I'm not much for viewing movies during their peak viewership, so in saying that, one also shouldn't be surprised to hear that I saw the movie "Semi-Pro" for the first time last night. What surprised me about the movie was although it was set back in 1976, following an ABA squad (The Flint Tropics), it had a lot of connections to the way the NBA plays today.
For instance, there is a (what I take to be) distinctive poke at the entertainment fetish that the NBA and its fans seem to have in this day and age. It was not a focus on basketball for the Flint Tropics, it was a focus on bringing people in to watch all of the sideshow types of things that went on before, during, and after the game. The character played by Woody Harrelson portrayed a Celtic player from the glory days of Red Auerbach, and it made me wonder how he would feel about the way the NBA and the game of basketball have evolved in the current (post-Jordan, but not necessarily excluding the Jordan) era of "professional" basketball.
I really enjoy watching the old clashes of the colossal heavyweights on ESPN Classic. Bird vs. Magic (God knows there were enough of those games replayed during this year's Finals), Russell vs. anyone stupid enough to get in his way, Red Auerbach coaching to an NBA record (which still stands) 9 rings.
But I don't get that same enjoyment out of today's NBA games. I admit, watching Lebron can be breathtaking at times, and Pierce versus Lebron this last year made for some incredible moments. That said, the NBA is still lacking in my opinion of the "it" factor that the great dynasties of the past possessed. There were set plays, guys would talk a big game back then too, but they could back it up, and the game flourished because of a lot more relateable characters on the court. Magic Johnson said that Larry Bird was a guy who would say he was going to score 30 on you and then proceed to drop 40 points in a game. That was the kind of basketball I wish we still had today. If we brought back the old style (similar to what Duke plays in college) with set plays and less flash (or the popular term "athleticism"), perhaps the league wouldn't be changing the dress code in a last ditch effort to retain some of its fan base.
I'm not saying that the current NBA isn't entertaining, it's definitely a way to kill a couple of hours, but I am saying that the old school ball of the dynasties in the past are still fun to watch games 30 years later. I'm sure Lebron and Kobe will have highlight reels comprised of their careers, but when the flashy dunks and behind the back passes are removed, what kind of clutch, gutsy performances (such as Bird's last second steal turned layup to win or Jordan's numerous buzzer beaters to send the Bulls' opponent home crying) will be remembered for either of these two?