Poor leadership, lack of talent tarnishing NBA
November 20, 2006 —
While staying up late to catch the Lakers vs. Sonics game last week, I began to notice something. This particular game which was supposed to feature some of the games greatest scorers was as dull and boring as a cricket match. A three-minute scoring drought on the part of both teams brought me to a realization: somewhere between Michael Jordan's first NBA title and the second coming of his alleged protege (who is known only now by the mysterious moniker "D-Wade"), the NBA lost its way.
A professional league which once featured high paced and high scoring action, icons of mythic stature, and players who actually gave a damn, has become a faded shade of what it once was. A clown of a commissioner, the swarm of underachieving high school players, and the 2003 NBA Draft are just a few things that can be blamed.
Let's start with the commissioner, David Stern. During his tenure as commissioner, he has made more bad decisions than the entire Bush administration. Taking the reigns in 1984, it didn't take long for Stern to steer the ship astray.
He began by lowering the number of rounds per draft, from 10 in 1984 to two in 1989. This seemed trivial at the time, but with the 1990s came a flood of high school players who were high on hype but low on talent, and that pushed many fringe players out of the draft, thus watering down the talent pool.
Also, Stern elected to move in the 3-point line to bolster scoring. It did nothing but slow down the game and caused players to settle for three pointers instead of setting up plays; the mid-range jump shot (which so many of the league's greatest players had made their calling card) became a lost art.
Between cutting the draft down, moving the three point line closer, and allegations of fixing playoff series, it is safe to say Stern has had a rocky term as commissioner. He has finally stopped allowing high school players into the league, but it will be a long time before that move begins to bring the league back to grace.
The trend of high school players bypassing college to enter the NBA reached its pinnacle in 2001 when Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, and DeSagana Diop were all taken in the top 10, and have all vastly underachieved since. But a bevy of other virtual busts were taken before then and since. There are a few obvious exceptions to this rule: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and of course LeBron James have all proven themselves more than ready for the jump from high school to the NBA.
But as for the countless other high school players that are filling roster spots in the league, they have done nothing but drag the talent pool down to its all time lowest.
Darius Miles, Sebastian Telfair, and Jonathan Bender are all players who came into the league billed as players ready to change the game with their absurd amounts of talent. Each one has fizzled out.
Finally, the 2003 Draft, heralded by many as the best ever, actually left the league in a worse state. One cannot doubt the amount of talent that was produced from the draft (I too bow to King James), but the others (namely Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony) have not proven they have the talent to shoulder a team and a league like James can.
Their play on the court, however good it has been so far, is truly second-rate when one thinks of the heavyweights who once dominated the league.
The NBA made a good move last year by blocking all high school players from skipping college and entering the draft at 18. This will give teams a chance to see who is ready for the jump to the NBA and who needs a few more years to develop.
But, this is just the first step. It will take a few more big changes - mainly a new commissioner - in order to restore the league back to prominence.