So now people are just coming out of the woodwork and claiming the NBA is rigged. Game results are predetermined to maximize ratings. Ex refs, pissed off wives, and former players are just beginning to rant about what has been obvious for 30 years. Yes, three decades.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is just following in his predecessor’s footsteps, David Stern, in how the league is run and marketed.
Remember the glory days of the NBA? You know, when there was one great rivalry after another that lured the entire nation into semi interest in grown men wearing shorts launching a ball into the air with the hope of it finding its way through a hole we somehow call a basket (football is not played with feet either)?
After Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years, the NBA became a revolving door of champions in the 1970s. Then the 80s hit and there was Magic vs. Bird and the great rivalry system was in place. Los Angeles and Boston traded titles back and forth while people argued who was better.
Los Angeles would remain strong longer than Boston which would be replaced, first by the Detroit Pistons and their Bad Boys and then Michael Jordan and the Bulls. In each case, there seemed to be the impression Commissioner Stern was meddling in the outcome of playoffs, almost as if he wanted to maximize the build up and crowning of the next great dynasty.
Then there was this thing called the NBA Draft. How do you create drama with the selecting of young players? Maybe add ping-pong balls and then wonder why certain franchises always seemed to benefit while others continued to flounder.
With both Boston and LA struggling, one of those two teams had to hit it big, which is what happened when the Lakers landed Kobe Bryant (the Orlando Magic struck it rich four years earlier when they drafted Shaquille O’Neal). Another dynasty was born while another rivalry unfolded, this time in Texas with the San Antonio Spurs.
Still, the finals seemed to lack something until what you know, Boston came back to life. “Celtics Suck,” and “Beat LA” became music to the ears and cash to the league. Toss in guys named Lebron, Kevin, Russell, and the league became player driven, but boring.
Seems it just was not profitable enough for a well coached and behaved team like the Spurs to dominate the league. Something had to be done. Lebron going to Miami was not the answer. Lebron going back to Cleveland was not the answer. Kobe’s long fade out was painful. Something needed to be done.
Then along comes the Golden State Warriors led by a fast pace style of gunslingers who shot the lights out of the arenas and suddenly the NBA is blessed with another sexy team it can sell. Only one problem, after winning a title in 2015, they had the audacity, and talent, to run off 73 victories (out of 82 games) this past season and appeared to be in a league of their own. Now they were being compared with some of the greatest teams ever, which is the last thing the NBA needed. They needed a rivalry.
Was the fix in when the Warriors fell behind 3 games to 1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder before making a miraculous come back? Some began to question so. What good are the playoffs if the team with the greatest single season record ever steam rolls everyone? Lets make them work for it. Make the tandem of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson prove they are better than the twosome of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Once their comeback was complete and another trip to the finals assured, all that was left was to dispatch the Cleveland Cavaliers, the same team they destroyed in the Finals last year. Maybe this year it would be more competitive.
After taking a solid three games to one lead, it was all but assumed Golden State was about to embark on a long run of successful title defenses. But then a funny thing happened on the way to greatness. The NBA may have stepped in to intervene.
A player suspension over a questionable call and back-to-back blow out losses pushed the series to a seventh and final game. Now there was one more hurdle for Curry and Thompson, one called James and Irving. The NBA was now reduced to a league of nothing more than two on two hoops with six stiffs taking up floor space.
And in the end, Cleveland, not Golden State was crowned champion after a close and exciting final game. Big TV numbers, a rivalry to be continued next year, and now talk of the fix being in all along.
Sound crazy? Maybe, but consider this is a professional league that like all other pro leagues is money driven. It is also a league set to begin advertising on player uniforms next year because they cannot get enough money from ticket sales, TV revenue, arena sponsorships, and player marketing. They must find a way to get more of the pie. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see the NBA tends to profit far more when it sells rivalries than it does retirement tours.
So was the fix in? I don’t know because I no longer care. A league so devoid of talent and team play that it is now forced to sell itself as teams fronted by two superstars vs. another with two superstars is nothing I am interested in.
The superstars may be in their prime, aging, or up and coming, but it is our two best against your two best and that just does not hold the interest of a fan who remembers when real teams with seven, eight, or nine players of deep talent went at each other. Team work, strategy, and determination made for far better drama than wondering why every game comes down to a backyard game of two on two.
The fix may be in, and I may be a dinosaur, but as far as I am concerned, the NBA is in real need of fixing to become a league worth following. Now, can we get on to more important stuff like head trauma, arrests, and steroids, or in other words, the NFL?
Photos by Claudia Gestro
Top photo of LeBron James after game 7
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.