James May Win, But NBA Needs Likeable Stars

The folks at ESPN have to be giddy today with their chosen franchise, the Miami Heat, just one win from the title the network so wanted them to win last season.

The “Heat Index”, the site crafted by the four letter network, will be glowing in neon colors after the team that superstars put together hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Isn’t it odd that when the Lakers had two of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, ESPN didn’t have a website dedicated to them?

And with the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a very young team, you may be looking at the only title LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh get in Miami.  With the experience gained in this year’s playoffs, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and crew could be a tough out in the post season for the next few years.

However, the commish, David Stern, has been a little surly lately.  When Jim Rome asked him about the draft lottery being rigged, Stern was angry, asking the broadcaster when he “stopped beating his wife”, the question no acceptable response can be given.

Rome simply asked what many people believe, which, of course, is why he asked.

What is odd to us is Stern’s cavalier attitude (no pun intended) about these opinions.  You would think that if a small percentage of fans thought the outcome of the sport was predetermined, the man who runs the league would be upset, and address those concerns.  Stern doesn’t seem to care.

This is not to say games are rigged.  It would take a whole lot of cooperation from players and officials to make that happen.  But the commissioner doesn’t take opportunities to allay the fears of the fans.

For example, many basketball fans suggest official Joey Crawford is a tad overzealous in calls for the favored team.  Would it kill Stern to cut back on his slate in the playoffs?  He shows up at all the big games, game sevens, etc., and therefore his calls are magnified.

The referees don’t help Stern either.  There are many fans who believe the Thunder are getting the short end of the stick from the zebras.  And it’s not just people in Cleveland either.

Especially when you have a situation last night when Westbrook went to the basket several times, yet shot just three free throws.  In the meantime, James went to the line after pushing James Harden out-of-the-way.

The Thunder may not win this season, but they will be among the favorites next season.  The San Antonio Spurs have won four championships in the last 15 years.  Stern will tell you this is proof that small markets can compete in today’s NBA.

However, ask fans in Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Denver if they think their teams will ever have a chance to be a team that matters in the NBA.  They would sadly answer no.

That’s bad for the league.

In football, despite the troubles of the Browns, every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl with good talent evaluation and some luck.  In the past few years, we’ve seen downtrodden franchises like the Saints and Cardinals get to the championship game.

Even baseball has seen more parity.  Yes, the Yankees make the playoff in most seasons, but have only won one World Series since 2000.  That’s the nature of the sport, the best team can lose a series to the worst team at any time during the season.

Stern believes in the power of superstars.  He’s marketed the game around them since the time of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.  However, he needs them to be likeable stars, which Bird, Magic, and Michael Jordan were.

The Heat trio are hated by most fans throughout the country, it’s not just a Cleveland thing.

Does David Stern realize this?  He needs guys like Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and others to pick up the mantle of great players who most fans like.

They may have to save the league again from the me-first guys on the Heat.

JK

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