and the whole damn league is much more competitive than you think. Sure, maybe if you’re looking at it from 1-30, there’s going to be a huge discrepancy between #1 and #30. But, for the most part, there’s not a whole lot that separates #1-#5. Look at how the Cavs struggled with the Indiana Pacers and how it took seven games for the Warriors to upend the Houston Rockets. Just because it’s been Cavs-Warriors for four straight years doesn’t mean that the NBA is boring.
Plus, they’ve made Christmas Day one of the best sports days of the calendar year. How can you not enjoy some marquee match-ups with the fam on a holiday?
What’s the reality?
The reality is that the NBA is actually pretty good in 2018. This isn’t my take, but I’m going to borrow it from Jason Martin, host of The Big Six on 104.5 the Zone here in Nashville. It’s okay if the NBA is not your thing…but don’t sit there and say it’s not good. You can’t say it’s not competitive and then spend five months of your life watching college football.
Don’t say, “it ain’t like it used to be,” because no sport is what it was 20 years ago.
Don’t say, “I’m tired of the LeBron coverage,” but then keep your TV set on ESPN 24/7.
The NBA is good, and it’s going to be good for a long time. I’m glad we made that conclusion here today.
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley