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Dizzying Highs and Terrifying Lows
June 12, 2011 11:42 PM   Subscribe

"Internationally, the league has never been stronger: It's the only American sports league that attracts stars from every corner of the world. Digitally, the league has been light years ahead of everyone else, embracing the revolution and staying ahead of the curve with social media and video content. It's also spent the past two decades carefully (and successfully) selling mostly black players to a mostly white audience, an ongoing conundrum that nearly submarined the league in the late-'70s and early-'80s. Throw in a killer 2011 Finals and everything looks fantastic on paper … except for the part that the league is losing money." - Bill Simmons analyzes the NBA labor dispute for his new website, Grantland.
posted by beisny (86 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
except for the part that the league is losing money

That sentence is a) horrible and b) total propaganda for the owners, who are trying to lock out the players this offseason. As if someone held a gun to their head and made them sign those players to those contracts. Also interesting to know that the league is successful because they "sold" players to the audience, not because, you know, people really enjoyed watching Michael Jordan.

ps this blog is currently a running joke among every single NBA person I follow.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:02 AM on June 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's the only American sports league that attracts stars from every corner of the world.

Hmm. Foreign-born players (non-USian, and also non-Canadian in the case of the NHL) make up:

18.3% of the NBA
27.7% of MLB
23.7% of the NHL

One Yao Ming does not make your sports league the United Nations.
posted by saturday_morning at 12:14 AM on June 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yes, the NBA does have less foreign-born players than the NHL and MLB. But the idea that it's the only American sport that draws players from everywhere still stands.

Foreign NHL players are almost exclusively Northern and Eastern European. Foreign baseball players are predominately from Latin America with a few from the Far East.

In the NBA you've got players from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and South America. There have even been some Australians and a New Zeelander.
posted by thecjm at 12:27 AM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


selling mostly black players to a mostly white audience, an ongoing conundrum that nearly submarined the league in the late-'70s and early-'80s

Where can I read more about this? The Wiki article on the NBA goes from 'declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related issues that threatened to derail the NBA' to 'surging popularity' with nothing in between, and no real explanation for the former.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:39 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What thecjm said. The NBA has players from every continent except Antarctica. The NHL and MLB don't.
posted by robcorr at 12:40 AM on June 13, 2011


But the idea that it's the only American* sport that draws players from everywhere still stands.

Absolutely, but Simmons is pitching the strengths of the NBA as a league, not of the sport itself. So the fact that there are relatively few foreign players still seems to me to undercut the idea that the NBA is uniquely strong internationally.
posted by saturday_morning at 12:42 AM on June 13, 2011


(Which is to say, I realize that Simmons is telling the truth in that sentence. I just wonder how strong the NBA's presence internationally can really be given that other leagues bring in larger numbers of foreign players)
posted by saturday_morning at 12:46 AM on June 13, 2011


I always find it painful to read sports journalists when they start talking about business, as though the fact that they know a lot about basketball makes them also experts on the finances of the NBA. Just about every article about the the NBA and NFL that comes from a business perspective is at least fairly skeptical of the league's claims about their profitability or lack thereof. This isn't just an annoying thing, I believe it's caused actual harm to cities that have had sweet-heart stadium deals cheerlead by credulous sports page editorials about how beneficial a stadium is to the local economy.

So please, sports journalists, shut the hell up about anything to do with economics.
posted by skewed at 1:37 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


NHL Players:
Robyn Regehr was born in Brazil, Ryan O'Marra was born in Tokyo, and Craig Adams was born in Brunei...your move NBA (sure Regehr and O'Marra have represented Canada in international play but I'm trying to make a stupid point here)
posted by crashlanding at 1:40 AM on June 13, 2011


FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST, WHY WOULD YOU POST ABOUT THE LOCKOUT 5 HOURS AFTER THE GREATEST PLAYOFFS IN MY LIFETIME???

Give me one night to enjoy it before I have to start worrying about when I'll see professional basketball again.

This thread is now about Dirk Nowitzki. I'll argue that he went cold in the first half for the benefit of the Miami fans, so they wouldn't have to sit through a blowout. Let's talk about how when he tore a ligament in his finger in the first game, we all thought the series was over. And don't forget how he dropped 20 points in a win with a fever of 101. We can talk about how Jason Kidd turned himself into a defensive stopper and a spot up shooter to win a championship; the man is 38 years old and spent the last month guarding Kobe, Westbrook and Wade. And we shouldn't forget the perpetually (until now) underrated Rick Carlisle, who took one of the strangest rosters you'll ever see and turned it into an smooth running machine.

Or maybe it should be about Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who made this year's playoffs a whole lot of fun and will in all likelihood be in the finals next year. And if you think Russ should be traded, you're not welcome in this conversation.

Or let's talk about Memphis, who knocked off the Spurs without their best player even playing a game. Or the Clippers who have the best young player everyone's heard of (Blake Griffin) and the best young player no one's heard of (Eric Gordon).

Or, if you insist, we can talk about the Heat. How Dwyane Wade choked in game 6 as much as LeBron did, but no one will talk about it because it doesn't fit the narrative. Or how Chris Bosh, against all odds, ended up being the most likeable (and hardest working) of the Big Three (and that's coming from a Raptors fan). Or we can make cheap jokes about Spoelstra being fired and replaced by Pat Riley.

BUT NO LOCKOUT TALK. PLEASE, NO LOCKOUT TALK.

Let's just keep this ride going a little bit longer.
posted by auto-correct at 1:42 AM on June 13, 2011 [22 favorites]


But the idea that it's the only sport that draws players from everywhere still stands.

except maybe that football or should i say soccer game, that you know, the rest of the world plays...http://www.fifa.com/

posted by mary8nne at 1:56 AM on June 13, 2011


except maybe that football or should i say soccer game, that you know, the rest of the world plays...http://www.fifa.com/

If you read the article, he's explicitly talking about the major North American sports. It goes without saying that soccer is more international.
posted by auto-correct at 1:59 AM on June 13, 2011


I've half a mind to read that Bill Simmons piece (and that all I'll need).
posted by KingEdRa at 2:09 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"If you read the article, he's explicitly talking about the major North American sports. It goes without saying that soccer is more international."

