Do we need the NBA? More importantly… Do basketball players need the NBA?
As I continue to watch the exodus to international basketball and the players that are continuing the tours, summer leagues and charity games, I find myself thinking about what happens if the NBA repeats 98-99 or the NHL’s season lost? While it’s not a lot of players going the international route, and you only really hear about the LeBron’s, Durant’s and John Wall’s of the NBA playing charity games, it still makes one wonder…
You see, there is one very different aspect to the NBA’s work stoppage that is different from every other major sport in America. Basketball is the only one that is accessible to everyone.
If you want to play football, baseball or for the sake of hockey even street hockey or real hockey, you need a team. You need more than one player. In football, you can throw the ball but who will catch it? You can run, but who will tackle you? It’s easy to run for a touchdown if there is no one to stop you. In baseball, sure you can go to a batting cage but if you pitch the ball who will hit it if no one is batting? Who fields the ball if you hit it in the cage or toss it up to yourself? Not so much run retrieving balls after you hit them. And hockey? What is hockey if there is no one checking you into a board? If there is no one to fake out while you skate from end to end?
Basketball is different. The only comparison could be golf in one aspect. The biggest challenge in basketball is not your opponent on the court but the greatest opponent is the court itself. Point of the story? Anyone, big or small, fast or slow can play basketball. At anytime, day or night. All you need is a rim and a ball. That is why basketball is in jeopardy if they don’t end the lockout soon.
As a fan, people don’t need the NBA to live out their dreams. When people watch the NFL they know for the most part that there are certain aspects of the game they just couldn’t do. Sure you can run but could you get up if you caught a pass over the middle and were destroyed by the likes of Ray Lewis? In the same token, in MLB… You might think you can catch but in the 9th inning facing Mariano Rivera can you come through with that hit? The NBA is different. You stand on any court in the world and shoot a basketball and if you can make it in the hoop you might not be able to get that shot off in the NBA against a Dwight Howard but if you are left open, 9 other players or not, you can put the ball in the hoop.
So as a fan, do we need the NBA? Sure we want the NBA. But do we need it? Yes, we love it. But once again… need?
As players the question is even more challenging…
NBA players are the best basketball players on the planet. Hands down. No question. The NBA players have to think about the lockout from more than just a work stoppage. The NBA brings them many benefits. Global recognition, endorsements and not to mention a generous salary.
But what about options? That is where things get tricky for David Stern and the ownership of the NBA.
The NBA player has many options during this lockout. Some players such as Ronnie Brewer of the Chicago Bulls is just working out, waiting for when and if the lockout ends. Players like Kevin Durant, John Wall & LeBron James are going coast to coast playing on summer tours and league games. Kobe Bryant even made a rare appearance in not only a Drew League exhibition game but a celebrity soccer game in Washington DC. Then there are others that have at least temporarily left to continue playing professionally over seas and in other leagues.
Deron Williams was the first. And while not exactly lighting up the Turkish league, he still made the jump and opened the door to make it okay for any others. Ty Lawson is another that is struggling internationally adjusting to the game. Players like Wilson Chandler took his free agency and gave up a season completely by signing in China where there has been publicly a move to refuse out clauses.
So I ask… do the players need the NBA? Are we watching for the game, arenas and Mark Cuban’s or are we watching the Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant’s of the league?
What happens if some billionaire starts up a new league or the players themselves go on tour around the world? The tour would make the successful And1 Tour look like child’s play as far as attendance and money goes. And players like Greg Oden, oft injured and coming off another year off would enjoy the down time to recover.
To the NBA Board of Directors, Owners and David Stern… I warn this. The NHL is still recovering from their last lockout. And yes the players and fans will eventually come back even with a prolonged lockout. But it won’t be quickly and it won’t be the same for years. Don’t let this lockout linger on, if so the more distractions people will find and the less they will care if and when the league resumes play.