Professional Basketball is Dead

Who killed it? And who – or what – is slowly rising from out of its grave?

“My name is Dan. I love basketball, probably at an unhealthy level”

This is the introduction to my About Cleaning Up The Glass page. And, although I can convince myself that this statement holds true for the sport in general, I no longer can say with a straight face that this accurately represents my love for the way it’s played at the professional level. Which is where my love for the game had originally blossomed, and, therefore, where the majority of my knowledge lies.

What happened?

The NBA is an embarrassing shell of what it used to be right now. The game has been tweaked so far to favor offense – much like NFL football – that the gaudy numbers it’s producing have lost all meaning.

What am I saying?

Have a talk with one of your pals about basketball after work. Invite him – or her (wife material, don’t blow it!) – over for a game. I challenge you to sit there watching and talking hoops without bringing up either how it used to be played, or complaining about how it is played now. One of those topics inevitably comes up, every time, and it just turns watching basketball into a two and a half hour bitch-fest about the lack of defense or dreadful officiating.

Who are the culprits?

Well, the league is to blame of course. But, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that from me.

What exactly is wrong with the NBA anyways?

Everything. For example, how many people can’t stomach watching a Houston Rockets game? Did you know that as of this writing, James Harden is averaging 36.0 points per game? That would make him one of six NBA players to average 35.0 or more PPG for the entirety of an NBA season. This should make for a pretty epic highlight reel. But, if you’ve actually been watching his historic NBA season as it’s happened, you’ve noticed that although he merely averages a passable 35.6% from deep, it hasn’t stopped him from heaving a would-be NBA record 13.4 attempts per game.

To put that into perspective, the player who shoots the second most threes per game this season? That’s Steph Curry, sitting at 11.8 attempts, or number two all-time, but he also knocks these attempts down at a deadly 42.9%. So, there’s a reason why he has the green light.

What else is wrong?

Our star players, who we should trust with the ball in their hands, can’t take care of the damned thing! James Harden and Russell Westbrook weren’t only neck-and-neck in the 2017 NBA MVP race, they were also neck-and-neck for recording the most turnovers per game in NBA history. Harden won, giving the ball away 5.7 times per contest, to Westbrook’s 5.4. Those two sure can stuff a stat sheet, alright.

What does the NBA think about this?

They don’t want you to know! For example, I’m sure you’ve heard how Harden is averaging 36.0 PPG, but did you also know his current campaign is also placing him third all time in turnovers – behind only that aforementioned record-setting race in 2017? In fact, of the top ten players with the most turnovers in NBA history, Harden and Westbrook find their names on the list seven times! (Harden 4, Westbrook 3) Now that’s historic!

Is there no hope in sight?

In 1999, Warner Bros. Pictures released The Matrix, a film in which a man with a three-lettered name – Neo – is awakened from his slave-slumber to save the last human occupied city, Zion.

Starting next season, I believe it’s a man named Zion who will save a three-lettered league – the NBA – and awaken a rash of fans from their actual slumber caused by watching such an inferior product.

The league always seems to make changes that just happen to benefit their star player. When Michael Jordan came back to the NBA in 1995, he was greeted with a more lax hand-checking rule, and another deeming certain types of defenses to be “illegal”. Right now, the league is allowing Harden to hop about the floor – “like fucking Q-Bert” – and there are more four-point plays than ever before. Four-point plays only further encourage players to take the three-point shot, since the league is now rewarding players for shooting it even when they’re not open.

How can Zion Williamson save the NBA?

The only way for a player to change the way the NBA is played is for him to showcase the phenomenal talent he alone possesses, as it demonstrates an example of what the league is missing. And what the NBA is sorely in need of right now is the good ol’ Slam Dunk.

Think about the last time you got up for a slam dunk. Like seriously. Maybe LeBron back in his Miami days?

Or how about DeAndre Jordan ending Brandon Knight’s career?

Blake Griffin destroying Timofey Mozgov, anyone?

Yeah, probably. So, what’s your point?

The point is, the dunk used to be the most exciting play in basketball, and was much more commonplace. Players like James, Griffin, Vince Carter, and even role players like Jason Richardson, all had opposing defenses running for cover. Today, these players are all old or retired. And with no one to replace them, the NBA has gotten real cute (or, as an idiotic analytic would say, “smart”, but we all know better) by falling in love with the three-pointer. Now nobody wants to dunk the ball anymore.

Enter Zion. All Zion does is dunk, make plays, and dunk. And all anybody wants to do is watch Zion dunk:

As of this writing, no one in high school or college has been foolish enough to try and stop Zion from dunking. Probably because watching a man come flying down the floor built like WWE Champion Brock Lesnar is enough to cause most to soil their compression shorts.

However, when he first sets foot as a rookie into basketball’s highest level of competition, there will no doubt be someone brave enough to test the mettle of the young man. And we’ll all be there witness just how closely brave parallels crazy, having to watch the poor sap crawl back out from the crater caused by one of Zion’s mighty league-saving slams. Zion will breathe new life into the NBA, finally making it cool to dunk again.

Commissioner Adam Silver would be stupid to stop the runaway freight train that is Zion Williamson before one of his Sportscenter Top 10 dunks with a sissy foul at the perimeter. Watching him shoot free throws or three-pointers when he could be throwing down a thunderous tomahawk will simply anger both hardcore and casual fans alike. So, being the business that the NBA is, they will recognize this, and find ways to ensure Zion dunks and dunks often.

When can we expect this change?

Although he does appear to be that special, rare kind of talent that could change the landscape of the NBA (for at least a few years), change won’t happen quickly. I imagine it could take the full length of his rookie contract for Zion to “find his way” in the league. But, when that day does come, the NBA will finally become the product that fans can proudly call their own, and we’ll all stop bitching and complaining about the way professional basketball is played.

All they have to do is just shut up and jam.

If you’re one of my five loyal readers who look forward to my blog, step on up and participate! I encouraged feedback on this blog and so far have gotten zilch. Big shout out to my China readers, by the way. I don’t know who you guys are, but you are always the first to read my stuff. Leave a comment, even if it’s in Chinese. It’d really make my day!

Follow me on Twitter, for all of my latest scriptures into the book of Zion. Zion may be the savior of the NBA, but step one is getting him in a New York Knicks uniform. We don’t want to watch a specimen with his talents waste away unnoticed in Phoenix, so, we should welcome any and all methods of league interference. Come on, you know it wouldn’t be the first time. Let’s even go back to pulling envelopes, for old time’s sake…

Author: Commissioner Dan

Unofficial-next-commissioner of the NBA. Covering all things pro basketball (mostly Lakers), even if it's not like it was in the '90's.

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