Take Back the Night
With our hearts bleating a thousand trumpet blasts, we come to make a proclamation to you all: As beloved as The Association is, it can no doubt improve. We are not the first to make such a claim, as nearly every season, the lot of us laments what the league has BECOME, as opposed to what it used to be. Formulas for lig-wide enhancement, therefore, are rooted in the past as well. No doubt we have documented countless quests for the next next next "former" NBA centerpiece, be it Dwyane Wade, Bob Cousy, or Scottie Pippen. When will they learn? Sabonis destroyed your prototypes. They dissolved under the weight of one thousand Chris Webber tears. Kevin Burleson rots in exile. These are players of a new
And so we have taken it upon ourselves to come with FORESIGHT and VISION, to present a treatise on how to improve the NBA, so that it not only becomes a better association, but an earth unto itself. Numerous times we have discussed NFL as the most popular of the professional leagues, largely due to the scarcity principle coupled with our animal instincts. Baseball grasps at our hearts and has become ritual. Even the NHL, although banished to premium cable networks and post-topten Sportscentr placement, has captured a nation all to itself. The NBA once stood atop the pro sports leagues, but this status was miraculously due to the sheer talent of single individuals, perhaps Jordan alone. These superhumans no longer exist, and so changes must be made through the institution, the structure, and ultimately as a collective.
And so, Silverbird, Bethlehem Shoals, Brown Recluse Esq., and myself present (in no order of importance) the following changes, that in 2006, would make the NBA stand alone:
1. Divide league revenue to reward the teams and stars creating it. Under the current system, attendance revenue goes to the home team, and the money from national media contracts is shared equally by all. Yet when teams with superstars play on the road or on TNT, they attract significantly more spectators and viewers than their average, freeloading counterparts. Economists have estimated that Michael Jordan’s “superstar externality” exceeded $50 million for the 1991-92 season alone. Giving popular teams their fair share of total revenue and the cap space to spend it would allow them to build properly around their superstars: imagine if KG’s Timberwolves, who ranked third in road attendance for 03-04, had been given this money and cap space during the following offseason. Perhaps more importantly, rewards in this system would go the most exciting teams, whereas now they go to the boring ones.
2. Mandatory tattoos for everyone in the league. Ostensibly to neutralize the subversive power and aesthetic impact of the new breed’s ink, those today covered with virgin flesh have the option of officially-issued, randomly-generated letters and image. But once the Piatowskis and Padgetts of this league find ways to project their rich identities via ink, the lid will come unglued and Cherokee Parks will reign o’er the land. This too probably serves the league’s evil goals, as Marquis will suddenly flip el scripto and rush to become the least inscribed man on a roster.
3. No one, I mean no one, can even fuck with the importance of reverse territorial rights for free agent signings. If three teams are bidding for a desirable player’s services, any one located in a city he can claim is at a distinct disadvantage. The money may be equal, but the sentimental windfall of getting to come on home is worth more than gold itself, making, in effect, one max more max than the other two maxes. Emotions notwithstanding, not having to buy a new home or travel constantly allows for significant financial and logistical savings. This is the only way to ensure that, within this open market, justice is more than a rumor. Come to think of it, this same should probably go for those large-market endorsement swells we keep hearing so much about.
4. Unassigned seating sections in basketball stadiums. This seems like a pretty straightforward ploy to bring the rowdy back to NBA arenas. Countless times it has been noted that the NBA's biggest target demographic (e.g. young people/people who can't afford a $50 ticket) is not that demographic attending the games. Old footage from the 1980s shows places like the Great Western Forum and the Boston Garden going absolutely wild. Now you look at the lower level sections, and it's socialites with blue hair who couldn't give a fuck about the game. So let them have their lower levels, and let the kids get wild in the upperdecks. These sections could be especially useful for the player-reserved charity sections.
5. Expand the shit out of the roster. I am thinking about 20 players should do it. This seems to work in other sports, with few repercussions. I love seeing sandy alomar jr. make somebody's squad every year, and furthermore, he's actually useful as a third catcher (kind of the equivalent to a third center in the NBA). I love seeing Jeff fucking George get invited to an NFL training camp. Same goes for Vinny Testaverde, Morton Andersen, etc. There are actually roles for these guys to fulfill. If the NBA had a 20-man roster, the sheer number of league-wide CHARACTERS--of which the league is desperately in need--would increase. Someone would pick up Shawn Kemp. Rodman would get a spot. Oakley would do 10-game stints all around the association. Khalid El-Amin. Craig Hodges. Master P. Seven-foot dudes from the Netherlands, or from the block would be summoned by the truckload.
6. Reverting to a draft that includes more than two rounds. This suggestion is akin to the one above, as it would yield more characters: obscure Euros, raw-as-fuck college players, And1 legends. It's basically giving some Fish That Saved Pittsburgh wildcards a chance to show up to training camp and make an NBA roster. Every year in the league, at least two undrafted guys emerge as key players, so why not just give them a shot up front. Also, and this is the most important aspect of this suggestion, more draft picks can be used to facilitate trades. For example, when a contender just needs that perfect fourth PG, they can give up a fifth round pick in exchange for Royal Ivey.
