NBA Basketball on the Decline: The "LeBron League" Just Isn't Cutting It

Jonathan Coltogirone@@jcoltogironeContributor IMarch 12, 2012

Are stars "teaming up" leading to a declining overall product?
Are stars "teaming up" leading to a declining overall product?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

This season marks the first since Allen Iverson's departure from Philadelphia.

I was a Philadelphia 76er fan, mainly because of Iverson's presence on the team.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pa., there wasn't much draw to the National Basketball Association, but I found my "in."  I loved how Iverson played the game—undersized when it came to height but had more heart than anyone on the floor.

During the past few seasons, there seems to be a lack of more than just heart in the NBA, or "LeBron League" as I like to call it.  There have always been a few things that come to question when it comes to the NBA.

The first is usually defense, or lack thereof.  The second problem deals with officiating, or again, the lack of officiating.  Both of these issues have risen to their highest point of visibility in today's game, but still aren't negatively affecting the game nearly as much as these "Big 3's" or "Lob City's" that are popping up on some NBA teams.

In response to the lack of defense argument, the game speaks for itself.  Sure, Kevin Durant can score 30 or 40 points on any given night, but have you watched the guy play defense?  While I completely understand that scoring usually means attendance, legitimate basketball fans watch some of these NBA games only finding themselves picking out more defensive lapses than great offensive plays.

Officiating has contributed to the lack of defense in that that officials seem to lean farther in the offense's favor.  Players travel with the basketball, carry the ball and move their pivot foot almost at will with no calls being made.

LeBron James can get a running start from 30 feet away from the hoop, draw a foul on the perimeter, take three steps and finish by dunking over an opposing player and screaming at the top of his lungs.  All of these is followed by the foul shot that comes with a counted basket after a foul is called, even if it was committed 20-plus feet away from the hoop.

Sure, the play is exciting and will probably be on someone's highlight reel, but it just isn't setting a good example for younger people that are just learning the game.  I don't want to sound like one of those grumpy people that don't want sports to be exciting, but certain aspects of the game of basketball must be upheld in order for it to keep its integrity as a sport.

When a player is fouled, get the call right.  When a player travels, make the call.  The referees were more than likely making the calls correctly at the high school and college levels often enough to advance to officiating professionals, so why not keep the trend going.  While the first problem that focuses on the lack of defense in the league is something that will be much harder to fix, the second problem with officiating is a much simpler one.

My final issue with the NBA comes with the newfound popularity of "teaming up" with other "stars" to win a championship.  I can't really blame the players for wanting to make these trades and signings happen. Everyone is starting to take part and it seems like the best way to improve a team's chances at greatness.  My problem comes with the teams that are left behind.

When LeBron James made "the decision" and Chris Bosh left Toronto for Miami, the overall quality of the league began its descent.  Both trades would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors nearly in ruin and forced them into years of "rebuilding".

While the trade greatly helped the Miami Heat chances at contending for the top spot in the league, it also forced a previous contender (Cleveland) to drop to near the bottom of the league.

As a result of the trade, two relatively successful teams (Miami and Cleveland) turned into a powerhouse and a bottom-feeder.  In my opinion, this brings down the overall competitiveness of the league.

Boston could be named as the first to take part in the whole "Big 3" trend, but those players were aging and weren't in their prime.  Miami adding James and Bosh to the roster might have brought along some exciting basketball and interesting news topics, but has caused the NBA to lose some of its league-wide quality.

The NBA seems to be a sorry shell of its once amazing form.  The days of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson have been replaced by Kobe and LeBron.  The players are still great, the games still exciting and fun to watch, but the quality just isn't there like it used to be.  Players seem to lack heart, the sense of "team" and the bond with a city that is so important in professional sports.

I'll be watching the rest of the NBA season, cringing as players move their pivot foot multiple times before dribbling and scoffing at the next media-developed headline about players texting each other about teaming up.

I don't think that these problems are making fans turn off their televisions or change the channel on NBA games, but I also think that fans are starting to take notice at some of the league-wide problems.