The NBA Playoffs

How Michael Jordan Ruined the League
The stadium scene.
May 16 2007 4:34 PM

The NBA Playoffs

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Neal,

When I got up Tuesday at the disorienting hour of 5:30 a.m. to prepare for a grueling exodus from the island of Menorca, I realized that the time difference might allow me to watch the end of Game 4 of the Suns-Spurs series. Alas, the programmers in charge of my British-spawned satellite couldn't squeeze a live NBA game into the 17 available sports channels. Apparently, reruns of semipro cricket and the World Championship of Darts are that compelling.

Advertisement

Thus was dashed my dream of reporting on an NBA basketball game as watched through vision fogged by Spanish eye-boogers. Instead, I retired to the chair in front of my laptop, where I learned that live Internet coverage of a basketball game—while ideologically solid—falls far short of its potential. I was left to wonder why no one has upped the ante of the medium. We can build video games that take into account user input, but no one can put together a good animated simulator for live games? Tell me you wouldn't watch an NBA game shown in the format of the Nintendo nonclassic Double Dribble. Or better yet, in the style of NBA Jam.

I was able to glean that your Phoenix Suns won the contest in question, evening the series at 2-2. Strangely, I consistently take the side of your favorite team, even though those in charge of that same team fired me not once, but twice—the second time after I did what I thought to be a bang-up job of ass-slapping, warmup-wearing, and white-guy-being during our run to the 2005 Western Conference Finals.

But I'm hooked. I like the Suns because they are the only hope of professional basketball. I find it strange that David Stern is deified. Sure, he's made fans of the Chinese. But he's alienated most of America. I doubt that the average 45-year-old male from my hometown in Kansas could name more than three NBA teams. But that same test subject could probably name all 30 NFL squads, the capacities of their stadiums, and tell you whether or not their front office had interviewed a sufficient number of minority coaching candidates.

The NFL can trace some of its success to loyalty to particular teams. That league made the correct decision when it tied its marketing campaigns to teams and not individuals. Most people agree that the NBA came into its own during the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era. The NBA screwed up, however, in thinking that Bird and Magic were the league's saviors; in fact, the NBA blossomed because of the rivalry of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

But then, along came this dude named Michael Jordan. He transcended the concept of team and had a unique combination of ability, class, and aloofness that inspired kids everywhere to tug at their middle-class parents' Dockers until they shelled out $120 for the latest version of the Air Jordan. No dummies, those in charge of the NBA noted how much easier it was to market one man. When Jordan was gone, they tried with others—Penny Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal. But it's never been the same.

We're left with a league that doesn't know if it wants to be an extension of the And1 Tour or the second-coming of professional wrestling. Which makes me sad. I'm biased, since I've spent nearly half of my life dedicated to the sport, but I think basketball is the purest form of athletic expression. Football is too scripted, baseball's too boring, and soccer … well, soccer can best be compared to caviar. No one really knows why anyone likes it, but they're all afraid to say that it looks like poop and tastes like fish eggs.

As of now, the Phoenix Suns play the most poetic form of basketball in existence. For that, I salute them. (That was perilously close to a lyric from an AC/DC song.) Even though they kicked me to the curb like a 19-year-old gymnast, I have to keep hoping they win. Nothing less than the future of basketball is in their hands.

P.S. You're spot-on regarding the taste of Coors beer. That Pete Coors fellow ought to be taken behind one of those snowy mountains and pistol-whipped, first for looking like a complete and utter douche, and second for producing a beverage that tastes like the sludge at the bottom of a grain elevator.

P.P.S. At last count, we're up to one each of the terms asshat, douche, booger, and poop. Are we allowed to do this?

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The NFL Has No Business Punishing Players for Off-Field Conduct. Leave That to the Teams.

Meet the Allies the U.S. Won’t Admit It Needs in Its Fight Against ISIS

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Medical Examiner

How to Stop Ebola

Survivors might be immune. Let’s recruit them to care for the infected.

History

America in Africa

The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.

New GOP Claim: Hillary Clinton’s Wealth and Celebrity Are Tricks to Disguise Her Socialism

Why the Byzantine Hiring Process at Universities Drives Academics Batty

Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM The Fascinating Origins of Savannah, Georgia’s Distinctive Typeface
  News & Politics
History
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM America in Africa The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Education
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM Why Your Cousin With a Ph.D. Is a Basket Case  Understanding the Byzantine hiring process that drives academics up the wall.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 23 2014 11:37 PM How to Stop Ebola Could survivors safely care for the infected?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?