A Counter View: Today's NBA - by Bobby Bartle
“The League of Extraordinary Intergalactic Superpowers” - or more commonly referred to as the NBA, has significantly reshaped its landscape over the past nine months. With five elite NBA players migrating from small to large markets, including Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams in recent weeks, superstars are bidding adieu to their current teams for the lure of brighter lights. And there is probably more to come, with coveted 2012 free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard already having their names linked with teams like the Lakers, Knicks, and Nets. Is this a problem? Moreover, what about the fact that these elite players aren’t only bolting from their teams, but are teaming up with one another.
In the past couple weeks, members of the national media have stated their disfavor and worry for the league’s future given such a framework. I respectfully disagree. In fact, I think David Stern is sitting in his NY office secretly saying to himself “winning.” (I know, that is already so last week…)
Of course, my thinking goes against the grain of universal thought. Professional sports leagues were created under the guise of competitive balance, and have enlisted socialist-like rules and bylaws to produce that result (right, MLB?). But if there is any major professional sports league immune from league manufactured competitive balance it is the NBA, which is more a “superstar” and “playoff” league than anything else. Simply put, the NBA matters more when its elite players are clustered together on glamour teams rather than spread thin across the map, and when those teams are the ones populating the playoff brackets.
The proof is in the numbers. This year the NBA is up in attendance and in television ratings (significantly). And from just an eyes/ears test, it is clear there is much more buzz and talk surrounding the NBA as compared to years past. In fact, the last time the NBA was this popular was during the 1997-98 season, a time when the league wasn’t exactly competitively balanced with the Bulls winning their sixth championship in eight years.
What about the have-nots? Does this type of league structure alienate their fan bases altogether and deem them nonexistent? Not necessarily. The nature of basketball is one where if you are a struggling team, you are only a few savvy drafts or maybe one good bounce of the lottery ball away from being able to dramatically change the fortune of your franchise. Additionally, the NBA’s salary cap (albeit the soft version) won’t allow for teams to stock pile an entire roster full of talent and create large talent disparities– as we can see with the Heat, who aren’t exactly going to be racking up 70-win seasons anytime soon.
Of course, any way you shape it, the NBA won’t be able to survive failed CBA negotiations that result in games lost. But, for now, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this new NBA – as will a very large television audience I am sure. I’m already getting amped about a Heat-Knicks playoff series. Throw in some Boston and Chicago (maybe even Orlando) along the way and then give me star-studded LA in the finals - that is all the parity this NBA fan needs or wants.