View Full Version : How did the US game get the way it is.

09-09-2006, 10:52 AM
Many have postulated that the US NBA game is not as dominant in international play because we pay for dunks, one-on-one players and STA----TREATMENT! (See Jerry West comments for elaboration).

This commentary speaks to my feelings as well. He goes on about sportscenter etc, but the Michael Jordan comments especially rang true to me.

I stopped watching the NBA game when Michael Jordan started playing. I just wasn't interested in seeing one guy put up 50 points and be given the "and-one" treatment. I couldn't stand it and still do not enjoy it at all. Only the big-three and dallas being competitive got me back into it.

Last week we discussed why the NBA lost: American-style, individual basketball is simply not competitive against international, teamwork-focused players. We raised the possibility that we may want to simply accept that America is no longer competitively superior internationally and continue to enjoy the individual accomplishments of NBA stars. We will also underscore that we don’t really think there is anything wrong with our game – it is fun, the players are amazing athletes, and the whole presentation provides a good return for your entertainment dollar.

But just how we have ended up with the brand of basketball that we have in the U.S.? Now, don’t despair. You’re not about to read yet another diatribe about junior high coaches not teaching fundamentals or players being unable to shoot beyond a three point line.

No, we’re going “Deep Throat” here:

Deep Throat: Follow the money.
Bob Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can't tell you that.
Bob Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I'll confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just... follow the money.

To understand today’s American game, you have to “follow the money”:

• Michael Jordan

His Airness is the best that ever played the game as measured by rings, stats and over-all transformative impact (though Lehane would take Russell if building a team from scratch and Fabiani prefers Magic or the Big Fella, Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Jordan is the seminal figure that transitioned the NBA from the golden era of the 1980s defined by the Celtics and Laker teams to the current NBA where individual players are elevated above all else.

(A sidebar question: How much do you think the 1986 Celtics or 1987 Lakers would have beaten Greece by?) Jordan became the first player in any team sport to become his own one-man corporate entity – shoes, underwear lines, Gatorade, the shaved head look, etc. In this sense, “23” showed that a team athlete could become fabulously wealthy and powerful above and beyond the team. He became the model for the athlete as an individual; in Business School parlance, a vertically integrated corporate entity.

this was too funny not to include it. So true...

• Steve Nash

Nash won the last two NBA MVP awards. He is a great player measured by the true indicator of greatness – he makes the players around him so much better that his team wins. However, whether people like to admit it or not, there is this general sense that he is not the best player -- that debate usually revolves around Kobe, D-Wade, LeBron. And what is most revealing about this is that those guys – who are all great players and who are all winners – are lauded for skills that Americans define as distinguishing the best players. And let[s face it, these are not the skills that Nash possesses. Kobe, D-Wade and LeBron get the mega-shoe contracts and the big endorsement packages, while Nash (who is no doubt well-compensated by the Suns) is out there pushing his fundamental videos (The Steve Nash MVP Instructional Video for $29.95), which look as if they were produced by the same guys who brought you the abdominizer.

So when you’re searching for what happens to America’s basketball stars when they are asked to shine internationally, forget about the pick-and-roll. And forget about all the other excuses you’ve read and heard. Just follow the money, and you will find all the answers you need.