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NBA not perfect, but I still watch



Published: Wed, April 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Bobby Knight is (choose one):

UA brilliant, but misunderstood basketball coach.

UA pain in the neck -- but hey, he wins.

UA racist, sexist, conceited jerk who should apologize to plants everywhere for making them produce oxygen so he can continue breathing.

UNot worth thinking about.

I probably skew closest to the last one, but he once said something that intrigued me:

"If the NBA was on Channel 5 and a bunch of frogs making love were on Channel 4, I'd watch the frogs -- even if they came in funny."

In all fairness, he said this back when he was winning championships at Indiana and Magic Johnson was just a good college player.

And, in all fairness, I'd rather watch the NBA -- and a host of other things -- than frogs making love. (Although I doubt that frogs call it that. I can't see a frog saying, "Hey baby, how about we go back to my pad and 'make love'?")

Parallels: But there are some parallels between the NBA of the late '70s and now: instability, an obsession with money and image problems galore.

And it would be easy for me to sit here and rip the league for all its problems.

So I'll get started.

In the last year, the Vancouver Grizzlies went to Memphis and Charlotte is leaning toward moving to New Orleans. That's not good for fans and I think the NBA should think more about contraction than relocation.

Attendance is, ahem, a slight problem -- especially in Cleveland. Who wants to pay $10 for parking, $4 for a hot dog and $30 for a ticket for the honor of watching millionaires play me-first basketball?

The Eastern Conference is a joke. The Nets and the Pistons are the top teams, Philadelphia will likely be the seventh or eighth playoff team, but could win the conference.

The Bulls surrender more often than the French.

Whichever team makes it that far will end up getting pounded by one of the following: the Lakers, the Spurs, the Mavericks or the Kings.

Who I'd watch: There are five players I'd pay to watch: Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan. Six if you count Michael Jordan, who barely plays and might be forced to retire from bad knees.

I don't mind tattoos or cornrows, but does image always have to be more important than substance?

When college -- or high school -- stars talk about the NBA, money is always the most important thing. Sure, many players come from poor economic situations, but as a fan, I feel like I'm expected to provide unproven, immature players with an exorbitant salary. And when fans stay away, we're accused of not supporting the team.

But I still watch.

Because I still like basketball.

Because the best players in the world are still the best players in the world.

Because the high school and college seasons are over and this is supposed to be the time when the NBA is really fun to watch.

Sometimes it is.

Sometimes you see Chris Webber (who's now being paid legally, thank you very much) pass out of a double team in the post to Predrag Stojakovic, who drains a 3 from the corner.

Beauty: Sometimes you see Duncan maneuver around a double team to shoot a silky-smooth baby hook from the top of the key.

Sometimes you see Jason Kidd toss a no-look pass off a fast break to Kenyon Martin (when he's not being suspended) for a dunk.

That's how it should be.

But that's not how it is. The NBA has become a haven for selfish players, money-grubbing agents and crummy attendance.

Maybe that's why Knight started throwing chairs.

XJoe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at scalzo@vindy.com.




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