I haven't been to an NBA game in ten years. Basically, since Michael Jordan hung up his jersey after the 98 season. I haven't watched a complete regular season game in about the same amount of time. Once the playoffs get to the division finals, I might tune in for a game or two.
I used to bleed the NBA. I had Sonic season tickets. I religiously tuned into games to watch Jordan, Ewing, Barkley, Hakeem, Isiah, Bird. My hometown Sonics had players such as Xavier McDaniel, Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, and later Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The games back in the 80's and early 90's were competitive and fierce and the rivalries were vicious. Lakers - Celtics. Bulls - Pistons. Bulls - Knicks. Blazers - Sonics.
What we have now is a watered down image of a game built more on marketing than competition. We have players who never put in their dues during college more concerned with their highlights on Sportscenter than winning a ring. Why should a player compete night in/night out when just about every team makes it to playoffs; the season is 82 games long; and they have fat, guaranteed contracts?
Competition is the ingredient to any successful league. And to that end, the NBA is the worst league around.
I have a couple of suggestions for David Stern that would immediately improve the game AND expand its presence and marketing revenue.
Nix the Guaranteed Contracts: That's right. Any system that allows Stephon Marbury to collect twenty three million sitting on the bench is just out of whack. No play, no pay. I know, I know...the unions would never go for it. Figure out a way as the NFL has.
Shorten the Playoffs: My god the NBA playoffs are way, way too long. Two months full! How about shortening to four teams from each division and actually making it competitive.
Relegation: A novel, twisted, and brilliant idea. Take a page from the English Premier Soccer League. Form a second division league of ten teams from major cities (Cincinnati, Seattle, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Providence, Tampa, St. Louis, and two others) that could support an NBA franchise.
Each year, the top two teams from the second division move up and the bottom two teams in the NBA move down. It would be beautiful. The game would expand and build excitement in 10 new cities. Can you imagine the competition it would create at the bottom of the league? And, it would more than make up for lost revenue from less playoff games.
Keep it Pure: Stop with the gimmicks. No more stupid sound effects at games. No more dumb promotions. No more t-shirts into crowds. Let the game stand on its own.
How About Some Professionalism: These players are generally in their twenties, they're multi-millionaires, and they travel first class and only work eight months out of the year. How about respecting the fans and the game? No more tattoos. No more shorts down to their ankles. No more corn rows. Look and act like a professional or get a job at Walmart.
Promote Education: How about players that obtain a college degree are able to collect 10% on any contract above players that don't have a degree? A lucrative gesture to stay in school. I don't care what anyone says. Getting a college degree says a lot about a man.
Move in the three point line: I'm amazed at the poor shooting of the NBA players. Moving in the three point line would actually make shooting the ball a desired skill again rather than dumping the ball inside on isolation plays 50 times in a row.
Just a couple of ideas that might make the NBA a viewable and competitive game again.