NBA commissioner David Stern announced today that the first two weeks of the upcoming season have, indeed, been cancelled and more cancellations appear to be on the horizon.
“[Players and owners] are very far apart on virtually all issues,” Stern said. “We just have a gulf that separates us.”
The NBA continues to take a dump all over its unprecedentedly large fan-base because guys like Jared Jeffries cannot take a pay cut (because they are irreplaceable). Half the league’s owners can’t make a profit and the other half steal all the good players. The system is broken and it’s not getting fixed anytime soon.
In 1999, the last time the NBA locked out its players, an eleventh hour deal was struck and it led to a much-maligned 50-game season that featured a number of fat, poorly conditioned players. That is the best case scenario today. There likely won’t be professional basketball this year and, when it comes down to it, nobody really cares that much. An ESPN poll found that a 3-to-1 majority of respondents did not care about the cancellation of the beginning of the NBA season.
It’s not particularly surprising. Everywhere you turn, major sports leagues are turning out products consistently more enjoyable than regular season NBA games.
The NHL has been trending upward since the league’s all time low in 2004, when their own lockout led to a lost season. High-definition has done wonders for hockey on television. Teams like the Blackhawks and the Bruins have brought hockey glory back to big, traditional markets from less-than-compelling locales like Tampa and Carolina. The NHL wised up and moved a cancerous franchise in Atlanta to up to Winnipeg. With the Knicks, Mavericks, and Lakers MIA, the Rangers, Stars, and Kings may well be the hot tickets in town this winter, and that’s just fine.
The NFL, the apple of the American sports fan’s eye, chugs along having overcome its own collective bargaining crisis.
College basketball, the NBA’s plucky little brother, consistently reaps the benefits of parity and the best postseason in sports and stands to enjoy a significant increase in attention in the absence of the professionals.
It won’t be until April or so, when the Playoffs should be starting, that people will begin to notice that the NBA is gone en masse. The ghost of the Playoffs will rise over the waning days of the NHL’s season and the baseball’s 2012 beginnings and a host of sad realizations will hit everybody. The last season of Kobe Bryant’s prime was likely squandered. A full year of peak performance from Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James was lost. The last ride of the Garnett-Allen-Pierce Celtics and the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili Spurs was wasted. The Miami Heat and the New York Knicks were denied a chance to reach new heights.
All in all, the lifespan of a bumper crop of NBA talent will be shortened by a year. And for what? An argument over revenue sharing?
Sports fans may not care about losing October basketball, but come springtime, they’ll be longing for an end to the madness.