At one point there, you couldn’t help but feel some hope.
It appeared the gears were possibly in motion and the wide chasm between the two sides was potentially shrinking. For what felt like a nanosecond, it seemed that cooler heads might prevail and the NBA Players Association and the NBA owners just might put their collective interests ahead of their individual ones and start training camp and the 2011-12 NBA season on time.
Storylines ran through my head at breakneck speed. How will Miami’s Big Three fare in their sophomore season? Can Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire get Spike Lee and the New York faithful on their feet once again? How does Dirk back up his championship season? Derrick Rose his MVP one? The list goes on and on and on.
And then, like glass panes falling from Toronto condominiums, it all came crashing down. This is unfortunate for two main reasons. First and most obviously, NBA fans stand to lose an entire season. Secondly, from a business standpoint, it couldn’t come at a worse time for the league.
That’s because it seems to me that the NBA hasn’t enjoyed this level of popularity and attention in quite some time. While a lot of it has to be credited to one man’s “decision” to relocate his talents, the fact remains that not since a man named Michael dominated the game has it been this star-laden. This rich with storylines. This damn compelling.
If the NBA was a winter jacket, it’d be a Canada Goose. If it was a Hollywood actor, it’d be Ryan Gosling. If it was a film festival, it’d be TIFF. The point is that the NBA is hot right now and, unsurprisingly, the numbers bear it out.
Simply put, millions of people will be disappointed and thousands downright pissed if the NBA cancels the season. I don’t know why I do this to myself but here are two reasons among many why:
The Big Three/Two-and-a-half/Two and their encore performance
Remember when LeBron turned into one of the most polarizing figures overnight after he decided to take his talents to South Beach? According to one source, the one-hour special drew upwards of 10 millions viewers, more than most NBA playoff games. Let me repeat: MORE THAN AN ACTUAL GAME.
So from the opening tip against the Celtics in late October to their crushing defeat to the Mavs in the NBA Finals (giving team play vs. pure talent an early 1-0 advantage), the microscope was firmly aimed at Lebron, Dwayne and Chris. Opposing fan bases relished the chance to boo the Big Three. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley took shots at LeBron’s legacy. The city of Cleveland damn near ripped his head off. One clever ESPN analyst even likened Bosh to a Spice Girl.
If they were already under a microscope, this pre-pre-season celebration certainly turned up the magnification. Orlando Magic coach (and one of the best quotes in any sport) Stan Van Gundy said it best:
“I do chuckle a little bit when they sort of complain about the scrutiny when they get. My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together.”
Like it or not, the pressure was on for this team not only to win but to win big. With a team armed with two of the three best players IN THEIR PRIME (distinguishing them from Boston’s or San Antonio’s Big Three, for example), anything short of a championship would have been deemed a failure. And doesn’t the fact that they failed make their second attempt that much more fascinating?
Two dynamic duos in two very different markets
Oklahoma City has 580,000 people as well as the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. New York City has 8,175,133 people and Times Square.
NYC is commonly referred to as “the city that never sleeps.” Some might call OKC a great place to catch up on your sleep.
NYC has Jay-Z, Beyonce, David Letterman and Jon Stewart. Who does OKC have as current residents? Well, to be fair, they do have this guy:
All jokes aside, one thing the cities do share is a high level of optimism for their respective NBA teams and their abilities to make a championship push.
In the Big Apple, a hoops-crazy city if there ever was one, you have one of the best big men in the league (when healthy) in Amare Stoudemire and arguably the best pure scorer in Carmelo Anthony. With a rejuvenated Stoudemire under the basket grabbing boards, swatting shots and posting up while Anthony unloads his very special offensive arsenal, the recipe for success is there. The question mark, of course, is the rest of the team but if the Heat can make it to the finals with two-and-a-half men, what’s to stop the Knicks from doing it with two?
Chemistry in team sports is both one of the hardest things to achieve as well as one of the most vital to success. Adding to the problem is that it’s virtually impossible to predict. Anthony and Stoudemire have only had half a season together, not long enough to make any conclusions. But there is no doubt people will tune in to form their own.
Speaking of chemistry, there have been signs of strain and tension in OKC (much of it media-driven) between Westbrook and Durant. From my end, it seems the main problem is that while everybody on the planet believes Durant to be the first option, Westbrook continues to think, “Uhh. Maybe it’s me?” Selfish at times and a bad decision-maker often, Westbrook has to hand over the team to Durant for this baby to work.
That being said, it would be an immense blow to the organization if they were to ship Westbrook. He’s a burgeoning superstar and a legitimate multiple All-Star. Once he learns how to help his team rather than hurt it and whether he’s a point guard or a shooting guard, his athleticism and explosiveness will do the rest. The potential for greatness is too high to split these two up.
These are only a couple of storylines to follow once the NBA starts up again, whenever that may be. Sigh. Well, at least the refs worked out a deal.