Sircus: Stern, let there be games

In what may become one of the most boneheaded managerial moves of the sports decade, NBA Commisioner David Stern announced last week that the NBA preseason would be indefinitely postponed. Though the immediate repercussions of this decision are minor — training camps will not meet and 43 exhibition games have been cancelled — the possible long-term effects are catastrophic. Just when things finally seemed to be looking up for the moribund league, Stern and Co. managed to shoot themselves in the foot. In a move of unprecedented idiocy, the NBA may cancel the upcoming season coming off one of its most popular, impassioned and widely covered years since the league’s inception.

OK, let’s back up a second. For those of you who don’t know, here is a quick and dirty version of NBA history. The league was founded in 1946, but did not gain much popularity until the 1980s when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson captivated the world with their historic rivalry. In between those periods, there were some legendary players — Bill Russell and his 11 NBA championships, or Wilt Chamberlain and his 100-point game — but their Hall of Fame careers did not generate the type of publicity that modern-day superstars now receive. Right as the Bird-Magic rivalry was coming to a close, the league was blessed with the greatest player ever to step onto a court — Michael Jordan. From Space Jam to Nike to God knows how many other endorsements, M.J. brought the league to a never-seen-before-or-after level of popularity, captivating fans worldwide as he and the rest of the Chicago Bulls wreaked havoc on the 29 other teams during the 1990s. Then, Jordan retired for a second (and a third) time before leaving the league for real to go focus on gambling, golf and, regrettably, the Charlotte Bobcats. Here, we find ourselves in the doldrums of NBA history.

For the next couple of years, the league floundered, sort of bumbling around trying to figure out what to do after the greatest thing that ever happened to them left the scene. Enter 2003, and arguably the greatest draft in league history (with second place going to 1985 and M.J.’s freshman class). Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all enter the picture, bringing the league into an era of high-flying dunks, circus shots and freakish levels of athleticism. The draft class of 2003 captivated the world’s attention two summers ago when three of the four aforementioned players, James, Bosh and Wade, decided to join forces and create a de facto super team. Last season, fans watched with unprecedented curiosity, tuning in to see whether or not this trio would back up their gut-wrenching hubris with results. This all culminated in one of the most exciting NBA Finals in recent memory, as the underdog Dallas Mavericks toppled the Miami Heat in a rather embarrassing, yet, at the same time, oddly satisfying manner. Fans left this season feeling rejuvenated about the league, curious about how the future would play out, and willing to devote themselves to basketball for the first time since Jordan left to go groom his mustache and steam press his suits.

But, for some ungodly reason, the owners and players association don’t seem to care much about that momentum. Unlike the NFL lockout talks, the stalemate in which the league currently finds itself seems destined for protraction. Ineffable avarice may take away from fans the opportunity to watch any number of intriguing storylines unfold. Because of David Stern, we won’t get to see Derrick Rose win his second straight MVP award. Because of David Stern, we won’t get to see Steve Nash and his weathered body pick apart defenses with his picture-perfect passes. Because of David Stern, we may have to watch Kobe play basketball overseas in Italy (I can’t believe I just typed that). Because of David Stern, we won’t get to see my three favorite fan fixtures in the stadiums — Spike Lee at Knicks games, Ray Allen’s mother at Celtics games, and as of last season, J.J. Barea’s girlfriend at Mavericks games. Because of David Stern, we won’t get to watch John Wall dance. Because of David Stern, we may miss out on what could have been one of the most exciting seasons in league history. It’s high time that the commissioner, the owners and less-so the players association leave their pride and checkbooks at the door and put forth some modicum of sanity in the negotiations. Here’s to that and, hopefully, a Chicago Bulls championship if this season ever comes around.

Joel Sircus is a sophomore in Trumbull College.

Comments