Cheer Up, Comissioner Stern: Bright Days Ahead in the NBA

Zander FreundSenior Writer IOctober 30, 2007

Dear Commissioner Stern,

After reading your diary and seeing how upset you were about the upcoming season, I figured I would write you a response to try to cheer you up.

Let me start out by saying this, David:

I realize that your job isn't easy, and that last season was surely one you'd like to forget.

You're right—watching corporal punishment probably would have been more interesting than last year's NBA Finals.

The Eastern Conference continues to get crappier by the day, and the Tim Donaghy fiasco has caused Americans to lose the last shred of respect they had for your league.

But there's still a lot to be happy about.

For starters, the East has finally fielded a squad that the entire nation can embrace—the Boston Celtics.

The Red Sox just won the World Series, and the Patriots are a lock for their fourth Super Bowl victory. Hence, the national sports spotlight is focused on Beantown.

The red carpet has been laid out for the Celts—now all they have to do is walk it.

The Celtics will be the first story east of Phoenix that NBA fans have given a rat's ass about in a very long time. The stars who comprise the team are likable characters who are driven to win—and who are willing to put their egos aside for the greater good.

If Boston can make a legitimate playoff run, the NBA will once again become a national sport. Pretty exciting, no?

Also, let's not forget about those Spurs.

Looking at it one way, San Antonio making the Finals again is the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

But at the same time, it's always possible that NBA fans will wake up to the Spurs' brilliance if they win a fifth championship against some legitimate competition.

The Spurs are boring to the common fan. They're a defense-first team that doesn't run the floor or feature flashy, exciting players who can do reverse-360 dunks.

That said, they're also a damn good team.

And maybe this is the season the fans will finally come around.

Three championships is a charm; four's a crowd. But five rings?

A hands-down dynasty—and undeniable proof of sheer and utter domination.

I'm guessing that when all is said and done, the ratings for this year's Finals will still leave a lot to be desired if San Antonio participates. Still, there's more to life than ratings—good quality basketball should count for something.

Wouldn't you like to tell your grandchildren you were running the league when Tim Duncan and the boys executed their unselfish, shut-you-down scheme for the fifth time, forever securing their place in NBA history?

Isn't it a good thing—not a bad thing—that we have such an unselfish, well-disciplined, and fundamentally sound squad to watch in a league where "Gimme the Loot" is an anthem for big-time stars? 

Last point: The '06-'07 season is history—this is a new year.

David, perhaps this year you can make a real effort to give back to the NBA what you took out of it.

Maybe you could relax the dress code as a sign of good faith to the players—it sounds trivial, but it could go a long way towards making them feel like you respect them as equals, rather than as 12-year-old schoolchildren.

A real effort to clean up the officiating, meanwhile, could get the fans back on your side.  If you can prove that the Tim Donaghy scandal was the beginning of a fairer, cleaner NBA, people will quickly forget it—and praise you for finally tackling a problem that was crippling the league for years.

Finally, there's no reason this can't be the year you finally get back to doing what your job actually entails: running a professional basketball league.

Stop worrying about promoting the NBA via cheezy ad campaigns and instead give the fans what they really want: good-old-fashioned basketball.

Put the size of the ball and your potential international audience out of mind—the fact is that there are plenty of people in the grand old U.S. of A. who tune in every week to watch their heroes stuff the rock through the hoop.

And there are plenty of stars who are willing to do that stuffing at a modest rate of $15 million per, no matter what the size of the ball. 

There's a whole lot to look forward to in the NBA this season. Best of luck, Commissioner.

Warmest Regards,

Zander Freund


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