To Whom It May Concern:
I hereby submit my letter of recommendation as an NBA fan. The league has consistently shown no concern for the league and the game that I grew up loving. I became a fan as a boy growing up in Southern California. As a child and a teenager, I did not understand the significance of the monumental and transcendent NBA finals between the Lakers and the Celtics in the 1980's. I hated the Celtics and everything they were about. I hated Byrd, McHale, Parrish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge (even though he was a BYU grad), and anyone else who took the parque floor to oppose my Lakers. I lived and died with them. Regardless, both teams played beautiful but different basketball. The Showtime Lakers ran their opponents into submission, and the Celtics killed their opponents with precision half court basketball.
However I saw the beginning of the end when the Lakers successfully went Back to Back in 1988. Gone was their long time nemesis, the Celtics, in was the upstart Detroit Pistons, the "Bad Boys." The Lakers finished off the Pistons in a tough seven game series, where I watched the league begin to change. The finesse and beauty of the game was being replaced with clutching and grabbing and purely ugly basketball.
When the Pistons beat an injured and depleted Lakers team the next year, the transformation was complete. The new model was not to be just more talented and execute better than ones opponent. The league allowed teams with the likes of Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman to win championships, by essentially bruising their way through the playoffs.
The game became ugly. First the Pistons, then the New York Knicks and then the rest of the east. Basketball became almost completely unwatchable. Each year the playoffs became more and more physical. Many people simply say "That's playoff basketball." Well, I will not watch it anymore, at least not with any concern.
The League has really no one else to blame. It started by not nipping the problem in the bud by forcing officials to start calling games tighter and to stop allowing the teams under talented to really compete. The other major problem was expansion. By growing too fast, the talent became watered down, and teams had to resort to garbage basketball. Also expansion led to the deluge of high school basketball players coming into the NBA early. More teams looking for talent, led to this deluge, which I think is a reason the game has deteriorated. Players are much less fundamentally sound than they once were. This is why the USA is having trouble on the international scene.
There is a complete domino effect here. The more physical play lead to a number of bench clearing incidents that led to the now infamous "do not leave the bench" rule that undid the Knicks, Heat Series in 1997, and now the Phoenix, Spurs series this year. In both cases the league chose not to think, but rather apply the letter of the law, to a stupid rule.
But the league has deteriorated to a compliation of bad rules, even worse officiating and now rewarding teams for thuggish play. I watched Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson to commit flagrant fouls with almost no punishment. Both committed hard, cheap shot fouls in the closing moments of the series. Neither were suspended. Then the league passes on punishing Bruce Bowen for fouling similar flagrant fouls. But two Suns are suspended for taking a few steps in the wrong direction after their MVP and leader is flagrantly body checked into the scorers table?
If the League can call this just, (which they did) their understanding of what is just and fair is so skewed, that I cannot in good conscience watch this League with anything more than annoyed amusement. Stern and Jackson have destroyed this years playoffs. They did not let two teams settle things on the court, but decided that stepping onto the court, retreating and doing nothing is a far worse offense than flagrantly elbowing someone or body slamming someone to the ground.
I will not watch another second of this years playoffs. And unless some changes are made to various rules and a complete change to the way games are called in the playoffs I am done. When marginal players like Bruce Bowen who play dirty (sliding underneath people while in the air, kicking at ankles, and kneeing people in the groin) are allowed to play this way and be called great defenders, I will no longer watch or spend my hard earned money to go to games.
If you think that I am alone in this, NBA, you are dead wrong. Ratings have been dropping for years, and they will continue to do so unless you do something. Cleaning up the game would be a start. But when a commissioner like Stern really thinks that he is doing what is best for the game by suspending players who do nothing, I doubt anything will change soon.
A former NBA fan.
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