It’s late April, so you know what that means: we’ve gone straight from winter to summer in the DC/Baltimore region. Late April arrives with armfuls of my favorite things: longer days, shorter shorts, Bradford pear trees smellin’ like naughty, and my favorite professional sporting event – the NBA Playoffs. No longer are we forced to wait until each Sunday afternoon to catch the best of the best – playoffs means 40 games in 40 nights of good basketball, plus the Pacers.
Yet the NBA remains a somewhat funny creature. A creature, I’ve found, that people want to rid themselves of. Not like giving lil’ Bowsies to that nice family down the street. No, it’s much closer to Bowsies has fleas, and they decide to carpet bomb the house, with Bowsies inside.
What’s going on here? The NFL is more popular than any schmoyoho-spawned cult hero – the first Sunday of the football season is akin to a religious holiday for most. Major League Baseball has a bevy of loyal followers and statheads. The NHL, despite Canadian leanings, is making huge gains, especially in traditional warm-weather areas like not-Canada. But 95% of sports fans (yes, people that enjoy sports to begin with) HATE the NBA. No other professional sport enjoys the same type of animosity.
One thing’s for sure: it certainly isn’t healthy for the sport. But, lucky for the NBA, I think it is very fixable. I can bring in casual fans and known haters. And I’m willing to do it for only a small fraction of the NBA’s gross revenue. And believe me, it is pretty gross.
1. New Commissioner: Old Spice Guy.
The NBA could do a lot worse than give the keys to Isaiah Mustafa. At the very least, he would make marketing a cinch. I can see it now:
Look at your hand. Now look at me. Now back at my hand. It’s two tickets to that Bobcats game you kind of want to go to. Look again! The tickets are now Lakers tickets!
Honestly, I just want to see the Commish and Isaiah switch places because I want David Stern in an Old Spice commercial. We wouldn’t even need to change the script. It would be the funniest thing known to man, I promise you.
2. Trade the 8th pick to the NFL for cash considerations.
One of the biggest problems is that, at any given time, there are at least five or six 8th picks in the league. For those not familiar with the NBA Draft, the 8th pick is home to such legends as Shawn Respert, Adonal Foyle, and Rafael Aroujo. For every Rudy Gay, there are at least two Brandan Wrights (please don’t actually let there be two Brandan Wrights). General Managers every year pick a guy that is guaranteed to flop, and this almost always takes place around pick #8. I feel like Bismack Biyombo is primed to grab the spot in this year’s draft.
In order to avoid such obvious blunders, the NBA should just trade the pick to another league (say, the NFL) for a cash advance. The NFL, in return, gets a legit 6-9 guy each year for field goal blocks. It’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned. To prove I’m serious about change, I’m mailing videos of Joe Alexander to every NBA franchise front office.
3. More Posses.
There’s a whole discussion about NBA “culture” that repeats every two to three years, going back to the early 90s. It basically boils down to white people being uncomfortable with rap music, I think. It might also have to do with guns. Regardless, there are some serious financial and social implications tied to the idea of fans being unable to relate to players. That’s why the NBA needs to embrace a posses-for-everyone requirement. Fans, players, coaches, spirit squads, refs, you name it. Maybe NBA players will no longer feel like the rules don’t apply to them (lol, they don’t), and fans can learn to appreciate the intricacies of supporting five or six of their freeloading friends. Did someone say group discounts for games?
4. Keep Yao Healthy.
There are a lot of Chinese people in the world, especially in China. And boy do they love basketball. (Racist!) It turns out that Yao Ming, an excellent but oft-injured player, brings in a lot of revenue from our debt-holding neighbor across the Pacific. Yes, Chinese kids still buy the Kobe and Wade jerseys, but Yao puts TV ratings through the roof. Why the NBA allows such a cash cow to be put in precarious situations, such as defense and offense, is beyond me. Two ideas immediately come to mind: wrapping a 7’6 man in bubble wrap, and lining the court with exceedingly fluffy pillows. Both quite doable, and it would be a good way of drawing bubble wrap fetishists and narcoleptics to the games as well – two highly visible, sought-after demographics.
Okay, you called my bluff. He’d still figure out a way of getting injured.
5. Dump the “1-year rule” for eligibility, create better revenue-sharing model, modify lottery system, change gameday experience, abandon league focus on “growing” the game.
These things might also work.
Hey, would you look at that – the NBA has legions of loyal followers, the game is better, and a few bubble wrap fetishists will probably be directed to this site via our friends at Google. Once again, no thanks are needed, I’m just doing my job. I’ve taken something broken, and like a mechanic, made minor repairs and charged an arm and a leg for it.
David Stern would be so proud.