Well the MLS is in America.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 2:19 AM on June 13, 2011


Where can I read more about this? The Wiki article on the NBA goes from 'declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related issues that threatened to derail the NBA' to 'surging popularity' with nothing in between, and no real explanation for the former.

Michael Jordan. No, really.
posted by auto-correct at 2:21 AM on June 13, 2011


As if someone held a gun to their head and made them sign those players to those contracts.

Of course a lot of blame should fall on the GMs/owners of teams that overpay (us Knicks fans know this subject too well). Nevertheless, the structure of labor agreements does result in certain trends, regardless of the market.

In the case of the NBA with longer, guaranteed contracts, you are more likely to see a situation in which players play very well in the last year of their contract only to have their performance drop off significantly in the following years once they have a new commitment.

From a fan perspective, I will always prefer the NFL system in which contracts are not guaranteed, meaning that players have a generally greater incentive to maintain performance and teams are not doomed to be stuck with shitty players for years. This is likely a moot point because the NBA Players Association would never agree to contracts that aren't guaranteed.

You know there is something wrong with system when so many teams trade for players who are sought not for their value on the court but because their contracts are expiring.
posted by beisny at 2:23 AM on June 13, 2011


Where can I read more about this? I haven't read it, but I think that Simmons discusses this in his book. He can be quite annoying, but I find his basketball writing to be generally quite insightful.
posted by beisny at 2:26 AM on June 13, 2011


Well the MLS is in America.

I like soccer, but the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL are all the top level of their respective sport. I don't think it's a stretch to say MLS isn't quite there.

Also, NHL franchises are worth about $100 million more each than MLS franchises. So there's that too.
posted by auto-correct at 2:27 AM on June 13, 2011


Before some a-hole shows up here and starts talking about how NBA players make too much money or something, I'm going to give my input about strikes/lockouts.

Strikes=Workers want something, so they will not work because of it.
Lockouts=Owners want something, and they will not let the workers work because of it.

Now if the players want to strike...so be it. Its not as if they players are asking for more money from the fans in a strike. They are demanding it from their bosses...the same way that you would demand it from your boss (if you had a union...which you probably don't).

Its inversely related, either the owners get the money, or the players get the money. When you start talking about "That's too much money for the players...", you are effectively saying "That money should go to the owners, instead".

You know how I know this? Because the players made $2.1 billion dollars this year … and again the owners lost $300 million.

Welcome to the investing in American entertainment during a period that is marred by unemployment and people losing their houses. Rich people not making as much money as they expected doesn't really bother me any. It especially doesn't bother me when those rich people are employers who are using the press to advance their views of "Well if I can't make a profit...I can certainly try to take the money I pay to my workers."

Go to hell.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:07 AM on June 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


2. The secondary ticket market lessened the need to buy season tickets; you can just cherry-pick 10 regular-season games online and skip the other 31.
3. We're slowly learning that fans would rather stay home, watch sports on their crystal-clear HD widescreen and surf the Internet over hauling their asses to a stadium, then pay for (overpriced) parking, (overpriced) mediocre food and drinks, and (overpriced) mediocre tickets.
4. Every state-of-the-art arena built in the past 15 years was built to accommodate as many fans as possible, when actually we're learning this decade that things might need to shift the other way: You need fewer seats, you need as many good seats as possible, and you need to figure out a way to engage fans who aren't close enough to the court (like the Cowboys did with their obnoxiously brilliant video screen).


Now if only the NBA owners had a hand in fixing this...hmmm...hmmm...hmmm. Why is the author of that piece writing before thinking.

This idiocy can only be brought to perspective if one tries to compare it to a worker who claims they don't have enough money because they spent all their money buying a porsche which looks really nice, but doesn't get them to work on time, and can't fit more than 1 passenger, so they have nobody else to carpool with except the other guy with a non-dependable porsche. Oh and because of the above problems resulting from the decisions the worker made, he just doesn't get paid for the days he doesn't come in.

Sorry owners. Bad business decisions have bad financial consequences. Just because your workers are doing an excellent job doesn't mean you can try to take the shirts off their backs.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:14 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just because your workers are doing an excellent job doesn't mean you can try to take the shirts off their backs.

I'm sorry but I think this comment and the one before it are vastly over-simplifying the situation. This is not just about the wealth of the owners and their share of the profits.

The way the a league is organized has very real implications for its fans and there are many ways to structure a league regardless of the owners/players revenue split.

You can have no cap like MLB, a hard cap like the NFL (and no guaranteed contracts), or a player-based cap with a the addition of a soft-cap w/ luxury tax like the NBA currently has. There are many ways to address revenue sharing, draft picks, rookie contracts, free-agency (the NBA has a "Larry Bird Exemption", the NFL has "franchise tags"), etc.

If you want to look abroad, there is the concept of relegation which adds a lot of excitement to soccer leagues (and which Simmons has suggested for the NBA).

My point is that this dispute has many implications beyond the simple split of revenue. These choices dramatically affect the nature of the competition in a given league and on the fan experience in general.

Your marxist reductionism is leaving out a lot.
posted by beisny at 4:09 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


While the NBA might do better on social networking sites, the MLB really does a better job with the internet overall. From pitch tracker to mlb.tv, they provide a lot of web content for baseball fans, and have enough pipe to back it up that other sports and events use MLB's web backbone from time to time.
posted by drezdn at 4:21 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where can I read more about this? The Wiki article on the NBA goes from 'declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related issues that threatened to derail the NBA' to 'surging popularity' with nothing in between, and no real explanation for the former.

