As great as they are, are they ruining the NBA?
I’m going to ask for a little leeway and leverage on this as I feel it’s going to be a bit of a rambling rant that goes to and fro.
One can argue that the modern NBA has always been built around the phenomenon of the superstar. (I’d throw a nod at the ABA which could very well have brought this with them.) Sure, you’ve had teams that have been dominant (Showtime Lakers, Bad Boy Pistons, mid 90’s Rockets, 00’s Lakers, 00’s Spurs, etc.), but the NBA has always pushed the marketing angle, and that focus has been on the superstar.
It was an accepted practice and didn’t really dilute the game because the rules were still the rules and teams could make decent attempts to stop superstars, i.e. “the Jordan Rules” – knock the shit out of him when MJ drove the lane. You could argue that the refs had their own “Jordan Rules” and often looked the other way when he committed a foul (the infamous push off of Ehlo). However, they, I believe, attempted to at least not kid glove the superstars on the other end of the floor.
I’d say this was happening up to fairly recently, as you can recall Shaq with the Lakers commenting that he was often mugged under the boards and no one called anything because he was “too big” and people thought he could “take it”.
However, if you’ve been paying attention, things have gone a bit out of whack. I’d say this started in the 2006 Finals where the world outside of Miami saw Dwyane Wade get to the free throw line on many calls that had folks scratching their heads.
Now? Three guys can do whatever they want on the court and they will NEVER get a foul called on them. Kobe. Wade. LeBron. Watch any of their games and it’s shocking how quickly refs will swallow their whistles for those guys.
“But they’re superstars, you have to expect it.” Fair point. This is how things have changed. The other 4 guys don’t have to get involved in the final 2 minutes of a game. The superstar can drive the lane or take a contested 20 footer and get to the line EVERY SINGLE TIME. Simmons alluded to it, if you think Kobe/LeBron or Kobe/Wade isn’t happening in the Finals this year, you’re retarded.
It’s one thing to favor superstars and still allow the game to be played to feature both the star and the game. It’s completely different to sacrifice the game itself in order to feature and market the “unstoppable star”. Unfortunately, the league has turned to the latter, putting the game in the hands of the referees rather than the players and coaches.