7. Conduct the lottery as usual. But then, in a move that will astound everyone and shock no on, have team #1-4 play in a min-tournament to decide the final order. ‘Twould be the opposite of late-season tanking; teams would want to be lousy enough to secure good odds for one of these spots, but have to be competitive enough to have a chance to win the pearliest prize. And even if some off-year disaster sneaks in despite talent to the contrary, the zany March Madness-like quality will flatten the playing field. The whole system will collapse, however, when the Rockets bring T-Mac and Yao off the IR for the sole purpose of competing in these contests, in essence bringing a playoff horse to the toy pony races.
8. Institute a coach’s challenge. One per half, applicable on any faulty call or non-call by either offense or defense. If it’s on a missed shot, the buzzer must be depressed before the other team either sets up their offense or fires up an attempt on the break. Like the ref’s game-winner replay, this would only really get used in incredibly obvious or deadly situations; since timeouts are arguable more precious in basketball, this would be far less frequent an occurrence than in football. The one per half is mostly for symmetry, though a successful challenge early on can certainly alter the tone of the calls (as can, presumably, a blown one). The basic idea here is that now, no game could be won or last on a phantom call, or a dream incinerated by one referee’s momentary blindness.
9. Players vote on a couple of All-Star spots and their own annual awards. Yes, the NFL has their own select the Pro Bowl cast, but here it would be a counterbalance/commentary on the vapidity of fan and coach selections. Equally revolutionary would be this awards banquet, which would be like the Golden Globes or White House Correspondents’ Dinner of NBA ceremonies. Lots of carousing, grandstanding, and agenda pushing. And capes. Lots of capes.
10. More microphones on league personnel and more NFL-FILMS-quality features on teams/seasons/events etc. Seriously, the half-hour feature on, say, the 2005 St. Louis Rams that NFL Films produced (and that is shown about every other week on ESPN2 at 2 in the afternoon) is a million times more entertaining than even, say, Hoop Dreams. A couple years back, the NBA mic'd up everyone at the all-star game and put up a fifteen-minute montage at NBA.com This was incredible. Shaq falling into Ruben Studdard. KG requesting that Shaq show everyone his "gorilla walk." Sam Cassell talking "Florida" trash to Vince Carter. And can you imagine the half-hour segments? Tell me that watching a half-hour-long feature on the 2005-06 Portland Trailblazers wouldn't be more emotionally engaging than last year's finals. NBA TV tries to pull this off occasionally with their "Training Camp" pieces, but these are usually pretty watered down.
11. More personalized music selections for players in their own arenas. Sort of like how baseball hitters get to choose their at-bat music, or closers choose their coming-out-of-the-bullpen music. Jermaine Dye comes out to "Tell Me When to Go" as a tribute to his Bay Area roots. Prince Fielder comes out to "Hustlin" because he's fat. The closest the NBA has come to this type of is personalization is the Big Ben gong in (RIP) Detroit, and JR Rider playing "More Bounce to The Ounce" at the dunk contest.
12. Some version of the NFL's "all reject PF's become TE's" trend. Like if all cast-off pitchers became point guards, or useless "big receivers" could be converted into defensive stoppers. And while I know that the Rockets have hired on a sort-of Moneyball guy, what if it went to the next level and some team hired a professor of African-American Studies as a coach who could reach the players? Then again, the beauty of the Antonio Gates phenomenon is that it makes basketball look like the most exalted form of athletic accomplishment known on this planet, and everything else just its droppings.
13. Competing players' unions to represent different political and financial agendas. These would exist primarily to weigh in on the CBA, but would also release official statements at key junctures like The Brawl, and provide professional guidance for their members, Jermaine O’Neal heads one devoted to the redistribution of wealth. Zo looking out for veterans’ affairs and that pension plan. Tim Thomas, villain of all villains, so focused on the rights of those living off of some GM’s fatal misstep. Some Euro watching over those internationals crossing over into the league or attempting to exit with dignity. Though as Silverbird points out, there couldn’t be too many, or else the players would have no leverage.
14. Every team has a player-coach. This position would instantiate just a little more authority for teams that are seemingly directionless, or are too young to have any sort of true leaders. The player-coach position would be sort of a redefinition of the captain's role, but with actual input into game strategy. Also, the player-coach would not count as an extra roster spot, so Atlanta, for example, could assign Kevin Willis to be their player-coach. He would suit up every night, maybe even play a couple of minutes, but he would also be involved in calling plays and monitoring substitutions. Mugsy Bogues could do the job for the bobcats, which would actually be useful for guys like raymond felton. Similarly, Ervin Johnson could take the spot for the Bucks. This would also prevent against embarrassing situations in which a franchise player has simply aged too much to be effective, yet is still taking up a much needed roster spot. Hakeem and Ewing, we see you.
15. Weekly addresses by the commissioner. This ritual would be on some president meets the pope shit. Listening to stern discuss his opinion of the game never gets old, so let's have him give a live "State of the Association" address every week. Broadcast it before every Thursday NBA on TNT game, and show him sitting at a desk, with a giant Michael Jordan painting on the wall behind him. Let him discuss key injuries, things that he sees that he likes, rule emphases, changes he would like to see made. Let him pontificate about how much he's done for the "L," whatever he wants. The man has juice. Let him flaunt it.