Michael Jordan. No, really.


Without feeling the need to provide any sort of evidence, I think it went something more like this: boring NBA, played by guys that couldn't give less of a shit, on its deathbed > 1979, Bird and Magic play against each other in the NCAA Final, setting up a player rivalry with much hype > Bird drafted by the Celtics, Magic drafted by the Lakers, two of the most storied sports franchises > Bird and Magic live up to the hype > Bird and Magic save the NBA > Michael Jordan then comes along and takes the league to a new level of popularity > the '92 Dream Team take the game globally.
posted by NoMich at 4:23 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


And except for the part where it's not basketball anymore so much as it is the WWE-BA. If someone told me that Vince McMahon was secretly running the league for the last 20 years I wouldn't be shocked at all.
posted by spicynuts at 4:40 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where can I read more about this? The Wiki article on the NBA goes from 'declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related issues that threatened to derail the NBA' to 'surging popularity' with nothing in between, and no real explanation for the former.

You can read more about this by googling "Michael Jordan"
posted by spicynuts at 4:43 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know things went batshit insane once Jordan came on the scene - I was more interested in the idea that white Americans might not watch basketball because black Americans were on the court, and how this was resolved. If there was a race issue - an 'ongoing conundrum' of such seriousness that it 'nearly submarined the league' - how did another black player solve that? How was he 'carefully sold'? Did the Isiah Thomas freeze out allegations serve to set him apart from his black peers? Or was he just so good that even racists had to sit up and pay attention?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:56 AM on June 13, 2011


Fine....google Michael Jordan + Nike. Unless you aren't American or were not alive in the 80s (I didn't look at your profile) it's pretty damn obvious what happened.
posted by spicynuts at 4:58 AM on June 13, 2011


I'm Australian, and was 10 when Jordan fronted the LA Olympics. If it were obvious, I wouldn't be asking.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:03 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


the league is losing money.

There's nothing sadder than rich people becoming rich at a lower rate. Let's raise taxes on the middle class to pay for a few sports facilities for them.
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Michael Jordan. No, really."

In about 1985/86, somewhere in there, my mom went to the White Hen because we were out of milk and made me wait in the car. She saw a very tall black guy in line at the checkout, buying Diet Coke and potato chips, and looked up-up-up and gasped, "Are you Michael Jordan?"

"Yes I am, ma'am."

"Would you mind signing this for my son?" she asked, digging the first scrap of paper out of her purse that she could find.

He graciously signed the back of her strawberry shortcake recipe, which is now framed (backwards) and hanging in my brother's room. We haven't had strawberry shortcake since.

And I never got to meet Michael Jordan. :(

I also remember my dad trying to make me watch basketball with him and pointing at Jordan in his rookie season and saying, "See that guy? He's going to be really good." I think he had hair then. Jordan, not my dad. My dad still has hair.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:34 AM on June 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


So was it actually Michael Jordan? My childhood near brushes with celebrity were all shams.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:46 AM on June 13, 2011


Michael Jordan brought to basketball his pure, shining, blemish free image (and image it was....the truth of him is, shall we say, less than pure) of a harmless, non-threatening, gifted artist with a dis-arming smile and with the help of Nike pushed that image into every single white, suburban home in America. After Nike of course there was Wheaties and everything else and you could not go to any mall in America without MJ smiling down on you. He was like the distillation of every middle American, middle class value and myth write large and the fact that he was black was an afterthought. He was not urban in any way and prior to that basketball was very urban.
posted by spicynuts at 5:57 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And you can use your imagination to decide what 'urban' meant.
posted by spicynuts at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2011


Oh, yes. Jordan lived in my hometown for a while when he was first with the Bulls, before he moved to Lake Forest and got the gated mansion. He wasn't out and about often, practicing so much, but sometimes people would see him at the convenience store or the deli or gas station or whatever. Scotty Pippen lived nearby, too, and bought a huge model train set from the "fancy" toy store that I worked at in high school (collectible dolls, etc.). He was nice enough to invite the entire store's train staff to come do the install when it was really a one-man job. (I was not on the train staff, boo.) Steve Kerr used to frequent a deli I ate at (and I heard was super-duper nice, some of my friends worked there), and Dennis Rodman got his hair cut and dyed at the mall I shopped at. I never met Rodman either but I heard he was also really, really nice when just going about his normal day, and really great with little kids, who all wanted to ask about his tattoos and hair.

Jim McMahon lived up there too, and allegedly he (or his wife?) used to fill the ENTIRE candy bag of any kid who trick-or-treated at his house dressed as McMahon. Which was a very popular costume there for a few years!

I did get to meet Phil Jackson; Phil Jackson's kid went to high school at one of my high school's rivals and played basketball when I was in high school; Jackson was very self-effacing at the HS games but gracious when recognized. This was at the height of Bulls mania so people were pretty star-struck. But they'd at least wait until the game was over before accosting him, and back off when he was talking to his son.

We all tried to be cool and act like they were normal people with normal lives when we happened to run into them when we were in high school but OH MY GOD IT WAS THE BULLS. IN THE NINETIES. We were not cool. Grown-ass adults were not cool.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:08 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Wiki article on the NBA goes from 'declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related issues that threatened to derail the NBA' to 'surging popularity' with nothing in between, and no real explanation for the former.
See also...
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on June 13, 2011


Why would you link to this article when there's a basketball analysis by Carles of Hipsterrunoff RIGHT BELOW IT ZOMG.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:16 AM on June 13, 2011


Bill Simmons is a great columnist, because he's funny. I don't read Dave Barry for my econ information.
posted by dragonsi55 at 6:18 AM on June 13, 2011


But the idea that it's the only American* sport that draws players from everywhere still stands.

