Saturday, 15 October 2011
Money makes the basketball go round.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
In Brad Pitt's latest classic film, 'Moneyball' it's all about numbers...and baseball. Before a big game the franchise owner he plays tells Jonah Hill's character to text him the play-by-play. As the kid from 'Superbad' looks confused the forever young actor replies; "I never watch the games". Can the same these days be said about NBA owners? OK that was a swipe and an unfair one at that. We know owners do and if they don't it's because they have too much on their plate, but this money debate on whether these millionaires and billionaires are eating enough is leaving the fans full and fed up. Especially with these fans from waiters to lawyers being the ones who serve these millionaires and billionaires with the cheese that brings these guys the cheddar.
Once again it's the players, fans and those working behind the scenes and below the pay-grades that are getting ripped off, while the fat-cats are having the last laugh and cigar. There may not even be any celebratory champagne next year at this rate if a payoff is not made before the playoffs. David Stern is even playing the role of the Grinch, all but cancelling Christmas. Bar humbug to basketball this year right? Camp didn't look so good this year, with no training days like a DVD collection with no Denzel. It's not a good look. We're waving goodbye to the preseason and the first fortnight of the regular due to irregularities and somebody not being forthright. Right now this weekend when top players should be getting ready LeBron James is in Liverpool, England with his part owned football club, while Kobe is probably digging in his deeper than the 'Bat-Cave' wallet to help more of his peers out, both these things being a financial concern. At the going rate between Italian offers to Jellybean Bryant's son and British jerseys making 'World Peace' statements, more stars may flock over the pond to swim in opportunity instead of sink in lockout blues. Deron Williams is already struggling out in Turkey. Who's next before thanksgiving?
Is this lockout the case of the owners being sharks or should the players bite and "bow down" like Hall of Fame legend and lockout survivor Dennis Rodman has suggested? Sure if the players did they could play now, but they have rights too it's like Kevin Durant said the players aren't the one's stopping play. This isn't the first time the powers that be have stopped the ball from bouncing the fans way. From league passes only available for the well off, to worse off teams getting as much coverage as playboy centrefolds. The lesser teams really have nothing too, as teams like New York and the Lakers thrive, franchises like New Jersey and the Clippers will struggle to survive, just thank the basketball God's for Blake Griffin.
Los Angeles and the STAPLES Centre almost made way for another Kings franchise and we aren't talking about hockey. The Maloof brothers are acting all aloof and taking their Kings franchise out of Sacramento. I guess this loyal city really will have to die-hard, perhaps more fans we're needed as well as more cowbell. The Kings look to go back to their royal roots as they look to head across California for the 2012-2013 season. Locked out of Sacramento, Los Angeles and Orange County were on the cards but now it looks like the Anaheim Royal's will be the new identity of another dead franchise.
It's another case of a stolen team and city. Sure it's great when a new town gets a new team for it's fan base, but what of the old home? It's that old girlfriend syndrome. Those 'Save Our Sonics' pleas didn't mean a thing. Seattle may have the former champion Storm in the WNBA, but they lost it all with their beloved Sonics. The people of Seattle still miss their team and the good days like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. They miss it like they miss their band Nirvana and Kurt, or their sitcom 'Fraiser', but is anyone listening? The franchise said goodbye to Seattle as they headed to Oklahoma with new fans, colours and a name. As much as we love the new, exciting Thunder team led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and it's city, the owners basically jacked the Seattle Sonics players. It's a whole new franchise just the same team. They should have really started from scratch, if they wanted to steal players they should have had an expansion draft like the Charlotte Bobcats. All this Seattle sorrow started with a Starbucks owner who built a success on two cups but obviously doesn't give two f#$@% about the Sonics. The only green he was thinking about was the green belonging to his company or bank account, leaving Oklahoma and the fans in Seattle blue.
This isn't the first time this has happened...obviously. Money makes the basketball world go round...and therefore makes its teams relocate around the U.S. more than a journeyman...word and respect to Joe Smith. Sure sometimes it happens for the best, the Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans, segued to Oklahoma during the disaster and the great cities of Charlotte and Oklahoma were rewarded with other teams (although the latter was at Seattle's expense in more ways than one) while the Hornets helped gave the forgotten New Orleans hope that those in power didn't (politics as usual). Still teams are changing arenas nearly as much as players are changing lockers. The Sixers have just been sold, who knows if they'll remain in Philadelphia or leave like the Fresh Prince. What's at stake in Philly? There's a lot of food for thought, but who's really thinking about the team?
This kind of thing hasn't been happening for year, it's been happening for decades. Think about it. Utah isn't famous for Jazz (New Orleans have lost a team before), have you ever seen a grizzly bear in Memphis? There's more chance of catching a glimpse of Elvis. After losing Vancouver, Canada now only have one team in the NBA; the sole franchise outside the U.S. I guess those Great Britain and China aspirations have been put on hold along with the season during this lockout, there won't be any international games this year, let alone domestic ones. Now if Toronto don't get much better, don't be surprised if Canada's only NBA team gets absorbed back into the States as right now on and off the court they'd probably far better in the new Canadian Basketball League. A nation could lose two NBA franchises in the end while the city of Los Angeles and one arena almost gained three, this is getting ridiculous.
You see what this all comes down to is love and respect. Love for the game and respect for the fans. This lack of has been happening for as long as loyalists and purists wish they could forget. At the end of the day love is more important than money. This is deeper then supermodels with old rich men draped frailly over their arms. As corny as it sounds if owners opened their hearts more than they closed their chequebooks we'd have something worth fighting for. The NBA needs to take a leaf out the NFL's playbook, as this sports league ended their lockout in time for the very first down. This is a league who still have great fan communities all around the world, like the champion Green Bay Packers instead of a hated team like the feel of the Miami Heat outside of the talents of South Beach. This is a league that recently mourned the loss of revered and beloved Raiders owner Al Davis, while in the NBA many Lakers fans were calling for Jerry Buss' head after the Shaq situation until the Pau Gasol trade brought the glory and smiles back to the Lake Show. Where's the love more apparent? On the famous Hollywood streets or in a little corner in Wisconsin? Could the money hungry owners keep a franchise there, when anything outside of California doesn't really sell? Sure we're in a world-wide financial repression, but right now we're in a basketball depression too.
It should all be about the game but the only ones getting played are the fans. The league needs more owners that are loved because of who they are, not just because there the greatest ball player and rapper of all-time. Sure MJ and Jay-Z are doing a great job (even if the Nets really are going to have some 'New Jersey's' as they are about to leave the Meadowlands and another NBA city, but hey Brooklyn's not too far) but more need to follow suit and realise that the National Basketball Association is ruled by more than the lapels and ties. It's ran by the one's who wear the jerseys honouring the logo on the courts and in the stands. Even King James dropped 'Business LeBron' because he was tired of being a puppet, now his commercial success is based on him managing himself. Now how's that for a decision?
The owners need to really look at their players and see how much they're worth, even if they play overseas and bring in more interest and revenue, it's the players who will be doing this and lining their owners pockets despite the lockout. It's a win, win situation for the owners so maybe it's time they yielded and helped out the one's at a loss. They need to look after more than number one, before nobodies watching. Most NBA courts get turned to ice rinks when the basketball's not on. Between hockey, football and Hollywood giving Baseball some shine (let alone international sport and basketball) the focus is zooming out of David Stern's Basketball league. It's in the NBA's best interests to keep going...literally. I thought this was the league we're amazing happens. We're all witnesses right now...but for what?