Wednesday, June 12, 2002

NBA Finals

My take on this year's basketball playoffs is pretty grim. I absolutely love this sport. I support the game in every way. The NBA finals are an example of the fact that capitalism and sport don't mix well. Money has lowered the pro game almost to the level of pro wrestling. I don't know about anyone else, but the sight of a magnificent 375 pound specimen of humanity who is as agile and quick as Shaquille O'Neal would be enough for me, even if he lost the conference finals to a team where his opponent was a Serb. The sight of three referrees ignoring easily a dozen offensive fouls per game, probably because their employer, NBA Entertainment, Inc., will make MUCH more money if the finals have Los Angeles in the TV finals rather than Sacramento, made me sick.

The Nets may have looked pathetic, but the superiority that the West has built up over the East is a different issue. The Celtics would have done no better. Any West contender would have beaten any East team in the finals. It is up to the team owners to address that. By and large Eastern teams don't have enough players 6'10" and over. The smaller, faster teams of the East contend largely against each other in the regular season. The schedule separates the teams, almost like two different leagues. There are no plans to change that insofar as I can tell.

Commissioner Stern might have done well with the "Jordan Rules" as a way of increasing the popularity of the league. So what if Mike got to take an extra step. So what if Kareem Alcindor was allowed to fend off with his left arm on every "sky hook." It was subtle, and the league needed something to bring excitement, and sell tickets. Live audiences were way down in those years. But like almost anything where humans are involved, over time, subtlety is lost. Whatever works becomes magnified. One little extra step has been transformed into a giant of a man being allowed to push a mere 260 pound 7-footer out of his way. Even commentator Bill Walton, (who also draws his check from NBA Entertainment, Inc.) was outraged by the non-calls.

But Sacramento has only about 10% as many home town fans as Los Angeles. 20 years ago, I thought that the miracle draft, where the New York Knicks were allowed to "win" the draft lottery, and thus pick Patrick Ewing, was a little too obvious. But it didn't make me think the game was rigged. The Western conference finals were. And the champions are the recipients of the David Stern affirmative action trophy.