(Non USAins: In the following, Football=American Football, Soccer=Association Football/Football. Apologies, but American Football/Football isn't as clear as Football/Soccer. Besides, the word "Soccer" comes from England -- aSOCCiation football.)

I was in Kansas City over Memorial Day weekend, and took time out to head to a bar to do something rather un-American, which was to watch the UFEA Champions League final. For the first 10 minutes, I was alone in Soccer Corner, until a gent from Spain walked in. We talked about soccer, of course, but then we also talked about one other sport.

Basketball.

No other US sport has the global attraction that basketball does. In terms of sports we've created here -- Baseball is our Cricket (Huge in a few countries, meh elsewhere.) American Football is our Australian Rules Football (Huge here, meh anywhere else.) Basketball is our Soccer (Huge everywhere.) Hell, to footie fans, this name may seem rather familiar.

I'm rather surprised that people find this surprising -- I thought this was common knowledge.

Unlike most sports, the equipment needs are easier, and indeed, match soccer -- you need a goal and a ball, and in terms of urban areas, basketball needs *vastly* less space to lay out a full playing space. You need a rim and a backboard up in the sky, but once you've done that, it basically lasts forever. It's an indoors game that plays just fine outside -- and it fits a wide array of body types. What other sport supports having both a 5' 3', 136lbs. point guard* and a 7' 1" 260lbs. center** playing in the top league in the world at the same time?

I'm not a huge fan of the game, to be honest, but there is no denying the attractiveness of it, and how it has spread to become a truly international game. The US is still dominant in the game, just as England was dominant at football for a very long time (and, in terms of leagues and money, still arguably is.***) But in terms of sporting, it's Mr. Naismith's game that has been the United State's gift to the world.

It doesn't hurt that, while fundamentally exactly like soccer -- the point is to put the ball in the goal -- it is otherwise completely and utterly different. Cricket and Baseball share obvious common roots, Rugby, US Football, AFL, and a dozen other variants are also rife with commonalties, but Football and Basketball are two very different games with one common point -- put the ball in the goal.



* Muggsy Bouges

** Vlade Divac. I make no guarantees that they were the shortest and tallest people in the league at the time, but they certainly represent how wide the spectrum is.

*** The English Football League Championship is the 4th biggest league, in terms of attendance, in the world. This is the 2nd tier of UK football. The Football League One has larger attendance than about half of the UFEA member nation's top leagues.
posted by eriko at 6:24 AM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


The end of the NBA came for me when stars like Jordan were allowed fouls and traveling that other players would get called on, the NBA started drafting more and more players from high school or their first and second years of college, and the finals began to look indeed as fixed as wrestling. And in the process, the NBA proceeded to ruin college basketball as well because so few players stuck around for a full four years (but yeah, that's a different argument entirely).

When I look at a NBA game I see players who phone it in until the fourth quarter, a lack of teamwork (see the Miami Heat last night), and a collapse of the fundamentals of the game. I'd rather watch a high school game or Division II at this point, and I do.
posted by Ber at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You must be watching reruns of games from 2001, these finals have have involved superheroic displays of heart from both teams. James' and the Heat's collapse is more due to the insanely good bench play and selfless teamwork by the Mavs rather than some lack of effort. I mean, yeah, the losing team looked like they weren't trying because they were being pummeled.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was just thinking yesterday that the basketball playoffs were probably soon and that I should pay probably attention to them and then figured out that they were actually over already.

Is is football season yet?
posted by octothorpe at 6:58 AM on June 13, 2011


As a Seattle Supersonics fan, all I can say is




Good
posted by Windopaene at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is is football season yet?

Thus begins The Great Sports Drouth of 2011. It was a grear series though, and props to Mark Cuban for keeping his big yap shut.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2011


As a Seattle Supersonics fan

My condolences.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 8:17 AM on June 13, 2011


these finals have have involved superheroic displays of heart from both teams.

Ok so three weeks out of the season are entertaining. I'd like to see a full, hard core investigation of NBA referees. Until then, it's still the WWE.
posted by spicynuts at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2011


The owners are only losing money if you completely disregard the capital gains they make on the team they own. Those things just go up and up in value. If they need money all they have to do is sell their franchise and cash in.

This is also why they are willing to lock the players out. Because the real money is in owning the team as an investment rather than operating as for profit business.
posted by srboisvert at 9:31 AM on June 13, 2011


Negotiating a new CBA during a time when fans have less disposable income is a favorable bargaining position for the owners, assuming there is some end to this recession in the future. Saying "see? we're losing money" instantly makes the negotiations about monetary concessions the players will have to make.

The NBA is really catching on everywhere, and has everything to lose in terms of momentum, especially after this great 2011 playoff stretch, which included a storyline (the Heat) that even roped in non-fans.

Thank god the NBA has David Stern as it's commissioner - he's probably the only only in professional sports that has the capacity to process this information. I truly consider him the gold standard for all other sports-league commissioners - fair, tough, and (relatively) transparent. I'm much more hopeful for an NBA season next year than for a football season.
posted by antonymous at 10:01 AM on June 13, 2011


As a Seattle Supersonics fan, all I can say is Good

I'm a Sonics fan too, but under their new name. And I'd be shocked if the Thunder were really losing much if any money right now. Those home games sell out like crazy and Durant and Westbrook are super-popular locally, which translates to merchandise sales. (Seriously, if you look at the top jersey sales in the NBA, Durant, at #7, is the only one not from a major market.) Plus they had an arena waiting for them when they got to OKC, and prices being what they are, probably pay less for it than almost any other team in the league.

And yes, according to wikipedia, the Thunder posted $118 Million in revenue and $22.6 Million in operating profit this season. They're doing fine. Sorry.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2011


If you read the article, he's explicitly talking about the major North American sports. It goes without saying that soccer is more international.

