Are NBA “superstars” ruining the game?


BY DEREK BARSNESS, Couchsideshow.com writer

NBA stars are becoming bigger than the game itself. And it’s making fans bitter; quickly turning them into haters.

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony went from a fan favorite during his days in Syracuse to a trader after bailing on the Denver Nuggets last year. Photo by: Kevan Emmott/Flickr

Stars have always enjoyed special treatment. But when the power shift is so one sided that players like Dwight Howard can demand a trade the year before his contract expires, general managers are put in quite a predicament. Do they chance losing their star at the end of the season and have nothing to show for it or trade the core of the team that they’ve spent the past several years and millions of dollars building? And fans resent this. Not just fans of these teams, but fans of the game in general.

I’m a huge Denver Nuggets fan. I’m also a huge Syracuse Orangemen fan (yes, they are still the Orangemen to me, although the change to the Orange is growing on me). So When the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony in 2003 it was a dream come true. He took Denver, a perennial lottery team, to the playoffs in his first season. But after what happened with Melo last season, I’m a hater now. I hate the Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire (for no good reason) and Spike Lee (seriously, does anyone actually like that guy). I even hate the Lakers, and as I write this blog I’m watching the Knicks take on the Lakers. I’m rooting against the Knicks, but essentially that means I’m rooting for the Lakers!

Denver was between a rock and a hard place. Melo’s situation was different than the one the Magic are currently in with Howard. This was mostly due to the expiring NBA labor contract and the possibility that if Melo didn’t sign an extension before the end of the season he would lose millions of dollars in guaranteed money. He made it public knowledge that he would only accept a trade to New York so no teams were willing to trade away the draft picks and prospects that Denver was rightfully asking for in return. If the Nuggets didn’t trade Melo, they risked losing one of the top 10 best players in the league and having nothing to show for it. Personally, I think Melo was greedy enough and would have accepted an extension with Denver rather than lose millions. So Denver traded their star for a crop of young
talent, but none of them will ever fill the shoes of Anthony.

The LeBron James/Chris Bosh/Dwayne Wade fiasco of two years ago was what really turned fans into haters. No doubt a big portion of this stemmed from “The Decision,” but fans of the NBA couldn’t stand the power that these three players held. So much for building a team the old fashioned way — by drafting and developing young talent and bringing in veteran leadership. Nope. Screw it. Let’s do it with the check book. Again, these guys had different situations than Melo and Howard, but LeBron threw away any shred of loyalty towards Cleveland and took his talents to South Beach.

And that is why NBA fans are haters. As a culture, we spend millions of dollars every year on the NBA. Try taking your family to a game and get out of the arena without dropping a Benjamin in there. $6.25 for a beer, $3 for a water. Then the kids want cotton candy, a snow cone, and nachos. All this just to go watch your favorite player hog the ball, take four steps on his way to the rack, and jog back to the other end of the court to “play” defense. We invest our time, emotions and hard earned money into our guys.

And for what? To watch them push around the organization to get traded to a team with another star or simply vanish in free agency, abandoning everyone that helped bring them to stardom.

This is why riots happened in the streets of Cleveland after James left. And I loved it. I hate the name “King James” and that he has “Chosen One” tattooed on his back. But why should I have cared, or every other NBA fan who wasn’t a Cavs or Heat fan, for that matter? Because they played their own game and basically abused the PRIVILEGE of free agency. These guys are supposed to hate each other on the court, not conspire together behind everyone’s back to team up in the offseason. They rose above the game, created their own rules in a one sided chess match, and won.

My hat goes off to the Clippers organization for taking a chance on Chris Paul. They traded away some good young talent, but it instantly makes them more than just that other team in LA for the time being. He may just be a rental point guard because everyone in the NBA knows he wants to be in New York and as soon as he hits free agency, he’ll be there.

And if you aren’t a Knicks fan and don’t hate them already, you will.

These lovable guys are ruining the sport. And to a certain extent, the fans are to blame. We’ve empowered them for too long and grew their big heads, fed their big egos. We now root against teams instead of for them. We hate, we don’t love. That’s how it is these days and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

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