The Baller Guru was reading a recent article by Charley Rosen called “Things I Hate About The NBA” when one point in particular really jumped out of the page. Rosen wrote as one of the things he hates:
Players who indulge in adolescent macho antics during games. The preeners, biceps-flexers, chest-thumpers and powder-puffers. Yes, we all saw your dunk/block/3-pointer/whatever. Yes, we all know how wonderful you are. But why not act as though dunking, shot-blocking, successful treys, etc. are things you have done before? Even worse, their common excuse for committing these foolish deeds is they’re psyching themselves up. Say what? Millionaire athletes need to act like fools to get their chops up to play in highly competitive ballgames? Nonsense. Actually, the only antic that delights me is Kevin Garnett banging his head against the padded backboard support before games. Hey, anything to get his brain cells working.
Ok the KG line was pretty funny, and The Baller Guru thoroughly enjoys reading your usual commentary, but Charley, you need to join us in 2010. Players aren’t just psyching themselves up like a narcissist in a house of mirrors, they are psyching the fans up too. As a Nets fan, The Baller Guru used to love how Kenyon Martin would explode in celebration after a thunderous dunk and so did the rest of the crowd. It sounded like the entire building won the lottery. The arena was so loud and raucous from the fans cheering and screaming that the other team could barely dribble the ball, let alone carry out a carefully crafted play, sometimes even calling a timeout to regroup. It is like the touchdown celebration in football. Fans absolutely love them (at least when it’s one of their team’s players), and the players loved to push the envelope in terms of creativity in the endzone to delight the onlookers. When the NFL started cracking down on these hilarious displays, it’s no wonder that people started calling it the “No Fun League”.
Mr. Rosen, The Baller Guru completely agrees that sports in their purest form are a truly wonderful thing. It is absolutely amazing watching the best basketball players in the world, as Larry Brown would say, play the right way, carry out complex offensive schemes and then hustle back to play intense lockdown man or zone defense. Fans everywhere appreciate watching an elite big man with drill-bit-like pivot moves, or a point guard that can run a flawless pick-and-roll and still crossover so well that it looks like the ball can’t make up its mind. But people don’t just watch the NBA or sports in general just for the pure game anymore, they watch for entertainment as well. They watch for an escape, stress relief, to get pumped up, or to just enjoy their favorite team in action. In other words, they watch for the basketball, and for the fun. When a player on your team flexes biceps, thump chests, wags his fingers, or screams at the top of his lungs to celebrate a dunk or a shot or a block, fans rooting for that team, whether in the arena or on tv, feel a sense of pride and love it. When it’s a player on the opposing team, they love to boo and hate them because no one can argue that a rivalry is not entertaining as well. If you think a little crowd-hyping lessens the game, then you must despise the All-Star game and weekend….oh wait, that actually is one of the points you mention in your column….hmmm nevermind.
The simple fact is that the macho antics, as you referred to it, are just plain fun. Basketball is entertaining in any form, but it is human nature to enjoy theatrics and action. Muscle flexing and chest thumping aside, from a pure basketball standpoint it is no mystery why fans adored watching the run-and-gun “7 seconds or less” Phoenix Suns more than the methodical and fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs no matter how great they were. From an entertainment standpoint, yes, sometimes players can go to far, but some well-timed showboating has nothing to do with players being spoiled millionaires, or needing it as an excuse to play competitively. It is a symbiotic relationship where the player feeds the crowd with some playful grandstanding, the crowd responds with deafening cheers, and the team in turn feeds off the fans’ energy to raise their level of play. It is bad enough that the NBA is now cracking down so hard that Wally and The Beaver would be hit with technical fouls. While the basketball purists will always be there to watch the game, a little harmless fun will keep the casual fan interested as well and maybe draw them further in, which is good for the league. Please, the next time you see Kevin Garnett pounding his chest after a dunk, or Dwyane Wade jumping on the scorers table screaming “This is my house!” (even though he’ll have roommates now) after a buzzer-beating shot, just take a moment to look around and watch all the smiles and laughs in the stands, the sports bars, or the living rooms before petitioning to change the NBA into the Now Boring Association.
Tags: Dwyane Wade, Entertainment, Kevin Garnett, Sports Columns
Posted in Analysis, General Commentary | 3 Comments »