Last night's NBA draft has already precipitated copious debates about reaches, draft grades and the draftees' suits. There is one thing, however, that we can all agree on: the NBA draft is terrible television, combining the excitement of Antiques Roadshow with the dynamic banter of Meet the Press. Despite being an NBA fan, if you gave me the choice between watching the draft and a three-hour Perfect Strangers marathon, I would do Balki's dance of joy, and choose the latter.
Here are a few easy ways to improve the NBA draft for the television audience.
Give the players theme songs.
The NBA should steal a page from the WWE playbook and blast music through the venue when a player is selected. This would add a little swagger to the show, and, with a little luck, could lead to sing-alongs in the live audience. The key here is to prohibit the players from having any input about their entrance music. Just imagine Anthony Davis walking up to the podium in his New Orleans Hornets cap to the chorus of "Call Me Maybe" or resurrecting Jared Sullinger's "Party in the USA" viral video as he joins the Celtics. For NBA Commissioner David Stern? The Darth Vader theme seems appropriate. While we are on the subject....
David Stern has got to go.
Say what you want about Roger Goodell, but he at least appears to enjoy himself during the NFL draft. Conversely, David Stern reads draft picks like he is describing an embarrassing medical problem to a doctor. His delivery last night was so lifeless, I expected him to nod off after the third pick. Give me someone with some personality, some pizazz. Give me Vince Vaughn. Give me Will Ferrell. Give me a piece of plywood with a face painted on it. Give me anyone but David Stern.
The caps are not enough.
The NBA has a ritual of giving each player a cap of the team that selects him. The NFL takes this a step further by giving the players a cap and a jersey. I say we up the ante, and do something a bit riskier. The NBA should put up the money to have each player tattooed with the logo of the team that drafts him.
NBA players love tattoos, even bad tattoos (See: Martin, Kenyon), and what better way to welcome a college player to the professional ranks than some ink he will one day come to regret? Picture the drama of Tyler Zeller with half of a blue and white Dallas Mavericks horse on his arm as he learns he has been sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Not only would the "tattoo rule" add some human drama to a bland program, but it would be a boon to the struggling body art industry (Hey, the economy affects everyone), and it would teach the young viewing audience an important lesson about the negative consequences of getting inked up.
The NBA draft does not need to be on television. If the Association and ESPN insist on airing it, they should have the decency to make it more captivating than a C-SPAN broadcast of a Commerce Committee meeting. These three steps are a good start.