Saturday, March 01, 2008

Where's the NBA Love?

The recent ESPN magazine pictures "Mr. NBA" himself on the cover, Michael Jordan. It offers a surprising revelation to some: that sports fans as a whole just aren't in love with the NBA like they were in Jordan's time. Let's face it, MJ really brought the league up and got mainstream America interested, as he transcended pop culture. He brought NBA into unison with everything from McDonald's to Coca Cola to Nike sneakers. American truly embraced Jordan, along with other stars such as Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, and Magic Johnson. They displayed great basketball feats and personality, so America showed them the love. According to ESPN's latest magazine, America doesn't share that love with the current roster of NBA talent. Jordan is featured in one article discussing his role in cultivating the NBA. Commissioner David Stern gives his usual spin on the league and its issues in another article. Stern is optimistic, despite recent trends and demographic polls.

I wouldn't sell the league short as the ESPN articles have hinted at. They've suggested that there's less love because there's no stars like MJ, which is true, as there will never be another Jordan. They've also suggested every next great star entering the league is immediately called the "next MJ" or "Magic" or "Bird" and so forth. Remember Penny Hardaway, Jerry Stackhouse, Grant Hill and Vince Carter were all tagged with the "Next MJ" stigma. None of these guys are Jordan, but they still delighted fans with some extremely skilled basketball. The other facet of the article is that there is not a good spokesperson/hype man for the league like Jordan, but if you check with Lebron James he may have a bone to pick there.

Also of interest is how the NBA is considered the "hip hop league" and problematic. I feel that's a matter of perspective and what we see in the news. In all of sports stories over the last few seasons, I'd easily take some of the worst NBA stories over what NFL, MLB and NHL have offered. There's been steroid scandals, congressional hearings, murders, and on ice incidents which lead to assault charges. And I hate to mention it, but there's also Michael Vick's dog fighting crimes. None of the aforementioned news involved the NBA. I'd say for the NBA to have a scandalous betting referee, a player-fan brawl in Detroit and strip club mayhem, that the NBA isn't looking as bad. A point made is that without helmets we get to see more personality from a basketball player than other pro athletes. If anything it shows the league with more personality.

It's interesting to see this sort of article, after Melo, Lebron and Wade were pictured on SI for a season preview issue a year or so ago. The point of that magazine's article seemed to be that these guys were renewing the love for basketball, which I still believe is there and can grow. The love is always there if you're an NBA fan. I feel for a sports fan, their love goes with the league where their heart is. I'm not the biggest NHL fan, but I enjoy NFL and MLB from time to time...When's it all said and done, my favorite sport remains basketball for its passion, intelligence and skill involved to play its fast paced game. So my sports love will be continue to be spent on basketball and the NBA.

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At 3/03/2008 10:46 PM, OpenID FeetinthePaint said...

Definitely agree with your comparison of the NBA's image with that of the other 4 major sports. I'm not sure why it is that every NBA player gets a "thug" label. It doesn't seem fair to me.

Mind if I add you to my blogroll?

Let me know. Thanks.


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