Yesterday's game between the Lakers and OKC Thunder was an insult to fans worldwide. I don't care what team you were rooting for, but anybody with half a brain cell knows by now that the NBA is rigged and that David Stern has an agenda. The free throw differentials, phantom calls favoring Kevin Durant, and the fact that Kobe Bryant did not attempt a single free throw sealed the deal for me. The fact that the refs were paid and employed by the league and that the most trusted "company men", namely Dick Bavetta, Joey "I-challenged-Tim-Duncan-to-a-fight" Crawford, and Steve "I-hate-Allen-Iverson" Javie all have personal vendetta against certain teams, players, and coaches and have the power to dictate free throw attempts and the flow of the game. Granted, Bryant and the Lakers, once the golden child of the NBA, were once at the opposite end of the equation when they beat the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Final aka one of the biggest disgrace in sports history, but it does not justify what the league is doing to Bryant at this stage of his career. Such manipulation is disgusting and despicable. It is also one of the primary reasons that many longtime fans have become disillusioned in recent years. Stern let Tim Donaghy take the fall while continue to push forward his vision to transform the NBA into a league full of boring, emotionless Uncle Toms with no swagger, authenticity, individuality, Tim Duncan clones, and LeBron James.
I already predicted several months ago when I wrote about David Stern and the media's effort to sabotage, marginalize, phase out, and destroy the careers of superstars Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Gilbert Arenas, etc through officiating, trades, blackballing, and negative media coverage. The ultimate plan is to make the league revolve around LeBron James and give him the godlike status a la Michael Jordan. All the obstacles along the way must be cleared out. The most popular players are seeing their careers sabotaged one by one while Stern's media cronies continue to spread lies to further the claim that these guys are washed up when they are clearly better than most of the young stat stuffers (Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis, Danny Granger, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant) in this league. As far as sabotaging, the Allen Iverson example was the most obvious since he was not injured like T-Mac and is a lot more popular than Paul Pierce ever has been, but what we are about to witness is significantly more crooked and obvious than the A.I. case. Minor tweaking and sabotaging of marginal players have been going on for decades (Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Isaiah Rider, Dennis Rodman, Ruben Patterson, Bonzi Wells, etc are blackballed out of the NBA while Great White Hope like Brian Cardinal, Mark Madsen, Mark Pope, Sean Marks, and Ryan Bowen continue to find work.), but the underhanded, intentional effort to undermine superstars' careers in order to legitimize his golden child was largely unprecedented. Stern's brave new world is now onto its last phase: the destruction of Kobe Bryant.
The operation to sabotage Kobe Bryant is the most difficult one out of all. He plays in one of the biggest markets in LA. He is a beloved figure in Southern California, having played there his entire career. He is very marketable, charismatic and, no homo, good-looking. Before his sexual assault trial, he had a squeaky clean image with no off-the-court issues or tattoos. If Allen Iverson symbolizes the anti-establishment during the post-Jordan era, then Kobe Bryant was once the golden child of the NBA and David Stern. Full disclosure: I love watching Kobe Bryant plays the game of basketball, but I never like him the way I like A.I. However, for the integrity of the game and my firm belief that the best players should play, I will not stand by idly while watching the media and Stern sabotage his career the way they did to A.I. I don't believe Stern has what it takes to destroy Kobe Bryant the way he did to Allen Iverson. Bryant will never be asked to leave LA the way A.I. was thrown around (forced to play half-court set and teamball in Detroit. got benched in favor of scrub Rodney Stuckey. playing 8th man minutes a year after having his most efficient season with 27 points and 7 assists in 2008 and led Denver to franchise record in wins. Billups only led them to 3 more wins the year after despite all the accolades.) No matter how the media spin it, Bryant has a home to go to. But it is not far fetched to say that Bryant probably will never win another title in his career as the franchise player.
One has to ask the rhetorical question: What is the point in all this? Why does Stern bother to lash out against Phil Jackson? Aren't marketable players like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson good for the league? Before we could psychoanalyze Stern, we must recap a bit of his history.