Just read an article about how soccer is under threat from basketball in terms of being the "world's most popular sport". On a country by country basis, soccer is only really dominant in Western Europe, Latin America and Africa. It is not dominant in Asia. India has cricket, and basketball is arguably more popular in China than soccer, and the NBA has out-maneuvered the Premier League and FIFA in terms of promoting the sport there. Every small town in China has a basketball court and Yao Ming obviously was huge for the NBA's presence there. The head of NBA China is the former CEO of Microsoft China. And the increasing urbanization of the world leads some to believe that more and more people in the world will be playing basketball (which require less space and the same amount of equipment than soccer) in the future.
posted by AceRock at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2011


The owners are only losing money if you completely disregard the capital gains they make on the team they own.

And the tax breaks they get on their other businesses by showing a loss here. It's entirely possible the NBA is losing money, but I'll always be suspicious of US pro sports teams claiming that as their entire raison d'être is to show a loss. And they can depreciate their labor force.
posted by yerfatma at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where can I read more about this? The Wiki article on the NBA goes from 'declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related issues that threatened to derail the NBA' to 'surging popularity' with nothing in between, and no real explanation for the former.

Michael Jordan. No, really.
posted by auto-correct at 5:21 AM on June 13 [+] [!] Other [3/4]: «≡»


Well, and David Stern. Weren't they rookies together?
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:17 AM on June 13, 2011


How Dwyane Wade choked in game 6 as much as LeBron did, but no one will talk about it because it doesn't fit the narrative.

I'd rather talk about how Wade got hurt taking a dive, and how the Heat were some of the floppiest floppers on complete non-contact plays.
posted by inigo2 at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always thought Magic and Bird led the NBA out of its 1970s doldrums, and Jordan just continued (and perhaps strengthened) what they started.

Anyway I'm very glad that Dirk and the Jasons got a title.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just read an article about how soccer is under threat from basketball in terms of being the "world's most popular sport".

As a characteristically grumpy American soccer fan cum NBA detractor, I was respectfully staying quiet so as not to get soccer shit in your NBA thread.

Then, just now, my Bundesliga team linked a writeup about the NBA final on their twitter feed.

Score one for basketball, I guess.
posted by 7segment at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2011


Eyebeams: exactly. Jordan was the biggest star in an era of big names that began before his heyday. His masterful branding basically WAS the NBA through the late 80s and 90s. He was the guy you couldn't dislike unless your team was playing him, sort of an Anti-LeBron.

And yes, I heartily endorse auto-correct's list of approved conversation topics.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather talk about how Wade got hurt taking a dive, and how the Heat were some of the floppiest floppers on complete non-contact plays.

I love the Mavs, but I think the flopping title might have to go to JJ Barea in this one. Although overall I was pretty impressed with the officiating; for once the refs weren't the story in the nba.
posted by auto-correct at 12:14 PM on June 13, 2011


And yes, I heartily endorse auto-correct's list of approved conversation topics.

Favoriting this since I'm absolutely certain it's the only time it'll be said on MetaFilter.
posted by auto-correct at 12:15 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts: "Ok so three weeks out of the season are entertaining. I'd like to see a full, hard core investigation of NBA referees. Until then, it's still the WWE."

If you believe this, we've been watching different leagues for the last 10 years. I don't deny that officiating is, and probably always will be a problem in the L. But that's because of the subjective nature of the contact rules and the speed of the game making it really hard for anyone to call the game perfectly.

There's also a real problem with big markets vs small markets, as anyone in Cleveland, Denver, Utah, Memphis or Minnesota will tell you. But that's on the business side, not the basketball side.

But to argue a systematic, league-wide conspiracy is beyond ridiculous. You think David Stern woke up in 1999 and thought to himself "hmm, now that MJ's gone, let's make San Antonio the best team in the league for the next decade"? I watch a lot of basketball, and I'll admit that when I watch my Raptors play I become pretty certain that David Stern hates Canada. But when I watch teams play that I have no rooting interest in, I just don't see it. The most egregious officiating I've ever seen was the 2006 Dwyane Wade finals, but that was brought on by Wade throwing himself at the rim like no one in history, and the refs didn't know how to deal with it.

Superstars get that calls because they do the things that lead to getting the calls.

And if you don't think the NBA regular season is entertaining, well, more for the rest of us I guess. I bet when the NBA comes up in conversation you make a clever quip along the lines of "let me know when it's the 4th quarter". Maybe you would rather watch 19 year old white boys chuck 3s in the NCAA then watch Nene and LeMarcus Aldridge battling while Portland and Denver fight for playoff position in March. More power to you, but don't diss our game when you don't know what you're talking about.
posted by auto-correct at 12:48 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Re: the WWE'ness of the NBA... I'm not going to say there's a conspiracy, but it's the most suspicious of the leagues I follow and watch.

Ignoring the officiating, there's the draft. The Bulls had a 1.7% chance of getting the first pick in the Derrick Rose draft, yet they won the hometown player. Then there's the '85 draft.
posted by drezdn at 1:58 PM on June 13, 2011


(which require less space and the same amount of equipment than soccer) in the future.

I can't speak to the popularity of basketball in the world, but just on this minor point of equipment and space for the sport, it's kind of a strange claim. Sure, both sports need goals and some type of court/field (and a regulation soccer field is much larger than a basketball court), but engineering a soccer goal is much easier than a basketball hoop. Around here we play on any patch of grass, using cones or soccer bags to make goals if we don't have any actual goals handy. Arranging the same for a basketball hoop would yield less than ideal results, I'd imagine. But maybe I'm not creative enough.
posted by JenMarie at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Favoriting this since I'm absolutely certain it's the only time it'll be said on MetaFilter.

