So in light of the NBA trade deadline which passed last week I decided to work on an Illustration, which in my opinion, summarizes the financial state of the league in a nut shell. Unlike recent years or even decades, the National Basketball Association has diminished its basic principles of what made it an enjoyable game to watch. Any avid fan of the last decade or so can agree that the root of the problem digs MUCH deeper than the gambling scandals of Tim Donaghy.
At the conclusion of the 20th Century we witnessed both the end of the Jordan-Bulls Dynasty (arguably the greatest the sport has seen) and a very forgettable 1999 Lockout season (one of the worst). The entrance of the new millenium seemed to bring with it promise, with Phil Jackson applying his same old touch to a new Lakers Dynasty and a Spurs team that saw The Admiral finally succeed with an emerging superstar in Tim Duncan. This however proved to be one of the last glimmers of hope the league saw at its peak.
The decade progressed to include a long line of events that has attributed to the state of the league today. The third and unpleasant revival of Michael Jordan, the drama infused Hollywood divorce of Kobe & Shaq, the need for a “Redeem Team” Olympic squad, the forever scarring “Brawl at the Palace”, and most recently the Gilbert Arenas locker room gun incident; all were moments the NBA wishes it could have done without. In a day and age where the urgency for players to rush into the NBA, we have seen the desire to throw college opportunities into the backseat and witness young, raw, unpolished talent falter at the hands of the league. David Stern not only had to attempt to make the league “grow up” by instituting an age requirement, but also a dress-code. This has tarnished the image of the league to all who enjoyed it in the glory years of the past.
The concept of “team” is no longer relevant. in comparison to what one player carries a team on his back. The game has digressed from the days of the “Bad Boys”, the “Showtime”, or even the Stockton-to Malone/Jordan-Pippen duos. Now it is “Lebron’s Cav’s vs. (Team name here)” or “Wade’s Heat against (X)”. The team mentality is lost and uneven when fluxuating across the league. In an era that rivals baseball and its ridiculous individual contracts and uncapped teams, the NBA has become a game of who can dismantle a team quickest in desire to spend millions on someone to “salvage” the franchise.
This is where the recent trade deadline comes to light. Presently the league has seven teams that are in position to offer a maximum contract to one or even two free agents of the now infamous summer class of 2010 (Some of which have been dismantling or cutting back on team spending for the past two years in anticipation). Only one of which is with an above .500 record (only 2 games above). This shows us that roughly under 1/4 of the league have given up and called it quits on giving this present season a legitimate effort. The passing trade deadline served to be a “yard sale” of bundled expiring contracts and removing players from your roster that carried no optimism or potential of retaining beyond this season. Many players involved in these trades where consequently waived with no intention of them playing a single game for their respective new teams, rather their contract was more enticing than their talent.
The idea of making a trade and making your team better with the talent you obtain is becoming a lost art form, this is a distasteful feature the league has evolved to.