The Miami Heat’s Big Three have sent the Chicago Bulls to the postseason parting gifts line, and the inevitability of a Heat championship is more fact than fiction.
The Dallas Mavericks wear the crown of Western Conference champion, after sending the young punks of Oklahoma City on summer sabbatical, but no one with a basketball IQ above Gheorghe Muresan can truly believe that Mark Cuban’s affront to the NBA power structure (i.e. David Stern) will be able to slay Miami’s Big Three.
The Heat have vanquished the Bulls in five games. They’ll take down Cuban’s rotisserie team, and David Stern will announce that Miami’s Big Three have lifted the sport’s ratings and have provided the NBA with a much needed post-Jordan bump. The Heat will be viewed as the NBA’s next dynasty, debates will unfold questioning how many rings can become the property of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and all of this will be absorbed as a positive development for Der Kommissar David Stern’s NBA.
But is a Heat championship really a positive development for the NBA?
As a people, Americans love winners and the possibility of a burgeoning sports dynasty is usually greeted with equal parts delight and contempt. America will break into two camps, which it probably already has; those sports fans that love the epic scope of Miami’s Big Three and those fans who abhor the contrived nature of the Big Three’s existence.
Sports fans will flock to Heat games to cheer on the mythical figures of King James, D Wade and C Bosh, but others will tune in to jeer and ridicule a team that possesses the potential to be a sports juggernaut equal to Ruth and Gehrig’s Yankees, Bill Russell’s Celtics teams, Vince Lombardi’s Packers dynasty and Michael Jordan’s Bulls I and II. With the absence of an American sports dynasty after Tiger Woods’ Turkey Day tumble, American sports fans are anxiously waiting to coronate another one.
Der Kommissar David Stern will fiendishly plot the rise of the NBA back to a Michael Jordan level of popularity, and Miami’s Big Three will be praised for sacrificing personal accomplishments and accolades to win an NBA title. Basketball revisionist scholars will view Derrick Rose’s 2011 MVP award, as the product of James and Wade canceling each other out, and LeBron and D Wade will bask in the self-affirming knowledge that they were smarter than all of their detractors.
Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers will view a Heat title as all that is wrong with the NBA. How can one of these franchises compete against the allure of South Beach night life? The Pacers could have offered Chris Bosh the opportunity to NOT be the NBA’s greatest after thought, and Cleveland fans realized any chance of winning an NBA title – in the foreseeable future – took his talents closer to Cuba than to Akron.
When other North American professional sports are embracing the competitive frisson of parity, the NBA has continued to be the sole league that champions the development of a dynasty to right its ills. The NFL has enjoyed unbridled popularity with a business model that forces parity, Major League Baseball has witnessed nine teams win World Series titles in the last ten years and the NHL has not seen back-to-back Stanley Cup winners since the 1998 season.
David Stern has always believed that fans want to see players stay in one place for the majority of their careers, and the competitive framework of the NBA reflects that belief. Franchise players can earn more by remaining with the team that originally signed them – a team can exceed the salary cap to re-sign its own player (Larry Bird Exception) – which leads to a soft salary cap.
The Larry Bird Exception, which has allowed franchise players to avoid any talk of a hometown discount and an Antoine Walker/Allen Iverson ability to blow huge wads of cash at NBA player-friendly casinos, has also stifled player movement within the NBA. In the last ten years, only five different teams have won NBA championships. David Stern’s NBA is nothing if not predictable. Teams frequently repeat as champions, dynasties are sprung, dynasties disintegrate and fans of certain teams are basically second-tier fans. Unless franchises such as Minnesota or Sacramento can find a pair to rival Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the draft, they are screwed for perpetuity.
David Stern bemoans the economic vitality of his NBA, but he has never embraced the concept of parity. Do fans want a Heat dynasty, or would Trail Blazers season ticket-holders like to know that their team has virtually no chance to compete, versus the NBA’s big boys, unless David Stern’s magical ping pong balls anoint their franchise with the next Patrick Ewing allegedly-fixed lottery?
