Maybe it was because I was somewhat spoiled as a basketball fan growing up that I look at the NBA today and just shake my head. I say spoiled in the sense that I had the pleasure of growing up with a group of players who weren't just superstars of their sport, but are the stuff that legends and icons are made of. Think about them: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and even big Shaq. These guys played their hearts out night in, night out, and all in the name of being champions. True, they made big money, and for a few of them, had some off-court incidents and lived certain lifestyles that could be called, well, a bit questionable. Regardless of that though, these guys made professional basketball worth watching, something that the class of players in the league today should take note of.
How many true superstar players are there in the NBA today? Shaq may still be playing, but his days of dominance are far behind him, and it won't be all that long before he hangs them up for good. So who is there exactly? There's no question that Lebron James is the most exciting player to watch since Jordan, and Kobe Bryant is going to go down as being one of the best Lakers to ever take the court, so who's left? Big man Dwight Howard can dunk and block shots better than just about anybody out there today, but it has become apparent just how limited his game really is. There's Kevin Durant, who the Trail Blazers are kicking themselves over for taking Greg Oden over, then there's Dwayne Wade, who has won a championship and carried the Heat on his back seemingly since he was first drafted to Miami. There's also Carmello Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki, who the luck of the Nuggets and Mavericks respectively rest upon. There's Yao as well, but his constantly wonkey knees may spell the end of his career, even after taking a whole season off. After them however, that's pretty much it.
It wasn't all that long ago that guys like Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson were instrumental to their team's success. Nash is a former MVP and still one of the best passers in the game, but he doesn't have long left as age is creeping up. Duncan still is to a degree with the Spurs, but he's not getting any younger, while Iverson's once Hall of Fame-seeming career has reached its end and fallen apart sadly after going back to the Sixers. Just for the record, while I watched him, there was never any other Sixer player who gave it his all and threw his body with wreckless abandon night after night. It truly is a shame that he never won a title thanks to never having the kind of supporting cast that he really needed to do so, yet he always somehow ended up shouldering the blame whenever the Sixers failed.
Anyway, while we have Lebron, Kobe, etc., there aren't any other game-changing players like there used to be an abundance of. Nowadays, if a team doesn't have a legitimate superstar or go-to guy with a decent supporting cast of players, the team will go nowhere fast. Sometimes however though, a great coach with an emphasis on true teamwork will simply get shit done. the 2004 Pistons relied on team defence to bring home a title, while the Celtics a few years back managed to completely turn things around after going on and acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and adopting a philosophy that restored the true fundamentals of team basketball. That, and the fact that Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce wanted to win a title more than anything. That sheer desire is something that is sadly lacking in the NBA today.
In the end, players get paid no matter what. How many players raking in obnoxious amounts of cash do nothing but sit on the fucking bench for Christ's sake? Take the Sixers for example, who threw a ton of money at Elton Brand, and when he is rarely healthy, can usually be found on the bench, or not found at all considering the fucker is practically invisible whenever he's on the court. For so many NBA players, they sign the big money contract, and they're happy with that in itself, pretty much saying "fuck the championship or winning at all". Not only is that a shame, but that's a fucking disgrace! If I'm raking in 20 million plus a year, I think I'm going to go out there and play to the best of my ability, injuries or soreness be damned. But in no other sport are there such unbelievable prima-donnas like there are in the NBA, and that's what has made the league the joke that it is today.
Is there hope? Possibly so, as Kevin Durant has already proven to be a more than formidable player who is reminiscent of Iverson early in his career. Not to mention that we are on the cusp of the biggest NBA Free Agency blast ever to be seen. Lebron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk, and plenty more are possibly going to be changing addresses, which in itself offers the most excitement that the NBA has garnered in quite some time. Will it be enough to re-ignite the flailing interest that the sport has seen over what has been close to a decade? Time will tell, time will tell...
...and just to get it out there one more time, FUCK THE LAKERS!!!