Last night reminded me of exactly why I feel the NBA is a better brand of basketball to watch than the NCAA. Bulls-Celtics Game 2 was a barn burner—after half way through the second quarter, no one was up by more than six points the rest of the game. Great defense was played by both teams and two of the leagues streakiest, most clutch shooters were on fire the second half. It is what the NBA Playoffs are all about.
Honestly, I think a lot of NBA fans were turned off by the NBA dark ages (1999-2006). After Michael Jordan retired (Part Deux) in 1998, there was a void—a black hole—in the league’s identity. Suddenly, there was a barrage of high school kids and European gambles that never panned out. The players that were identified with the NBA were players like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, players with generally ‘me-first’ mindsets that ultimately led to a sloppy style of play. The most dominant team of the era?
Once the heralded draft class of 2003 came to maturity (re: Dwayne Wade’s 2006 NBA Championship), the league started to take it’s new shape. Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns unleashed the high-octane SSOL (Seven Seconds or Less) offense that championed fast breaks and teamwork. Chris Paul and Deron Williams became superstars for their team-first mindsets, whilst still being able to score 20 points per game from the point guard position. Even Kobe Bryant, whose 81-point game against Toronto was probably the apex in the ‘me-first’ game, changed his style of play—taking a wiser shot selection, distributing the ball more, getting teammates involved more, and only taking over games when he has to.
Most important to the league’s revival, however, is the recent emergence of LeBron James. Coming in to the league as an 18 year old rookie, he was “The Chosen One”, a “Michael Jordan-Magic Johnson Hybrid”. He is a triple-double threat every night-- the first player since Magic Johnson to threaten Oscar Robertson's record-setting 1962 season. He led his team to the best record, all while placing second for the Defensive Player of the Year this year.
For the first time in about 10 years, the league can point to a guy, who hasn’t had off-court problems, who may be an all-time great, who cares about winning more than getting his 25 points, and say “That is what the NBA is all about.”
Brett Fuller is the Managing Editor and Operations Manager for the LIFE network and specializes in social media engagement and content development. Visit Brett on Google Plus, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.