Well, to be fair, I'm thinking most specifically about this:

Or maybe it should be about Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who made this year's playoffs a whole lot of fun and will in all likelihood be in the finals next year. And if you think Russ should be traded, you're not welcome in this conversation.

Barring something unspeakably awful, I will never again live in Oklahoma. The only way would be for someone to offer me such an unbelievably large salary that I could commute from outside of Oklahoma every day. But I lived there during high school (Bartlesville) and there's a way in which the place one comes of age will always be their home. So while I feel for bereaved Seattle fans, I adore the Oklahoma City Thunder like I do no other team - not even my beloved Red Sox.

Because it's not just about home state pride. These guys deserve love. They deserve passion. This is a team unlike any other in the NBA. Kevin Durant, indisputably the best small forward in the Western Conference, and perhaps in the entire league, promoting the idea of this team as a "family" and getting everyone together in the off-season for wind-sprints up what passes for hills in OKC. And by "everyone" I am including executives and assistants and farm-team players. This is a guy who made a point to grab all of his teammate after their post-season loss to the Lakers last year to tell them, "this will make us better" while they were still on the court.

Kendrick Perkins, a beast of a center who the Celtics didn't appreciate enough, but who develops relationships with fans deep enough to invite them to his wedding.

And Russell Westbrook. A kid who took all of the heat for the Thunder's loss to the World Champion Dallas Mavericks in the Conference Finals, who played his heart out at an unfamiliar position and who gets phenomenally better every year. Any talk of trading him is just sportswriters trying to create a sense of scandal around a team of genuinely great guys who treat one another as family. Sportswriters can't produce ink about that. Scott Brown, at least, knows that trading Westbrook would be the worst mistake of his career, and will fight to protect him, of need be. He won't need to. This was the worst team in history for half a season two and a half seasons ago. A couple weeks ago, they held the Mavs to as close an overall score as the Heat did, and they are only getting better. (I might be slightly wrong there, but I don't have time to look up the actual figures.)

This is a team whose name comes from three sources:

1. An understanding of a need to give an homage to their roots, and thus keeping a "sonic" themed name.
2. The Thunder that clamors over the Oklahoma plains, louder than anything you've heard.
3. And most importantly, the sound of their fan-base, the most fervent in the NBA. They got a chance to see this before moving there, of course, in the wake of Katrina, when the Hornets played there for a season, and sold out damn near every game. Their arena has two nicknames. The Thunderdome, which is awesome in it's own right, and Loud City.

This is a team named in part after it's own fans, and it shows in their actions. This is a team which makes me teary-eyed. And they are going to be in the finals next year, most likely. I can't wait.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:13 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was more interested in the idea that white Americans might not watch basketball because black Americans were on the court, and how this was resolved.

It still hasn't been resolved. The league struggles with it every year.

Larry Bird (a (more than) capable white superstar) saved the NBA more than Jordan did.

He was the guy you couldn't dislike unless your team was playing him, sort of an Anti-LeBron.

Huh. I hated Jordan, no matter who he was playing. The only NBA player who could ever make me root for the Jazz. I still hate him.

I always thought Magic and Bird led the NBA out of its 1970s doldrums, and Jordan just continued (and perhaps strengthened) what they started.

Yeah, that is the conventional wisdom.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


(also, there's an open Grantland thread from 5 days ago. this article would have fit better there.)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:49 PM on June 13, 2011


It scares me to think how good OKC will be next year and for years to come. I think their starting lineup's average age is like 23 years old. It is insane how good they are already and I agree Westbrook did not deserve the flak he got. If anything, Scott Brooks deserved more of the blame. Over in the East, Derrick Rose, who is essentially the Eastern Conference version of Westbrook, won the MVP award for playing almost exactly the same way, and with comparable (some ways worse) numbers. The trade I keep hearing about is CP3 for Westbrook and if you're a OKC fan, I don't know what you should think. CP3 is the best point guard the league has seen since Magic, but would he have the chemistry with the rest of the Thunder that Westbrook has? In any case, this is a hell of a team Presti has built.
posted by AceRock at 2:49 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? the Thunder are a pretty flawed team, and westbrook is the classic off-guard in a point guards body, despite playing with the best scorer in the league. Yes he's an electrifying athlete, but unless he makes the mental leaps needed to become a point, he'll just be an undersized two guard who needs the ball a lot on a team where he shouldn't ever be the main option. If the later case is true (and generally by this point guys don't change their stripes) he's Gilbert Arenas best case. And the Thunder will end up getting rid of him.

Paul is a free agent next year btw, and I doubt he'd stay in OKC.

Durant is the only guy on the Thunder about whom the hype should be believed.
posted by JPD at 4:10 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This post about the ABA is a pretty good read.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:03 PM on June 13, 2011


Kendrick Perkins, a beast of a center who the Celtics didn't appreciate enough

Oh please. We all loved Perk. However, the NBA has something resembling a salary cap and Perk has something resembling a 5/10 lifetime average. He can work as many weddings as he wants (I loved that deadspin story too), but I'd rather they kept Rondo and people who can score.
posted by yerfatma at 5:56 PM on June 13, 2011


Really? the Thunder are a pretty flawed team, and westbrook is the classic off-guard in a point guards body, despite playing with the best scorer in the league.

The Thunder are a very young team that, despite their inexperience, are already kicking a great amount of ass. They have one of the lowest salaries in the league, which is going to be helpful when Blake Griffin goes free agent, since he's already stated that he wants to go there. And Westbrook is one of those guys, like Jeter with the Yankees, who is clearly going to add more value with the team he's on than with any team you could trade him to. He's Lennon to Durant's McCartney. You want those two together; they make each other better.

