A League Of Superstars
The conference finals are over and it is time to crown a champion. In all the hype that surrounds these NBA playoffs, there is one major similarity in all of the stories that I read.
Dwight Howard has surprised everyone by leading his Orlando Magic past the Chosen One, LeBron James. Kobe Bryant has another chance at adding a ring without the help of Shaq.
The NBA thrives so much on the talent of individual players to create revenue, that matchups are relegated to simple battles between individuals. Like LeBron vs. Kobe, which the media has been praying for.
Yes, these stories have translated into great ratings for TNT and ESPN. But, they continue a trend in the NBA that originated from the early days of the league.
The NBA has always put emphasis on the individual player, starting with George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers in the 60's. Every league has it's stars, but no league pushes the image of these stars like the NBA.
Kobe and LeBron are the faces of the league and probably will continue to be for the better part of the next decade. They each have their own contingent of fans that is bigger than any team in the league.
A battle between the two has been promoted through commercials during the playoffs, the NBA hoped the Finals would turn out to be the actual showdown.
The series that would inevitably be ratings gold, was not in the cards. Now the NBA has another young superstar to promote, Dwight Howard. The man who won the dunk contest because he wore a cape and had the biggest name in the contest a year ago.
This individualistic world that is the NBA sells tickets and creates ratings, but it also takes something away from the game. Fans only see a portion of what happens in this great sport when their attention is focused on the star players.
The focus on the individual is the reason the NBA struggles to gain respect from sports fans that often regard college basketball as a better game.
The post-Jordan and pre-LeBron era was marked by a search for the next great player that could carry the weight of the league on his shoulders.
With no superstar that combined the talent and personality to be the figure to lead the league, the success of the NBA faltered with the lack of the next Jordan.
When the face of the league is a few, or even only one player, than it will be less stable than one focused on the actual level of play of the league as a whole.
The NFL is now the most popular league in America, and it has reached popularity because of the overall athleticism and level of play on the field.
The college game is about the Cinderella teams like George Mason, Davidson, and Gonzaga. It's about great matchups between two teams that are loaded with talent.
It's about hoping your schools pieces come together at the right time. This is what the NBA is missing.
In NCAA basketball it is rare to see a Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant; an individual that shines much brighter than the team. But this is not about college vs. pros, it is about the individual vs. the team dynamic of the game.
Basketball is one of the few team sports that can be dominated so thoroughly by an individual that the game can transform into a battle between individual talents.
The beauty in last summers Olympic gold medal winning team was how all of the individual egos were forgotten in order to win.
The biggest stars in the world played as a team to bring respect back to USA. They did not play the individualistic style that is so prevalent on the courts of NBA arenas, they played as a team united.
So as you watch Game 1 between the Magic and Lakers, try to take your eyes off of Kobe for just a second to watch the rest of the game. Don't just marvel at his amazing athletic ability, watch how he leads the Lakers triangle offense.
Watch how the Magic make up for the fact that they will likely play without their point guard and how they work Dwight Howard into the game plan.
It is a more interesting game when you realise that there is more to it than simply which team's star player scores more.
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