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It’s Not Basketball, Anymore.

NBA commissioner David Stern should get the Oscar for best actor.

No, I’m serious. Did you catch his act last night, giving his pronouncements on who would be gone for how many games? Can anyone looking at this guy even contemplate the idea that he was as shocked as he’d have us think? 

Look, call it what you will, but I’m willing to bet there were very few people in the general public that were as shocked by the events during the game last Friday night in Deriot… (which is Detroit, spelled sideways, kinda.) Stern’s as close to this stuff as sweat on skin; he should know better than most what’s what. And yet, he’s ‘shocked’. What a steaming heap of (____).

The transition of the NBA from a group dedicated to basketball to a group dedicated to selling and distributing “bling” has been slow and steady, and a goodly chunk of this downhill trend has been on Stern’s watch. Let’s start with the happenings on the court, exclusive of what we saw last Friday.

A good example, so that we’re not leaning hard on any one team… is last year’s all-star game. 44 dunks and 16 missed free throws (out of 32).

This is an all-star team? These guys are supposedly the best of the best?  Com’on’, gang… I know high-school B-ballers who can turn in a better night!  And, don’t tell me these abysmally low scores we’re seeing the last few years are due to defenses being better.  In this new NBA game, there is no defending the hoop; It’s 3 pointers, glass shattering slam dunks, and a whole lot of nothing in between. The concept of actually playing as a team, has been lost in the showboat antics. Even the Great Oscar Robertson addressed this one, after the all-star votes had been counted, but before that same All-star game I mentioned above. Says Robertson:

“N.B.A. basketball is mostly muscle and flash. Stylin’ all the way to the hoop. Dunks and 3-pointers, with nothing in between. Shooting percentages continue to plummet. When people tell me that scores are lower today because defenses are better, I have to laugh. Once I resisted the idea of the N.B.A. permitting zone defenses. Anymore, what does it matter? Defenses can’t guard anyone properly and offenses can’t score. One guy freelances while the other four stand and watch. There’s no movement, no creation of an open shot on the weakside, no positioning for an offensive rebound.

I pity coaches at any level who believe in and want to teach fundamentals, when youngsters see players on TV with no fundamentals being paid huge sums of money. Why be concerned with traveling, double dribbling, palming or carrying the ball, or failing to box out under the hoop when there are no consequences in the N.B.A. for such behavior?

Players today are bigger, faster, stronger and more agile. But many of them can’t dribble, can’t shoot from outside, can’t create shots off the dribble, can’t guard anyone and are lost without the ball. Or even with it.”

The bottom line, here is alas, the bottom line itself. Which is to say, money. The NBA has sold it’s soul to the marketing types, who recognize that there’s a bit of money to be had in the hip-hop culture. Admittedly, the move toward this nonsense by the NBA is sheer giving a segment of the public what it wants… Lots of glitter and not much else. But in knee-jerking itself into that position, the NBA has, I think spelled the death of the game.  Even Robertson says:

I always thought that the game itself was the product and that team success took precedence over the achievements of individual stars. Such thinking today is passé. The N.B.A. has bet the farm on marketing those players it believes appeal to the hip-hop culture, which has the same relationship to true culture as N.B.A. basketball does to real basketball. Even if basketball people were allowed once again to influence the strategic direction of the N.B.A., it would take them years to reverse the damage.

Robertson, I think, nails it, with this line.  Last week, in BitsBlog, I made note of a knife fight that erupted backstage of a hip-hop awards show:

“SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -: A fight broke out near the stage at the Vibe awards ceremony as rapper Snoop Dogg and producer Quincy Jones were preparing to honor Dr. Dre., and one person was stabbed, authorities and witnesses said.”

Can anyone come up with big name Jazz acts having this kind of reputation? Bigtime Rock acts? When’s the last time we heard of a knife fight at the Philharmonic? I don’t recall anything like this at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in all the years that’s been running, do you? I’ve been unable to find records of anything of the like happening down at the theatre district in Branson, MO. I haven’t seen anything like this on the Gospel Music circuits, or the Modern Christian music circles, either.

Ya know, at some point, someone’s going to figure out that there’s a rather well-established pattern, here. And no, this is not a ‘racial profiling’ thing. This is a ‘rap profile’ thing, and it’s getting as predictable as the outcome of tossing a can of gasoline on a campfire.

Prevention of this nonsense permeating our society is not something that requires government intervention.

It doesn’t even require ‘black leaders’ to mouth their nonsense. What it WILL require is individuals to walk away from the rap scene as self-destructive.

And I wonder if those still following these thugs, have the smarts to walk away like that.

Sadly, I tend to doubt it.

And it’s even money I’ll get called a racist for saying this.

As of last Friday, and actually long before, we see the results of trying to center Basketball on sales to this self-same culture. The culture that the NBA has hung its star on, is making money, but as a result the game being played… it’s not basketball, anymore. And that’s without the other influences that culture has had on the game… such as the bit in Detroit the other night.

The same culture that has pushed player salary so high that it costs over $200 in most NBA markets for a family of four to catch a game, is what is at the bottom of Artest being on the court… or more correctly, OFF the court, last Friday night. 

($200/game? Heck, I’ve taken entire vacations on less money than this!)

Think; what is Hip-Hop about? Unabashed anger. Ever see any pictures of rappers smiling? Neither have I. That culture, and those results, last Friday, are directly connected. It’s time now for the NBA to start reckoning with that simple fact.

To start with Artest should be gone from the game, period. I mean forever. Don’t worry, Artest won’t starve. He’d already asked his coach for amonth off to promote his rap album with a concert tour.  In any event, this is not his first brush with this kind of nonsense.

The remainder of that gang war should have been out for the one season at least… and the player’s union be hanged if they don’t like it. So, they sell a few less Bentleys, spinner wheels and $400/pair sneakers.

Screw them.

Robertson suggested before the all-star game last year that the all-star voting should be returned to the players. That’s a suggestion that would have worked a few years ago. Not anymore; the inmates are now running the assylum, and the shift Robertson suggsted would no longer have the desired effect.

Oh, I’m sure there will be many who will at the mildest, call me “old school”, or “Out of touch” or at worst “racist”. The defense of this nonsense always does seem to gravitate to that word, doesn’t it?  The charge is easily defeated. Can anyone imagine a Robertson, or, Robert Parrish pulling an Artest?

But I think, for describing what I’m thinking, here, nothing could top the rather bewildered look on the face of then 70-year-old Bill Russell at last year’s all-star game… Wondering what the hell happened to the game he used to play. I can’t help but wonder what he’d have been thinking had he been courtside last Friday in Detroit.