With the NBA experiencing hard economic times, Stern has proposed a hard salary cap for the 2011-12 season to reduce the present salary cap from a little over $58 million to $45 million, which guarantees labor strife as the NBA and its players attempt to forge a new collective bargaining agreement. A hard cap of $45 million would seem to effectively coronate the Heat as repeat champions for the foreseeable future. How would another NBA franchise be able to sign three players, close in talent to Miami’s Big Three, when the cap has been reduced?
Simple – following David Stern’s fiscal austerity plan – the franchise players get wealthier and the NBA’s ninth and tenth men are now buying suits at Men’s Wearhouse and taking their ladies to the Olive Garden for the “All You Can Eat Bottomless Bowl of Pasta.” In regard to salaries and rewarding the league’s stars, Stern’s proposed new economic order will emulate the NFL’s salary stratification where Peyton Manning and Tom Brady enjoy most of the their team’s salary cap expenditure.
How does any of this answer the question whether a Heat championship is good for the NBA?
Not sure that it does answer the question, but it illustrates that success in the NBA is as much about where your team is located, as it is about an NBA front office’s ability to draft well and sign productive free agents. Today’s NBA is more about John Calipari recruiting efforts than it is about astute player development or creative use of the salary cap.
The NBA will point to improved ratings for the playoffs, and that will be attributed to Miami’s Big Three, but the Big Three did not provide a boost to the small regular season viewing audiences in Charlotte, Minnesota and Milwaukee.
Violating the sacred tenets of American capitalism, the NFL has proven that parity can be a good thing, which the NFL is attempting to destroy with its own collective bargaining negotiation but how about David Stern giving it chance? Stern doesn’t seem to grasp that most of his league’s fans are afflicted by paralyzing bouts of depression when forecasting their team’s future.
The Heat will win the championship, I will rent a speed boat and attempt to take Miami’s Big Three’s talents to Havana to shore up the Cuban national team’s bench, and David Stern will have most of his league’s players watching TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” to get through the lockout.
Mike Brown was not Kobe’s pick to be the next coach of the Lakers, which seems to indicate the Lakers organization is starting to transition from the Kobe era.
Phoenix Sun Jared Dudley is starting his summer workouts two months early. Dudley must be an eternal optimist facing the specter of a David Stern-imposed lockout.
Chris Webber is being mentioned as a possible ownership option in Sacramento. Reports have it that Webber would be involved with Filipino investors. A Filipino media outlet suggests that the Kings could add some Filipino stars to the team. Why haven’t the Maloofs thought of adding Filipino talent?
Watching the NBA Draft Combine on ESPNU was a glorious waste of time, but a good excuse to listen to a couple of hours of hoops talk.
Boston College’s Reggie Jackson elected not to attend the Draft Combine. Does he know something about his draft position that the rest of us are unaware of?
Former disgraced Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl has been mentioned as a possible successor to Austin Ainge on the D League’s Maine Red Claws’ bench. After compiling a 18-32 record with the Red Claws, Austin was hired by his dad to be the Celtics’ director of player personnel.
Portland Trail Blazers owner/Microsoft founder/Bill Gates basher/Howard Hughes-wannabe, Paul Allen, sacked general manager Rich Cho because they didn’t have a good personal connection. Glad Allen didn’t take into consideration job performance.
Could the Celtics have used the services of Peja Stojakovic?
Former Boston Celtic and recovering junkie, Chris Herren, has penned a book with Bill Reynolds, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir”, which details Herren’s descent into drug addiction that railroaded a promising hoops career. Herren was the subject of Reynolds’ “Fall River Dreams”, which should be on any hoops fan’s book shelf.
The Nets’ Kris Humphries became the NBA’s next Mr. Kardashian with his engagement to girlfriend, Kim Kardashian. Humphries purchased a 20-carat engagement ring valued over $2 million dollars, which could be the total value of the Nets franchise, on his yearly wage of $3.2 million. Can’t wait for the Kris and Kim reality show where his salary will trump his day job’s pay.