Thursday, March 4, 2010

N. Boo A.

Mitch Lawrence wrote a great column in today's New York Daily News, about how the New Jersey Nets fans booed LeBron James at last night's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Brendan Byrne Arena.

Yes, I called the drafty old barn by its original name. That was its name when its first World Championship was won. Thank you, Jacques Lemaire, Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur, Claude Lemieux, Ken Daneyko, Neal Broten, etc.

Not that long ago, the Cavaliers were called the Cavalosers and the Cadavers. Now, of course, they are called "LeBron's Team." In the National Basketball Association, one player can make a difference.

Or can he? The Cavs have been to 2 Eastern Conference Finals and 1 NBA Finals with LeBron, although they have yet to win a Finals game, let alone an NBA Championship.

The greatest player in the history of basketball was Wilt Chamberlain, and he didn't win an NBA Championship until perhaps the greatest team ever was built around him, the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers.

The guy most fans under the age of 50 think is the greatest player ever (and they are so freaking wrong it isn't funny), Michael Jordan, won nothing without Scottie Pippen.

Oscar Robertson might have been the most complete player ever, but he won nothing until he had Lew Alcindor.

Alcindor went on to change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and was still a great player, but won nothing after arriving in Los Angeles until the Lakers also got Magic Johnson.

Bill Russell made the difference for the Boston Celtics, but how much difference could he have made if they didn't already have Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tommy Heinsohn and Frank Ramsey? (K.C. Jones, Russell's college teammate, arrived at the same time, Sam Jones a couple of years later, John Havlicek a few years after that.)

"When are you going to get to the point, Mike?" you're asking. Right now:

LeBron James signing as a free agent with the Nets, rather than the Knicks -- which was actually suggested by WNBC-Channel 4 sports anchor Bruce Beck in a currently-running commercial for the station -- won't make that much of a difference.

The culture of the Nets won't allow it. They've had Julius Erving, Buck Williams, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, and under different coaches, different general managers, and different owners, and yet they've always managed to screw it up.

The Nets won't win a World Championship until they get an owner who says, "Nothing less is acceptable." And Bruce Ratner isn't it, and the new Russian owner isn't it, either.

And even then, it won't matter. NBA Commissioner David Stern doesn't want the Nets to win, regardless of whether they play their home games in East Rutherford, Newark, Brooklyn, or go back to Long Island to share a new or rebuilt arena with the Islanders. He wants the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers to win. The big markets.

This is why he fixed the 1985 Draft so that Patrick Ewing became a Knick. And guess what: It didn't work, because Ewing was a loser.

It's also why he let Michael Jordan, of the big-market Chicago Bulls, get away with everything, from traveling on the court to traveling down to Atlantic City to gamble a million dollars away during a Playoff series with the Knicks: Because Jordan was a smiling superstar with a big-market team, and that made money for the league.

Same with Magic, and later Shaquille O'Neal, in L.A. -- but not the not-nearly-as-smiley Kareem. Same with Larry Bird in New England (a bigger market than the population of the City of Boston would suggest). Same with Erving in Philadelphia.

It's why you never see the promotion of the truly best franchise of the last few years, the one with 4 NBA Championships in 9 years between 1999 and 2007, with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and, formerly, David Robinson. It's because they play in San Antonio. (The fact that Parker is married to the luminous Eva Longoria doesn't seem to help.)

It's why the Phoenix Suns, with all their stars the last few years, such as Steve Nash and formerly Amare Stoudamire, didn't win: Yes, I'm saying the NBA and the refs fixed it. Same with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, when the Fakers beat them in thge 2000 and 2002 Western Conference Finals: Small markets without particularly marketable stars. (Though why anyone would want Bonzi Wells or Chris Webber, respectively, to win a title is beyond me.)

You think David Stern -- a graduate of another basketball-troubled New Jersey institution, Rutgers University -- cares if the Nets finish with the worst record in NBA history? Clearly, he doesn't, or he would have done something to help the Nets to better compete with the Knicks for the hearts and minds of basketball fans in the New York Tri-State Area. Same with the Clippers in L.A.

The fans who booed LeBron last night weren't booing him so much as they were booing Stern and the NBA establishment as a whole. Just as fans who boo Sidney Crosby aren't booing him as much as they're booing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who deserves it more than any league leader ever. (After all, he's the only one who ever cancelled a season, in the name of money or of anything else. And, yes, Gold Medal or no, I will still boo Crosby. He's a twit and a punk, no matter how successful.)

Bravo to all the fans booing LeBron, and by extension Stern, at the Meadowlands last night.

Look at it this way: Only 22 games left in this season, and the Nets only have to win 4 of them to avoid at least tying the 1973 76ers, 9-73, for the worst record ever. Memphis, Oklahoma City, Philly, Washington and Charlotte remain on the schedule, all of them terrible teams at the moment. So there is hope that the Nets can at least win a 10th game.

And, only 11 more home games at the Meadowlands -- Monday, April 12, against the Charlotte Bobcats, will end the 29 years of futility at Exit 16W.

Then 2 years at the Prudential Center, and then... maybe, just maybe, the new Russian owner will see what it's like at a good new arena, and tell Ratner to go fucksky himself, and Ratner will have to get a new team for Brooklyn, and be the 3rd-most-popular team in the market.

I wonder if Donald Sterling will finally be willing to sell the Clippers? Ratner deserves that team.


"Nutball Gazette" said...

I agree with you, Who is your vote for the Best Player of all time?

Uncle Mike said...

I said it in the entry: Wilt. He had the best explanation: When Jordan played, the NBA changed the rules to help him, and it worked; when Chamberlain played, the NBA changed the rules to stop him, and it didn't work.

"Nutball Gazette" said...

OK I was tired when I was reading it.
Great point on Wilt, I agree with you 100%