Throughout this years NBA playoffs, the level of play has been mediocre. Thus far, we’ve witnessed LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers ousted by the Boston Celtics earlier than expected and despite losing in the first round to the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder announced to the world that he is the future of basketball.
What we haven’t seen is the fire and passion. Growing up in the ‘90s, I had the privilege of watching incredible basketball. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen always had a target on their backs, as they won an unprecedented six championships. But what those Chicago Bulls teams had to go through to earn those rings is all but history.
Today’s “stars” are so pampered and spoiled with unearned accolades, it’s sickening. James hasn’t won anything, and is referred to as, “King James.” Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is featured in every Gatorade commercial and recently starred in a movie, yet he can’t seem to stay on the court because of fouls.
These guys as well as most of the NBA couldn’t make it in the league back then. The tough New York Knicks would have bullied them till they cried off the court. Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers would have stuck daggers through their hearts on a nightly basis. Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz would and probably still would push you down and then tell you that you weren’t going to do anything about it.
But there are a couple current players that are throwbacks from the 90’s. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is the closest there is and has been to Jordan; and for the record, he is the best basketball player in the NBA. Bryant’s currently playing with a bad back, a couple broken fingers, a sprained ankle and a knee that has to be drained regularly; these are the only injuries that we know of because “The Black-Mamba” wouldn’t cry to the media or his team with excuses.
Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns gets his ass kicked every night, but he keeps playing no matter what. He realizes that his team has no chance without him on the court. Nash’s eye was cut so bad in a playoff game, it closed up on him, forcing him to play with one eye. In the most recent series versus’ the Lakers, he took an elbow to the nose, breaking it once again. Come out of the game? Nah, he just broke it back into place and kept playing.
You might say, “But LeBron played through an injured elbow.” No he did not. If he wasn’t rubbing it during the game, he was out of the game physically or mentally. He probably “hurt” his elbow by executing his pre-game ritual of throwing powder in the air. Oh wait, he stole that from Jordan too.
Maybe the NBA as a whole is not as fierce as it once was because of the officiating. A hard foul then, is now a flagrant foul with a possible suspension and fine. The personal fouls being called are ridiculous. Players cannot touch another player, preventing any kind of defense to be played. Commissioner David Stern needs to figure out what the problem is, because the brand of basketball he’s currently selling is unappealing and poor in quality.
How can the league fix this? You can't bring back the players of yester-year, but you can let the current guys play. We'd much rather see Kevin Garnett battle with Dwight Howard rather than Glenn Davis versus' Marcin Gortat because of foul trouble. I understand that the league is trying to clean up its image and prevent conflict on the court, but this is a sport of competitive drive and will. These guys may not have as much as the players fromt he past, but lets mustard as much as we can out of the prima donnas. Things happen, but the league and officiating must relax and let the players play.
Although, the league did announce yesterday that they will be embarking on a new endeavor: the pizza business. Among the items that will be available are edible team logos for your pizza and toaster snacks. I take back what I said regarding the job Stern is doing…
As seen in the ESPN 30 for 30 film, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. New York Knicks, the battles that took place during this time were epic. These guys weren’t playing for the name on the back of their jerseys; they went to war, literally fighting (as seen above with Charles Oakley of the Knicks and Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat) for their city, the fans, their teammates, but most importantly to accomplish the ultimate glory of becoming a champion. No matter if it was a superstar or a role player, they were leaving it all on the court, doing whatever was necessary to win. The will and desire to win was everything.
Where has the fire and passion gone? Will it ever return? Doubtful. The cause of this are a result of several issues, but hopefully after a dreadful postseason, the league will take a hard look at what they're selling (basketball, not pizza). The players from that time are long gone and so is quality NBA basketball. As a basketball fan, I really hope that this changes soon, because it's truly disappointing.