Talking sports for a moment here: Day 117 of the NBA lockout. As an overall sports fan that really only follows one sport and one team, it’s a weird feeling. Turning on the TV and NOT seeing a basketball game doesn’t leave a sense of anger that the player’s union and the owners can’t get a deal done. It’s not a feeling of depression that we may not get to see LeBron get cheered and jeered or Kobe do what Kobe does (in THIS country anyway) this year. It’s rather a feeling of nothing.
I remember the lockout of the lockout of the late 90’s. More importantly I remember the aftermath of the lengthy lockout. NOBODY watched the NBA, and those that acknowledged it did so with spite. Jordan was gone, and the fan base was depleted. There wasn’t a face to the League, at least until an 18 year old straight out of high school came in and ignited interest.
Even though LeBron’s still around, and Kobe & Dwayne etc. there’s no chance of lightening striking twice this time. The NBA has a long road to recovery, with a shot of no recovery at all. Two reasons why:
1) There’s no star power: arguably the league’s most talked about player (good or bad) is LeBron James, who is often times considered an arrogant sound byte and viewed many as what’s wrong with the NBA is now the face. Especially if Kobe leaves. That’s nowhere NEAR the kind of draw that would get the fans to care again. Worse, of all the times to hold a lockout, whatever action the NBA chooses to take it will always (even if in the most indirect way) be compared to…
2) The NFL. No lockout is a good lockout, but if you have to make your way through one, the 2011 NFL lockout should serve as a good model. The nation’s biggest sport experienced it all: turmoil, tragedy, risk and redemption. America hung on the edge of every single statement made from either side, shouting crying and overall praying for the lockout to end. When Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft wife very tragically passed away, the Player’s Union and the owners alike dug within Kraft’s diligence and found reason to get a deal done. Lockout ended, season was announced, all was good. But the story doesn’t end there. The NFL chose to open it’s first Sunday on the biggest American Sunday of the year: 9/11 10th Anniversary. What better way to commemorate the past and show how strong we are now as a nation than to hold the opening of America’s biggest sport on 9/11? The marketers knew that as well. From head to toe, it was executed perfectly.
The NBA doesn’t have that. They don’t have the ratings, the popularity, the star-power nor the situation to get a deal done. With the NFL it was what: a few missed pre-season scrimmages as a casualty? It was like nothing happened. They do not have a Jeff Saturday, a Robert Kraft or a day in which the entire nation holds in reverence. Instead we have LaBron James, Mark Cuban and the time of year where so many other sports are in action the NBA can go completely unnoticed.
To clarify, I by no means wish to lead you into thinking I’m saying the NBA needs a Kraft situation. What happened was a tragic situation and should never have to happen to get something done. Mrs. Kraft was a hero to many and is very dearly missed. The situation I wish to relate to in this context is that moment where both sides come together. A moment that so far has no glimmer of hope.
The NBA is digging it’s own grave. The question now is not whether a deal will get done, but rather how far down that grave will go. As of right now it’s a lot deeper than one Blake Griffin can jump out of.