Lakers, Shaquille ruin professional basketball for fans

Ah, November: one of the most exciting times in the year of sports:

-The puck has been dropped in both NCAA and NHL arenas. And forget the game itself. The tag-team melee Saturday night between four Elis and four Fighting Sioux for a good five minutes during Yale’s loss to North Dakota was enough sports entertainment to last me for the whole weekend.

-College football’s championship race is in full swing, with the Miami Hurricanes trying for a second consecutive national championship.

-The NFL is midway through its season, solidifying its spot as the most popular of the “big 4″ with tight races underway in every division except the AFC north and NFC north.

But as exciting as these sports make the autumn, there always will be one constant that gives fall sports a bad name: the NBA.

The first example of why the NBA is in such a state of disrepair can be found directly in the city of Los Angeles. No, I’m not talking about the Clippers. Yes, the Lakers, the storied franchise that wears hideously disturbing purple and yellow, have ruined the NBA. Just examine this year’s team. They are 2-3 so far on the year and are scoring a paltry 89.4 points per game. They are of course favored to win the title with Kobe and Shaq playing together.

And you ask, “How can they be 2-3 with two of the best players in the league?” With Shaquille O’Neal hurt, the Lakers look like a team that should be playing in the Hamden YMCA rather than in the Staples Center. When Shaq returns, we might as well skip to the postseason, pick eight teams at random from each league, give the Lakers the trophy, and save fans from having to endure a full NBA season.

Dominance in the NBA is nothing new; it was just a few years ago that the Chicago Bulls snagged their third straight championship — for the second time in a decade, too. But Michael Jordan’s Bulls raised the NBA to new heights; the Lakers have brought the league to new lows.

Comparing Shaq to Jordan is unfair, because at center, Shaq has no competition. Are you excited to watch a game when you know that Shaq is going to be playing against someone like Arvydas Sabonis and Greg Ostertag, two guys whose job it is to foul Shaq and send him to the line? It’s painful enough to look at these guys, let alone watch them play basketball.

Never mind how boring the game is on the court, when all you see are centers traveling with the ball every time they make a move in the paint, or watching a certain 76ers point guard cross over and shoot the ball 300 times a game, coming out with 30 points while the rest of his team has a combined 35. In the past, the NBA’s superstars made everyone around them better. Today’s teams are so obsessed with stopping stars like Shaq that they abandon their own style of play for fouls and isolation matchups.

But a bigger problem than the dearth of championship competition that results from the Lakers’ dominance is the image of the NBA in general. When you have Jason Kidd blowing kisses to his wife whom he previously abused and admittedly battered, when you see Allen Iverson on the court after allegedly threatening to kill and getting off free of punishment, and when you pay to see Lamar Odom on the court after his, well I’ve actually lost count now, let’s just call it several drug offenses, you wonder if you’re watching a sporting event, or rather a circus side show.

This fall, when you see an NBA game on TV, do something better with your time, like homework or staring at a wall. One thing’s for sure: I won’t be watching.

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