As for Perk, well, I grew up in Houston in the Olajuwon era. The epic legacy of Jordan has made us all forget that he could miss shots, and that he wasn't completely infallible. Reggie Miller could make him lose his cool, for instance. The greatest casualty of this mythologizing (and I have nothing but respect for MJ's accomplishments) is Hakeem the Dream, the one guy who could reliably shut him down. The guy Jordan himself called the greatest center of all time. The guy drafted first the year Jordan was drafted third. That's the guy I grew up idolizing. So I might be biased, but centers are meant for defense, and Perk can do that. And when you've got Durant and Westbrook on your team, you're not looking to your enter to make shots very often. It's just not his role.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:10 PM on June 13, 2011


Paul is a free agent next year btw, and I doubt he'd stay in OKC.

Paul? As in Chris Paul? Of the Hornets? You do know they don't play in OKC anymore, and he's not on the same team as Durant (though that would be interesting).

As for Simmons, he can be deeply annoying, but he knows basketball, and his columns (especially the running diary about Game 6) on basketball are usually well worth the read, Boston homerism aside. It's interesting to see what he can do with the new site, with fewer fetters than in the past, but with what seems like a hell of a lot more access than he's had in the past.

As for the savior of the NBA, I'd go with Bird/Johnson at first. Bird wasn't known as the great white hope because of his skill. He was white, and he was good, and that alone got a lot of fans more interested in the game. Johnson was a hell of a lot more 'non-threatening' than Jordan ever was, and the Lakers-Celtics rivalry (while boring as hell to fans of other teams) has always been good for casual fans. Jordan coming into the league was actually, at first, polarizing. He was considered a selfish scorer, and people liked to trot out how scoring champions never win in the finals, how he'd never actually lead the Bulls anywhere. It helped a hell of a lot that the biggest roadblock in front of the Bulls was, at the time, the Pistons, who were pretty much the biggest villains in the league (before Riley stole the idea and turned it into unwatchable Knicks games... guh). Jordan finally beating the Pistons* probably got him over with a lot of fans.

Combine that with the increased visibility of the league (the finals were being played live on NBC, I think, and no longer tape delayed, WGN was branching out into a country-wide cable network along the lines of TNT), and people could easily find games to watch of Jordan at his prime.

*Torn by the accident of birth and the geographical quirk of having a hometown equal distance from Chicago and Detroit, young Ghidorah loved both the Bulls and the Pistons, and still does, no matter how painful. When the play, I feel like a parent with kids on opposing little league teams. I just hope that everyone has a good time, and no one gets hurt.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:18 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Paul? As in Chris Paul? Of the Hornets? You do know they don't play in OKC anymore, and he's not on the same team as Durant (though that would be interesting).

thanks. go read back - someone suggested the Thunder were going to trade for him, which would be a bad trade given the tenor of his contact and his likelihood of him staying OKC. Someone else thinks they are going to get Blake Griffin.

Navelgazer - did you just compare Westbrook to Jeter and Perkins to Hakeem? Westbrook is pretty much the opposite of the media narrative of Jeter, in that he plays with the best young scorer in the game and yet manages to use more of his teams possessions. Hakeem is one of the most talented post players in league history, Perkins is a slightly better than average banger center with little offensive game.
posted by JPD at 5:06 AM on June 14, 2011


I stand corrected, acerock mentioned the trade, while simultaneously slandering Derrick Rose.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:34 AM on June 14, 2011


Just for the record, I am a fan of both D-Rose and Russ Westbrook. I live in Chicago and root for the Bulls. But it is hard not to notice how similar Rose's and Westbrook's games are (they even train together in the off-season) and how differently they are treated by sportswriters and by fans.

And if you watched OKC in the playoffs closely, you'll notice that Westbrook uses so many possessions in part because he has to. Because Durant, as amazing as he is with the ball in his hands, is not that great at getting open, and Scott Brooks is not good at getting Durant open looks.
posted by AceRock at 7:20 AM on June 14, 2011


Acerock, I know what you mean aboutWestbrook vs. Rose. Up until this year, I thought they were pretty evenly matched, but I think Rose really made a huge leap forward this year. He still has flaws to his game, but I think part of the "he's not a great passer (possibly like as you said with Westbrook) is a question of the talent surrounding him. If the Bulls can get a decent 2 who can handle/create his own shot (because those just grow on trees of course), Rose could be even better. Hopefully, though, if Boozer actually gets some time on the court in training camp, the Bulls might figure out how to play him and Noah on the floor at the same time.

I do think Westbrook is a special talent. I think Simmons is right about the bounty the league has right now of potentially amazing young points and combo guards. Consider that Paul and Williams aren't even talked about as the 'young' points of the future anymore, and we've got Rose, Westbrook, Jennings, Wall, Rubio (maybe), coming into their primes, we're lucky enough to have some amazing ball ahead of us, provided there's no lockout.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:44 AM on June 14, 2011


he's the point guard. It is his job to get the ball in Durant's hands.

(I actually like-not-love Westbrook as a player btw. Also I'd walk across broken glass to get a Center like Perkins on the Knicks)

The reason why Rose gets treated differently then Westbrook is because Rose is clearly the guy on his team who should be getting the majority of the possessions, while Westbrook is not. But to a certain extent they are both small (6'3'', 190lbs) lead guards, rather than point guards, and historically there is a ceiling for those guys in the NBA as the centerpiece of a team. Wade is only 6'4'' but he's got 30 pounds on Westbrook and Rose, and him and Iverson are the only lead guards to take teams to finals- and Wade had a still useful Shaq on the team with him.

(I'm using lead guard as a cheat word for scorer in a point guards body, though arguably Wade is thick enough to be a true two guard.)