Stern became the NBA commissioner in 1984 succeeding Larry O'Brien. Coincidentally, it was the same year when the famed "Class of '84", consisting of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, entered the league. At that point, the league was on the verge of bankruptcy. Stern was able to revive the league through the popularity of Michael Jordan, who dispelled the long-held notion that you can't win a championship without a dominant big man. Jordan, who became a global icon, was arguably the most marketable athlete in the history of sports and the NBA's profit increased exponentially. Since Michael Jordan's second retirement with the Bulls in 1998, Stern has been desperately looking for the next MJ as a mean to recreate his battle-tested marketing formula. He was not the marketing genius some credit him to be, but one of the many businessmen (like Nike founder Phil Knight), who profited from the presence of a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Michael Jordan.
In the past decade, numerous efforts have shown that the NBA is no longer what it once was. Aside from the 2002 WCF, the 2006 NBA finals (when Stern let his personal beef with Mark Cuban get in the way), and last year's blatant example during the Cavs-Magic series (it backfired, which resulted in the Cavs acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison. With 3 of the starters from last year's team now coming off the bench, Stern is ensuring last year won't happen again.) The rigging also extends to regular season game, with the most prominent example occurring on March 31, 2010 when the Cavs, Stern's favorite team, defeated the Bucks 101-98 due to a free throw differential of 45-9. It just shows that Stern is willing to do anything to legitimize LeBron James as the next MJ. Other beloved superstars from the post-Jordan era must be trashed by the media and eased out of the spotlight and be replaced by boring guys you can't pick out of a crowd aka Tim Duncan clones (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Blake Griffin, Greg Oden, Aaron Brooks, Danny Granger, Tyreke Evans, Trevor Ariza, Rodney Stuckey, Rudy Gay, Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Russell Westbrook, etc) who are better suited to play second fiddle to LeBron James. Except for their hometown fans, fans worldwide will never love these guys the way they love A.I., Kobe, T-Mac, Vinsanity, KG, or even Starbury and Stevie Franchise, which makes their ascents a blessing to the crowning of LeBron James. Why were the media trashing A.I. so hard when he was voted in as a starter even though the Sixers are .500 with him this season and 10-40 without him? Why did Devin Harris make the all-star game last season instead of Vince Carter? It's clear that Vinsanity was the one holding the Nets from falling apart the past few years. Why didn't Vince Carter make the all-star team this year despite being on one of the top teams? Why is the media insinuating that Rajon Rondo is better than Paul Pierce when it is obvious that Pierce is just sacrificing his stats and playing teamball? Why did role player Al Horford make the all-star team instead of Shaquille O'Neal when they are putting up similar stats and Shaq was on a better team and is one of the biggest names? Why does Chris Bosh get a pass for being a perennial loser in his 7 seasons in the league despite a decent supporting cast while T-Mac and Vince get trashed when their supporting casts were far worse? Why did Brandon Roy make the all-star team in his sophomore year ahead of Baron Davis? Why did cheap owner Gordon Gund sell the team a year after drafting LeBron James? Why is LeBron James getting top 4 payrolls in the league and going over the luxury tax every season for the past 5 years despite being in a small market? Why are they calling T-Mac washed up while letting Amare Stoudemire and Jason Kidd to take their time coming back from microfracture surgery? Some of these questions may seem inconsequential, but these are all efforts by Stern and the media to usher out some of the biggest names from the spotlight and introduce/market inferior players as stars and brainwash the fans into believing that.
There has been a lot of talks about Kobe Bryant being washed up and about Kevin Durant overtaking him as the de facto "second best" player in the league in the past couple of months. I don't buy it. In fact, I don't consider LeBron James the best player in the league. Dwyane Wade could probably win a title with his supporting cast. Allen Iverson probably could as well if Stern did not f*ck with his head that much the past couple of years. Hell, Paul Pierce probably could. I'm not a Lakers fan, but it is clear that Kobe Bryant is doing more with less than LeBron James, who kills ball movement with his overdribbling. Say what you want about James not having a "supporting cast", but the Cavs team is a lot more stacked than the Lakers for at least the past 3 years. Why is Kevin Durant getting all these undeserved accolades when he doesn't play any defense and is turning the ball over even though he's not even the team's primary ballhandler? Why does the media have such a huge boner for ballhog Derrick Rose when his team always underachieve and he takes 18 shots to score 20 points? I don't care about his field goal percentage. Guys like Rose and Joe Johnson are the epitome of inefficiency because they're too chicken to draw fouls even though the refs are already favoring them.