Sunday, May 24, 2009
David Stern's Dream is Just One Round Away
Kobe Bryant. Lebron James. Dwight Howard. Carmelo Anthony. Just four of the NBA's finest superstars. They also happen to be the only ones that are still standing in the playoffs this year. We've got LeBron's Cavs against Dwight's Magic and Kobe's Lakers against Carmelo's Nuggets. It is these types of matchups that a professional sports league dreams of when it comes to generating interest and excitement. And the NBA is the best at making that dream come true.
There is not a single professional league in the world that relies more on it's individual superstars. Just go through the NBA teams in your head...not all of them, but most of them have a single player that is the face of the franchise. He's the guy that always takes the game-winning shot attempt, he's the floor general, he's the guy that has the media eating out of his hand, he is the STAR. D-Wade, KG, King James, Kobe, Superman, CP3, T-Mac, Melo, AK-47, The Answer (for nostalgic purposes)...these well-known nicknames aren't just players, they are figures, personalities, and idols. They don't reach this status without a reason. The NBA's stars deserve every ounce of acknowledgement because they do things on the court that are simply unfathomable. LeBron's freakish dunks, Dwight's emphatic blocks, and Ray Allen's pinpoint shooting accuracy are just a few examples of why people are interested in America's pro basketball league.
In my lifetime, the NBA's darkest days started after Michael Jordan's reign ended. The darkness extended until a few years ago, but it was the branding of the league's superstars that brought it back. In the dark period, it was simply the Cavs vs. Heat. Now, it's King James against D-Wade. The intrigue of the league lies in the individual duels between the league's best. And while not every team in the NBA today has that one big name, most of them do. Whether it's Tim Duncan duking it out in the paint with Shaq or Chris Paul and Tony Parker trading no-look passes, the fact is that most NBA games have something like this to be excited about.
People want to see the best of the best, and the NBA does a phenomenal job of building it up and showcasing it to the fullest extent. You know, I really really love college basketball. The "teamwork" mindset and the endless effort put forth by each and every player on both sides of the floor always blows me away. Sitting in a passionate college student section is an experience I would never trade away. However, what the college game lacks to some degree is superstars (Not all their fault I know...many of the NBA superstars didn't even go to college where they would have been plenty exciting). I say "to some degree" because no one can watch someone like Stephen Curry at work and not immediately think he's a stud. It's just that none of college basketball's stars stand out as much as they do in the pros. And if you think about it, that fact is a testament to the very important "team first" mentality that makes the college game so good. I think all players should experience that brand of basketball at some point because it tames the hot shot egos that often form in high school.
Let's face it, though. The NBA's star power is omnipotent. It can't be topped. And when you have individual franchise stars on nearly every team in the league, the postseason matchups are sure to be enticing for everyone. The NBA has the formula down and it's working like a charm. The buzzer-beaters, the overtimes, the heated rivalries...it's all the work of superstars. So fast forward to today. Melo vs. Kobe, LeBron vs. Dwight, and the prospect of an NBA finals series involving Kobe against King James? Get Outta Here! David Stern, TV executives, and NBA marketing personnel have to be in a fantasy land right now. And lucky for them, it appears they won't be coming down from Cloud 9 any time soon.