The NBA has an image problem

, Monday, June 1, 2009 at 11:48 PM Comments (4)

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Basketball is a beautiful game. It can be played with grace and athleticism from the NBA all the way down to your local rec league. Unlike the four other major sports, sick it requires no alteration of the game or rules to be played by average people. We simplify baseball with softball, pacify football with flag and touch alterations, and forego skate and pucks in hockey in favor of our feet and balls. Basketball requires no such alterations, which makes it a relatable game to everyone. Besides the three point line and playing two 20 minute halves, most rec league games are played under the same conditions as an NBA basketball game. This should be a tremendous advantage to the NBA in terms of generating fans. People are excited about the PGA playing the U.S. Open at a course that regular people play on. The NBA has an almost exact version of this in every game. What is the problem you ask then?

The problems are numerous, and were dealt with quite eloquently by the Sports Guy here. For our purposes, lets just focus on two or three obvious ones:

1) Kobe
Prolific scorer. Awesome, transcendent talent. Plays in Los Angeles. A marketing dream. So what’s the problem? No one likes him.

Now before you jump ahead and assume this is all about what happened in Colorado, it’s not; well not entirely. This is about a guy that just does some odd things in his life. Let’s run through a few. He is a 21 year old in the NBA and he marries a 17 year old that is still in high school 6 months after he met her. When he got married, none of his teammates attended. After ten years he changed his number and wanted people to start calling him “Black Mamba”. He recorded a rap album that was never released. After being accused of sexual assault, his apology included these words:

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”

My thoughts on that ridiculous statement are too numerous to list here, but it does bring us to my central point, the Kobe v. LeBron puppet commercials prove that even Nike know people hate Kobe. Watch this video. Now take a second and think about the following: What about this commercial wouldn’t be a thousand times better if it was Kobe and Lebron themselves acting it out? The answer? NOTHING. This commercial would be phenomenal if they were both in it. It certainly worked out when these guys tried it.

So what’s my point? One of the league’s best players is hated by his teammates, makes odd decisions in his personal life, most likely committed a felony, and is so polarizing with fans that the one company that stuck with him through his legal troubles has decided to market puppet Kobe rather than actual Kobe.

2) Lebron has not won a championship
This is obvious, but I think most people overlook what a tremendous problem it is. Again, before anyone assumes this is the beginning of a Knick fan saying he needs to leave Cleveland, its not. Not in the least. LeBron could be for Cleveland what M.J. was to Chicago. In fact, he could be more important given the tremendous suffering Cleveland fans have endured.

The problem is that this man, who is one of the few people to exceed expectations and hype, does not have any players around him that have any cajones, and his Coach is the only man to ever win Coach of the year with two plays in his playbook. It is one thing to defer to your superduperstar in crunch time, but it is another thing entirely when every player on the team treats the ball like a hand grenade and the paint like it’s a minefield.

One other unrelated topic that has been rehashed by everyone on television, sports radio, and the internet: Lebron is not Michael Jordan. Jordan would never let his team lose to that Magic team. Jordan would kill the other team before he got eliminated by a team without one decent guard, big men with no post moves, and Ron Jeremy as the coach.

Dwight Howard is not the savior. Sure he is a fine interview, he is in love with Beyonce, he likes to wear Superman capes, and he is an upstanding citizen. However, how can you rest the future of the NBA on a guy who inspired The Drubbing’s own Ryan Doyle to write in an email:

“I actually like Dwight a lot, but the kid has zero post moves. He is a glorified garbage man who gets points off oops and put-backs, that won’t be the case with the larger front line of L.A.”

Oh yeah, and the other thing everyone seems to forget about Dwight is that he believes it is his life’s mission to get the cross included in the NBA logo. Don’t believe me? Read this.

As Ryan will post later, I am picking the Magic in 6 for the following reasons:

a) The team that hits more threes will win the series. So you have Turkoglu, Lewis, and Pietrus vs. Walton, Ariza, Vujacic/Fisher. ADVANTAGE: Magic

b) Lamar Odom could make this a dominating series for the Lakers. The Lakers need to rely on Lamar Odom to play big-time basketball. If Lamar Odom plays hard every game and does the little things, the Magic can’t win. If Lamar Odom lives up to his talent, this series will be lopsided. ADVANTAGE: Magic

c) If the referees officiated the games perfectly and efficiently, Pau Gasol would shut down Dwight Howard and make him look foolish. Howard will get every close call and will get to the line a lot. Gasol will probably be in foul trouble most of the time because the referees keep mistaking his terrible offensive moves for fouls. ADVANTAGE: Magic

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