Kobe and MJ are both 6'6''

If I had to theorize - when shots aren't falling for the bigger guys they can go down to the high block and post-up - they've got the size and strength for it. Too many guards in the league are big enough to defend Rose and Westbrook when they post. In the playoffs its easier to take the drive away as well - more defensive intensity, more leeway from the officials.
posted by JPD at 7:45 AM on June 14, 2011


Rondo. I forgot Rondo. Then again, I hates him, so I guess that's understandable.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:45 AM on June 14, 2011


People forget about how amazing Paul and Williams are because they are really at their best as facilitators rather than main guards, and they've been surrounded by some pretty mediocre talent. I mean don't get me wrong David West is a nice player, but he's a marginal all-star with maybe the best point guard in the game getting him the ball.
posted by JPD at 7:49 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


JPD: I'm not saying Westbrook is as good as Jeter (what a bizarre cmparison anyway; did I really do that?) or that Perk is Hakeem (sweet jesus no) but rather that Westbrook is a guy who is going to be better in OKC than he will be elsewhere, and that people slam Perk for his scoring record when that's not his role and he's an excellent enforcer, which is what OKC's model requires. That's all.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:58 AM on June 14, 2011


JPD, I think your idea about a post up game is key. One of the main reasons why Jordan had such success after his sojourn in baseball was his incredible post up game. One of the main criticisms of James is his near total lack of one (I think Simmons touched on this, too). With his size and quickness, James could be devestating with a decent post up move. Hell, supposedly Howard spent the summer with Olajuwon trying to learn some actual post moves, though I didn't see much evidence of it in the few Magic games I watched.

One of the things I love about Rose is that he has a pretty solid set of post moves, and the strength to pull them off. Where he got slaughtered against the Heat is in his contorted layups. The Heat always had a second player coming in for a block, knowing that Rose would get past the first guy, and after Rose used whatever move he had, the second defender would be ready. That and having James able to guard him, and surrounding him with tall, long defenders, eliminated his court vision and crushed my soul.

I don' t agree, though, with Wade as a 'lead' guard as you said. He is shorter than Jordan, but I wouldn't want to put Wade at point. He can, and does pass, but that's definitely not his strong point. To me, Wade is definitely a two. If the heat can figure out how to put James at the one, without making it a gimmick, then they might be ontosomething, though personally I hope they panic and trade Bosh, the only one of the three who didn't outright choke. It would cheer me up immensely.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:10 AM on June 14, 2011


Paul's knee injury just wasn't fair. There were flashes towards the end of the year of he old CP3, and I hope that was a sign of a return to form. I want a league with him and Williams in it, and healthy, for the next ten years.

And hell, there's the absolute tragedy in Portland, where Roy's knees are robbing us of the next ten years of a special career.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2011


I wasn't clear - I think Wade is a true two as well -he's strong as hell. I just included him in the convo in case someone was going to point out Rose is only an inch shorter.

Agree on LeBron and the post moves, but he's got head issues as well. I think that's a bigger problem. I guess the first real sign of that was going to Miami in the first place. I thought he should have gone to Chicago, even though I hate the Bulls.
posted by JPD at 8:18 AM on June 14, 2011


In my own blatant homerism, I didn't want James. I wanted Wade and Bosh. I'm pretty damn happy with Deng at this point. Until James busted out his sudden committment to D during the playoffs ( will that last, I wonder) Deng was clearly the better defender, and (as much as I detest members of my family for using things like this a code for their racist comments) you never see Deng dancing on the sidelines during blowout wins. As you said, there's questions about James' heart and head, but fucking hell, he's a lousy sport. Poor loser, ungracious winner, I didn't want to see him on a team I root for.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2011


Hate to interrupt, but ...

JPD: I'm not saying Westbrook is as good as Jeter (what a bizarre cmparison anyway; did I really do that?)

What? You're still talking about Russell Westbrook, right? 20+ points/game; 8+ assists/game? One of the best guards in the NBA? And he's not as good as ... Derek Jeter? A better comparison might be Asdrubal Cabrera.

Derek Jeter is about on par with Erick Aybar. As noted, Westbrook is about as good as Derrick Rose.

Perk is Hakeem (sweet jesus no)

I don't think we'll see anyone like Hakeem for a while. Even Kevin Garnett at his prime was not Hakeem.

(You guys are much more interesting to read than Simmons, fwiw. ^_^)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2011


I really expected it to be a Red Sox fan, but I guess a Giants fan will have to do. Anyhoo yankees hate is far too easy and too predictable.

(and yes, the right comparison to Jeter would be the dramatically overrated, but still quite good point guard on a championship team. Probably one of Bill Russell's lackeys like Cousy)
posted by JPD at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2011


Actually I take that back. He's a rich man's Wes Welker. If I could somehow draw a picture from the venom in that statement I would.
posted by JPD at 9:07 AM on June 14, 2011


CP3 looked pretty damn good in the playoffs. Some advanced metric indicated that he had the best round that anybody had the whole playoffs. Give him a summer to further recover and I think he comes back and tears the league apart again. And as much as I support guys being loyal to their teams and as much as I want New Orleans to have a good basketball team, CP3's talent is being wasted there. They are just not putting the right pieces around him. David West would not even be a marginal all-star if he played with almost any other point guard. Are they even in a position financially to get him some decent teammates? Can they afford Dwight Howard?
posted by AceRock at 9:13 AM on June 14, 2011


Anyhoo yankees hate is far too easy and too predictable.

I don't hate the Yankees. I'm just a fantasy baseball manager in a sabremetric-style league. Jeter was overrated when he was "good," and now he's just not very good. (I know; I had him last year.)

Swisher (last year) and Sabathia (a few years ago) have been very good to me, and Rivera has been a mainstay for me for years.

I grew up in Detroit, so I'm a Tigers fan at heart, so it's hard to like the Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, or Red Sox (and hard to care much about Cleveland), but I'll take the Yankees over the Orioles, Blue Jays, or Red Sox almost any day. My dad grew up in NJ, as did the nice guy who sits next to me at work, so I'm actually partial.

But Jeter still sucks.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:59 AM on June 14, 2011


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