Does Anyone Care About the NBA?

by Eric Gilmore

The time was somewhere past 11 p.m. and I remember the score was relatively close. It was a pivotal Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the last two champions of the league. Detroit and San Antonio were trading baskets and the game was in the balance. Normally, the situation would make for "must-see TV."

With about five minutes to go, I dozed off. For such an exciting situation, it really wasn't that exciting. Yes, it turned out to be a great game. But with five minutes to go in the most important game of the 2005 season, I didn't really care. On Sunday, I'd much rather have watched the U.S. Open and a relatively boring NASCAR race.

What does that say about the NBA's allure? It's the post-Michael era and the NBA is in desperate need of some soul searching to find its core base. What is its core base? Does it even have one? Is the average sports fan attracted to an 82-game NBA season? Not really.

Maybe it's the two teams that are playing. Detroit and San Antonio pride themselves on good defense, something the flashy Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns have forgotten about. Both teams play grinding half-court styles trying to work for good baskets. There are only but a few plays earning highlight reels each game.

Maybe it's the players. Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace lack the star appeal of a Shaq and Flash duo. Tony Parker and the charismatically challenged Tim Duncan can't measure up to Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Both teams contain a bunch of role players that average fans cannot relate to or even name.

Maybe it's the possible lockout. NBA Commissioner David Stern is one of the best in the business. But the problem is that he is continually losing viewers to other sports such as football and auto racing. His disputes with the NBA Players' union chief Billy Hunter have been likened to 'spoiled brats' arguing over larger toys.

The possible age limit will help. It will allow for a more pure game than athletes clanking jump shots and still learning fundamentals. It will richen the college game, which does have the power, punch and drama the NBA lacks.

The last rules changes were meant to help the league. Many thought a possible zone would create more opportunities and variation of play. The problem is that too many teams isolate match-ups making the game more of a "one vs. one" than a "we" attitude.

Until more things are done to improve the NBA, which has one of the best games on the planet, I am going to continue falling asleep. And not care.

Eric Gilmore