A few days ago I got this e-mail from my longtime friend, fellow basketball enthusiast, sometime contributor to the HNIC Report and co-founder of Peace Players International, Sean Tuohey
You were one of the first writers to break the Occupy Wall Street story and you have an obvious affinity for the game of basketball. I was hoping you might help us make sense of the connection between the current populist protest sweeping the globe and the sad state that is the NBA. The fact that NBA owners have mismanaged their business and are expecting the players and the fans to bail them out, seems so ironic. Could we fans somehow wrestle control of the league away from the owners and away from the NBA itself and create something new? I’m just one of many Americans who loves basketball but I cant stand watching the NBA and I want to do something about it. Any suggestions?
Quick story– June 2010. The bar was crowded. On the flat screens above my head the two most storied franchises in the NBA history – the Lakers and Celtics – were playing a pivotal Game 5. I was riveted. It was my childhood all over again. But as I glanced around the bar for someone to share the drama with I noticed something: hardly anyone else was paying attention. Puzzled, I nudged a friend who was standing nearby chatting up a law school student.
“You watching this?”
“How much time is left?” he asked.
I chafed at the question. “Like ten minutes.”
“Lemme know when there’s three.” And with that he turned back to his conversation.
Nevermind, except this same friend is an NBA player agent.
Lets face it, the NBA has become a bore. But this makes no sense to me because the league has the greatest basketball players in the world. Yet the product put forth on a nightly basis is almost unwatchable until those last seemingly manufactured minutes when timeouts stretch the game forever. Stoppages of play have killed the continuity of the game and subdued the story line.
What if somehow we fans put a business plan together for the players, sparking a huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and create a new market for the game to thrive. Amare Stoudamire hinted last week that the players would be behind it.
Imagine a 50 game season with 20 teams, all of them stacked with only the best players. Imagine if guys who only compete during a contract year, or who’ve been hanging around well past their shelf life, or whose pro career should’ve ended in college were gone. Imagine if all of the faux franchises that will never turn a profit because their fans just don’t care enough were bought out and their best players redistributed to the remaining teams. Imagine if the players played hard every night and games counted as much as they cost for the average fan to go and watch.
All it would take is a little subtraction. Lets eliminate a third of the teams, cut at least half the season and condense the time it takes to play one game. It’s simple economics, really. By shrinking the model, you make it more desirable for both the players and the fans.
When Dr. J said, “we are all just care takers of the game,” he was calling everyone who has every fallen in love with basketball to duty. We must nurture the growth of the game and protect it for the good of future generations. The NBA has proven incapable of putting forward a product that we fans want to see and pay for. They have poisoned the game for petty profits in the name of corporate greed. It only makes sense that the sports we love to watch and play transform as society tries to right itself. The revolution is upon us. What can one person do?
Read Part II (AKA my response) here