The Paradox Of NBA Fandom

Conspiracy!  That’s the prevailing theme of the the media today in regards to David Stern’s National Basketball Association.  If you follow the NBA in any capacity, you’re no stranger to this idea.  It basically says that David Stern fixes the NBA draft to best serve his own needs and also that he tells the referees what teams he wants to win so as to drive the ratings of the NBA as a consumable television product.

No doubt if you watched last night’s fantastic overtime thriller between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, you probably felt like the Heat, and in particular LeBron James, seemed to be getting more calls than the Celtics.  Surely David Stern wants LeBron and Wade in the Finals only because they’re “superstars” and because they’ll fill the ratings more than the ragged old Boston Celtics. Surely he fixed the NBA draft earlier to ensure that the league-owned New Orleans Hornets won the rights to Anthony Davis a year after they were forced to ditch Chris Paul.  Conspiracy!  Right? 

Not a conspiracy.

I don’t know at what point this transformation took place, although I’m willing to guess that Michael Jordan’s Bulls are responsible, but there’s a unique dynamic towards being a NBA fan that no other sport can claim.  The dynamic is overrun with the idea that the team with the biggest “superstar” will always prevail in a playoff series, so much so that many a NBA fan willingly equates the integrity of the sport to professional wrestling.

What makes the dynamic even more fascinating is this prevailing notion that the sport lacks any semblance of fairness somehow causes the sport to be more popular.  Logic would seem to indicate that a normal person would actually be more prone to decline the opportunity to watch a sport in which they felt the outcome was already a foregone conclusion.  The NBA exists in a parallel universe where the rules say the opposite. 

It’s as if every NBA fan tunes in to have their suspicions justified rather than enjoy the product itself.  The entertainment comes not from the game but from the feeling of helplessness.  Basketball isn’t what America consumes when they watch the NBA.  They consume the confirmation of every doubt they’ve ever had about the sport and its integrity.  It’s the Illuminati of the American sports landscape.

Where this feeling of distrust evolved from is another conversation entirely, but I can’t help but find it interesting that the refrain of the NBA chorus is that the Celtics got robbed last night and that Stern ordered the refs to let Miami win.  While those doubts filled a majority of Americans’ mind they missed the best god damn game of the NBA playoffs.  That game was spectacular.  From the comebacks by both teams, Ray Allen knocking down a clutch game-tying three, LeBron trying and failing to be a hero, and Rajon Rondo’s heroics, last night’s game was awesome.

The Celtics are deserving of absolutely zero pity whatsoever, oh by the way.  Any fan of a team not named the Boston Celtics can tell you how they’ve been on the receiving end of the Celtics getting superstar treatment in the last five years.  When KG and Perkins manned the front court, the duo got away with dirtiest most bush league style of play in the Association.  But that’s just “good defense,” so long as it has the ESPN & Bill Simmons stamp of approval.

Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky had it right yesterday when he wrote that no matter who wins, the NBA is fixed.  If Boston wins last night, Heat defenders would have claimed an ESPN/Boston bias.  If the Nets would have won the lottery last night, it would mean Stern wants New York basketball to drive ratings.  If the Thunder beat the Spurs tonight, it’s because Stern doesn’t appreciate team basketball and instead wants that selfish Russell Westbrook to win because he’s a superstar and Tim Duncan’s too humble.  Oh the humanity!  The NBA loses, no matter the outcome.

It’s time to make a decision in regards to basketball fandom. 

Either quit the NBA like a bad habit or come to the table to consume the basketball.  Superstars win basketball games because they’re better players, not because David Stern sent them to the foul line.  LeBron James doesn’t get fouls called on him because he’s the most gifted basketball player ever.  It makes no sense to continue to regularly watch basketball games when you believe that the outcome has already been decided in the back offices of NBA headquarters in Manhattan.  Think about how insane that idea is.

The NBA is blessed with the largest collection of talent in the history of the league and some fans would choose to  remember it as the era when David Stern played the role of Vince McMahon.  America should open its eyes to the beauty of the sport in front of them and I promise they’ll learn to love the game in the way they currently worship the NFL. 

Basketball is the best, but only if you let it be.

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A Sports Dork’s Nirvana

Something special happened last night. The San Antonio Spurs achieved a feat that we get the pleasure of witnessing no more than five times a year in the sports world. It happens so rarely that at time fans and athletes alike forget that it even exists in sports.  Coaches preach of its virtues and try their damnedest to instruct their teams in the way of attaining it.  Most fail.  Last night, during the third quarter of a playoff game against the Oklahoma City Thunder,  the San Antonio Spurs achieved athletic perfection.  Watch (scroll to the 1:46 mark of the video, if it doesn’t start there automatically):

It began around the 11:06 mark in the third quarter and lasted until about the 5:15 mark.  During that span, the Spurs were a breath-taking juggernaut, scoring 25 points on 9/11 shooting including a startling 5/5 mark from the three-point line.  The spacing, cutting, and ball movement among the Spurs players was something that led many a NBA analyst remarking that he had never witnessed passing at such an elite level.  And what’s remarkable about the passing is not only each player’s ability to read the defense and make the correct play, but also that the passes arrive in exactly the spot that a shooter needs it in order to take a good shot.  Remember that a half second can mea