Friday, October 22, 2010

Every Time LeBron is Booed, David Stern Should Cheer
Last night, in Atlanta, LeBron James and the "Wade-less" Miami Heat lost their fourth pre-season game of their first seven.  The result itself isn't a big deal, preseason doesn't matter.  Yes, I said it.  Preseason flat out does not matter.  Especially for one of the top three teams in the league, playing on the road, without the face of their franchise, Dwyane Wade (Yes, that's right.  LeBron James is not the face of their franchise, and he never will be).  The only thing this game proves, is the fact every single team in the league is going to be shooting to beat Miami.  You know, when people say a preseason game has a regular season feel, that the underdog, or the less talented team is giving it their all.  I'm not sure you can say the same for the favorite.  A preseason game has no meaning to Miami, but everyone and their brother wants to beat them.  They don't really care if they lose, but other teams sure as hell are pushing for a victory, even when it doesn't mean anything.  Just because of all the crap they pulled with LeBron's "Decision" and the ridiculous show they put on when they first showed up at American Airlines Arena.  They didn't even do anything to piss me off, and I'm pissed just because it feels like LeBron is kind of copping out and going to someone else's team in an attempt to win a championship.  Enough about LeBron though, his fiasco has been analyzed enough.  Somewhere out there though, upon hearing the reign of "boos" cast upon LeBron, David Stern is smiling, or at least he should be.

The NBA is a league of superstars, and that is one of the reasons it thrives.  Those superstars are marketed and relied upon to draw people to games and sell merchandise.  The NBA is a superstar driven league.  People don't want to see average people, doing average things, making average plays.  They want to see the spectacular.  They want to see freaks of nature harnessing their athletic skills to make plays that are unbelievable to watch.  They want to see the best athletes in the world, playing at the highest level of competition, with the pace of the game so fast they can barely follow it.  People want excitement.  This whole Heat trio is bringing excitement back to the game.  The NBA can't live off an aging Kobe Bryant playing against an aging Big Three in Boston forever, as much as I would love it to.  The Finals last year were unbelievable to watch (I'm a Knicks fan but I can't help but root for Kobe, you have to applaud unbelievable talent, class, and an overall determination to winning which is unmatched).  It related to everyone because you're either a Boston Guy or an L.A. Guy.  There is no both, although there is a neither, everyone dislikes one more than the other.  People hate Kobe, people hate Boston.  When there is a villain, in any sport not just basketball, ratings go up like crazy.

The Miami Heat have now been proclaimed the New York Yankees of basketball.  They have the polarization factor that so few teams seem to have nowadays.  You either love the Heat, or you hate them.  Not because they're the Heat, or the players they have, or because they're talented, but because of how they marketed themselves in such an arrogant fashion when they first jumped on board together that makes it tough to like them if you weren't a fan prior to all of this.  The Heat have created such a hatred against them that I'll be stunned if they don't sell out every single game this year, home and away, even the ones in mid-January when nobody cares about anything other than NFL Playoffs.  People are going to line up to see them, not only because they want to boo the crap out of them, but because they want to be able to witness one of the most talented teams ever assembled, and potentially one of the best teams ever.  Even if you're a Heat Hater, which I am, nobody can deny they've got a hell of a lot of talent on that team.  This fact will make it that much better when they lose games.  I've said from my experience playing soccer that it's fun winning when you're the favorite, but it's a thousand times more fun to beat teams you supposedly have no shot beating.  Mark my words, they're going to run into an experienced Boston team, with motivation now that people are already proclaiming the Heat champions of the East, and they're going to get challenged.  I'm not saying they're going to lose, but there will be moments in that series when Miami will start to panic, and if they truly are the best team in the league like everyone says, they will find a way to win those games.

I will boo them, I will be the first to boo them.  David Stern should cheer and be happy, because when there is a "bad guy" in sports, ratings go through the roof.  Baseball lives off an "Anyone but the Yankees" mentality.  Football thrived off the Patriots and the hatred toward them.  Tennis lived off of McEnroe and Connors when they had their glory days.  Even in England with the Premier League, everyone hates Manchester United.  But you know what?  These dominant teams make people watch.  They connect and rally together to oppose these powers, these teams they all hate.  Not only is it good for the game, it's great for the game.  All the NBA needs now is for another super power team to come along, hopefully for my sake in New York.  When the NBA can set up a system where there is a "good guy" who everyone rallies behind, and a "bad guy" who everyone loves to hate, then the NBA will once again become one of the most interesting and successful leagues in the world.

Even now though, as long as there are boos toward LeBron James and the Heat, David Stern should be the happiest man alive.

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