With pundits from across the country – including the Nexus sports editor, Eliav Applebaum – weighing in with their two cents about the National Basketball Association, I thought it only fair that I offer my own insight concerning the state of the NBA.
Many experts (and Mr. Applebaum) would have you believe that the league is in trouble and in a dire need of a makeover. People bitch and moan about how boring the game is, how the players have no heart and, most of all, that the game lacks the star power it once had.
Well, I’m here to ask all you cynics: Which NBA are you watching?
Mine is an NBA with more intrigue and sob-plots than any daytime television show could come up with. Can Kobe and Shaq make up in time to lead the Lakers to a repeat? Can Rasheed Wallace control his temper long enough to be a force for Portland? Will Chris Webber bring a title to Sacramento before he bolts for the bright lights of a bigger city? Can Stockton and Malone pick and roll their way to a title at long last?
In the East, can the diminutive Allen Iverson carry the 76ers to the Promised Land? Will Alonzo Mourning’s return lead to a championship for the Heat, or will Toronto’s Vince Carter finally stake his claim as the next MJ?
For those of you who say that the NBA is lacking star power, just look at the names I’ve already mentioned – and I’m just getting started.
What about San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, Orlando’s Tracy McGrady, and the Maverick’s duo of Michael Finely and Dirk Nowitzski? All of them are just waiting to burst onto the national stage.
So far I’ve only listed the stars that are in the play-offs. On the outside looking in you have Steve Francis in Houston, Antonio McDyess in Denver, and Gary Payton in Seattle. Practically the entire Clippers team shows flashes of brilliance on a regular basis. And don’t forget about Paul Pierce up in Boston – the guy averaged 25.3 points a game this season, but does anybody get less respect or attention?
All this talent adds up to never before seen parity in the NBA. All eight teams in the Western Conference have a chance to make it to the finals, as do four or five in the East. And this competitiveness only adds to the charm of the post-season.
So, with all the skill, and no clear-cut favorite, who will be the player to watch in the play-offs? Let me offer up two performers that promise to make a difference in the post-season: Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson.
We all know that the play-offs are when the stars step up, and that means that every other team in the West had better look out for Duncan. Every time his team needs a lift, or he goes up against a quality opponent like Garnett or Webber, Duncan goes off. Remember the way he carried the Spurs to the Title a few years ago? Well, don’t be surprised if he does it again this season.
If you’re looking for the difference-maker in the East, look no further than Allen Iverson. Iverson may be controversial off the court, but on it the man is almost unstoppable. He races around the court with blinding speed, a cocky smile and a desire to win; if you saw the fourth quarter of the NBA all-star game, you know what I’m talking about. He has carried Philly all year long, so don’t expect him to stop now that the pressure is on.
So, while skeptics may say that the players in the NBA today are bringing the league down, I say just give today’s players a chance. They may not be exactly what you’re hoping for, but it’s time for a new breed of ballers to take over the NBA.