Remember 1999? No, it wasn’t necessarily the foreshadowing party that Prince predicted in his 1982 single; it also wasn’t the last year of sanity in the universe as predicted by all my Y2K champions. No, 1999 was filled with interesting things like: former professional wrestler, Jessie “the Body” Ventura, was named governor of a state…a real one at that! Michael Jordan retired…again…but this time for good. The government was still trying to impeach President Clinton and Lauryn Hill won five Grammy’s for her telling everyone about her Mis-Education. 1999 was also a very important year for the National Basketball Association; not because the San Antonio Spurs won their first NBA title in, what some refer to as the * title, in a shortened NBA season, but because of the situation basketball fans find themselves in today…12 years later.
See I don’t remember the NBA when it was broadcast in tape delay. I have very few vivid memories of the early 80’s when the NBA capitalized on this Magic vs. Bird college rivalry and turned it into a lightning rod for the NBA’s emergence. However, I do have very vivid memories of the most popular athlete that Professional Sports has ever known in Michael Jordan and because of that I am extremely cognizant of what his impact and the team he allowed to play with him meant to the NBA’s popularity and to some degree the decline of it.
The NBA is getting ready to head into a seemingly long hibernation. After cancelling the first two weeks of the season, David Stern and the owners seem to be prepared to go this entire year without ever buffering the hardwood for games; And don’t fool yourself, for every rich NBA player there is the owner who signs his paycheck, so sitting out an entire year is more likely to hit home with the players than it is the owners. But I don’t, as a NBA fan, want to sound doom and gloom in this short piece. What I would like to offer several reasons why I believe that a lockout or at best a 50 game season would not be such a bad idea.
1) Football is king in America– Most people aren’t even concerned with what’s going on in basketball because Football is in season. So we don’t really care to think about the year without the sport because we are consumed with Football…it’s that simple.
2) There’s always college basketball– now I’m not a huge college football guy. I’m starting to come around, but I love college basketball. In fact studies show that of all the people who identify themselves as NBA fans, 79% of them classify themselves as avid college basketball fans. So even though pro ball may be having its issues, if you still need to see competitive basketball, I’m sure ESPN, FOX SPORTS, and CBS will more than oblige you by offering games on their stations.
3) Somehow 82 games just seems a bit much…doesn’t it?– Spurs fans will tell you that in 1999, everyone played the same amount of games and as a result had just as much an opportunity to win as they did; and that’s true. But beyond that, I kind of like the fast pace, every game counts, intensity of that year. Guys busted their behind every night and the game seem more real with less of a “black hand” influence. The reality is, I’m sure most basketball fans didn’t even miss the first two months, because we realize that basketball doesn’t really start until after the All-Star break anyway.
What really sucks about all of this lockout business is that fact that there will be thousands of people who will be without a job, because millionaires and billionaires can’t come to terms about how to divide billions coming in to their industry. I heard a story where a college student tweeted that he was a ball boy for the New Jersey Nets and that his game checks go to helping him pay the bill. I wonder if Prokhorov will help supplement that kid’s financial aid.
Ultimately, and let’s just be honest about this, basketball hasn’t been the same since MJ. I mean as much as I don’t like to admit it, it doesn’t matter what the Heat do, how many rings Kobe wins, or whether the NBA truly goes global. The true nature of what basketball was in our prime is definitely not what we are seeing today. We don’t have a true sense that what we are seeing is always the “real thing” and there really isn’t that one player or team that has captured the heart of the entire world to keep the NBA relevant enough to miss it long term. When the league is suiting up again, whenever that is, some will not come back to it, other will pull their jerseys out of the closet, more will fire up their computers and prepare for their fantasy mock drafts and life will go on. The sad part is, if it didn’t come back at all for this year, most of probably won’t really care enough to cuss and fuss. We will just fall back on the most common phrasing in our NBA player’s existence and simply say, “It is what it is!”
Will you be able to fill your basketball jones for something else during the lockout?