After Kevin Garnett missed a big, game tying shot in a Christmas Day showdown with the New York Knicks, he really showed his character and exemplified the big perception problem the NBA faces by physically choking an opposing player.
The NBA has long had a PR problem and it’s awfully hard to fix perception when that perception is consistent with reality. When Latrell Sprewell choked his coach back in 1997 the problem began to surface. The Detroit/Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) brawl brought the issue to the forefront in 2004. The following year David Stern instituted a player dress code so that the league would take on a more professional look. The dress code was abhorred by players but lauded by commentators like Charles Barkley and Spike Lee.
When Gilbert Arenas and former GT Yellow Jacket, Javaris Crittenton, whipped out guns in the Washington Wizards (would be more fitting if they were still the Washington Bullets) locker room, we were reminded that the dress code was merely a facade for a league that still had its problems.
This conundrum is not unique to the NBA. Roger Goodell faced this problem in the NFL and has handled it by delivering stiff penalties for on and off-field incidents. He was also aided by the nature of the league, as a team-driven league rather than a star-driven league like the NBA. (Isn’t a star-driven league counter to the American values that make us love sports anyway?)
The NBA needs some class-act superstars that fans can celebrate. Chris Paul and Kevin Durant both fit the bill, but are not on teams with big fan bases. Durant plays in one of the smaller markets in the NBA (Oklahoma City), while Paul is now on the Clippers who play in LA, but are not LA’s team. The league had a chance to see Chris Paul on a major team with the biggest fan base in the league (The Lakers), but David Stern destroyed that dream.
Now, Stern must convince America that a star-driven league (that phrase makes me cringe), bogged down with excessive trash talking, a recent labor dispute, a major trade veto, and on and off-court incidents is worth watching. David Stern would be wise to take a lesson from Roger Goodell. I’d advise a stiff penalty for Kevin Garnett and all players who physically assault others in the future. I’d advise getting a hold on the trash talking and the showboating, and I’d remind David Stern that we watch sports in part to see a team gel together, work together, and win together.
Basketball is a beautiful game, hopefully he can make the league as worthwhile as the sport they play. Check the video below to see Kevin Garnett choke on the game winning shot and then give a little choke move to his trash talkin’ opponent. I grew up watching late 90’s NBA. It was my favorite sports league for years, but I’m left nostalgic for the classic Hakeem Olajuwon v. Shaquille O’Neal matchups. The LeBron drama just doesn’t do it for me. Do you think the NBA has become an inferior product, or am I just subconsciously bitter about the Lakers poor offseason?
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