I like basketball. A lot. I will soon be purchasing NBA League Pass with my housemate (which will enable me to watch as many as– well, as many NBA games are being played on any given night) and that makes me happier than some sort of youngish-type, excitable kid in some type of store that may or may not have candy. But really the store does have candy, and actually, there’s a lot of it.
Ah, but times in the NBA, they are a’ changing (as some have been wont to say); actually, the times have already changed. The NBA is currently undergoing some major cosmetic changes, Tara Reid-caliber changes in fact. Unfortunately, for the NBA (well, really for Ms. Reid too—I mean, did you see those pictures?), in the modern-day American, ADD-culture, books are often read quite solely and transparently by their covers, and there’s little more to the NBA game than what its movers and shapers [read: David Stern] intend to be seen on the surface. And on the surface it’s painfully clear that more than in any other major professional sport, the rules and regulations of the NBA are pushing it in a new cultural direction.
Here’s the deal: back in the mid-90s when I first started watching the NBA, back when my hero, Kevin Garnett, became the first player in decades to make The Jump from high school to the pros, back when MJ and the Bulls dominated the league, and back when NBA Jam was the coolest video game ever (ok, maybe it still is), the NBA thrived on an urbanization and playground-ification (named after the playground style of game the NBA sought to emulate) of its game and game culture. Shaq broke backboards, Charles Barkley talked non-stop (and non-sensical) trash, and a punk like JR Rider won an NBA Slam Dunk contest with the aptly-titled “East Bay Funk Dunk.” All that funk paid off: according to an ESPN study in 1996, basketball was twice as popular as football among 12-17 year old(s). The fact that I turned twelve in 1996 is not important (nor is it coincidental); the NBA and American basketball culture was growing. But after the turn of the century it became clear that shit was hitting the fan. American NBA players suddenly couldn’t beat some stumpy scrubs in international play. And in turn Ron Artest and Ben Wallace started beating each other, and then some fans at a game in Detroit (ok, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and Anthony Johnson were there too), and ever since the NBA has been on a steady but undeniable popularity bender.
These days, when official rule changes occur in most sports leagues, it usually happens for practical reasons, i.e. for the sake of safety (see: the outlawed horse-collar tackle in the NFL), to update a inane aspect of the game (see: the use of the batter’s box in baseball), or because a game just doesn’t work (see: all the crazy, insignificant shit that happened in the NHL before last season). But ever the culturally and commercially-aware commissioner, David Stern (what Bud Selig would be like if he wasn’t a total jackass, or was Jewish [read: not a total jackass]) took rapid measures and made drastic rule changes to subvert the falling image and identity of the NBA. Sure, the NBA has had its share of nit-picky technical changes over the past couple seasons, but as evidenced by last year’s age cap (no more high school players) and dress code (no more anything but “business casual attire” when not on the court), its major institutional changes have all occurred on a cultural level. This blog is devoted to keeping a pulse on the finger of the NBA as it moves forward with its newest changes in an effort to tone down its streets cred and lean back the Lean Back-style of the mid-90s. Oh, and occasionally I’ll probably just talk about the Timberwolves too.