By Sterling Pingree- Sports Chowdah The NBA is a reality show and I don’t mean that as a compliment. From my research, the National Basketball Association is in the midst of the Finals but from all reports on ESPN, social media and podcasts these are the lead storylines:
Why did Magic Johnson really leave the Lakers? Is Lebron next? Is Jason Kidd going to take Frank Vogel’s job that he’s had for, oh about a minute? Where is KD going to sign? Where is Kyrie going to sign? Where is Kawhi going to sign? Is Anthony Davis going to be traded?
Kyle Lowry got shoved by a venture capitalist court side during a Finals game, and the guy turned out to be a minority owner of the Warriors. This league, I tell ya.
Yet, if you talk to those passionate about the NBA (or listen to Bill Simmons for any length of time) the NBA is exactly how professional sports should be. The common phrases linked to the league’s health revolve around how entertaining the NBA is, how the personalities are so fascinating and how they know how to market their stars better than other sports.
There is no doubt that the players are incredibly popular and dictate fashion to a certain extent, although you’d never know it during the arcane videos of them walking into stadiums. (What goes through Russell Westbrook’s mind when he decides to wear say a welder’s helmet with acid washed coveralls that have two arms and a leg cut off before a game with the Grizzlies? I think I made that “outfit” up, but who can really be sure.)
Simmons in a recent podcast with Chuck Klosterman continuously compared the NBA’s overall health to that of baseball and condemned baseball for being boring and not reaching fans the way the NBA is. (It’s become common of Simmons to use baseball as a means to prop up the NBA. Sad for the “Boston Sports Guy” who rose to prominence on the back of the Red Sox and his first book “Now I Can Die in Peace.”)
But look how the NBA is going about that, the “drama” of the NBA is about players switching teams, being unhappy and rappers massaging coaches on the sidelines. It doesn’t feel like very long ago that we were slamming Lebron James for leaving Cleveland (the first time) to create a super team in Miami and now players jumping from team to team is a good thing?
It’s not the sport that is making the NBA successful, it’s everything around it and you know what that reminds me of? Pro wrestling. Professional wrestling started in the early 1900’s as a legitimate sport, but as it got more and more popular the business became a scripted drama. It became show business that masqueraded as legitimate sport.
Vince McMahon coined the term “Sports Entertainment” to describe modern pro wrestling and the NBA feels more like sports entertainment right now than a legitimate contest.
I don’t feel we are too far away from Lebron trading himself from the Lakers to the Warriors for Kim Kardashian, next season’s Bachelorette and two Real Housewives to be named later. The NBA is a spectacle, but at this point, it’s barely sport.