Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Why Do I Follow the NBA?

There are lot of people a generation older than me that have lost touch with the NBA. They no longer keep up with it. The league they followed as kids is no longer enjoyable to watch. It's not fun anymore. I never imagined I would go down that path as well. I never imagined I would fall into the same category, but after tonight's Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals I am there.

This has nothing to do with me rooting for Boston or my loathing of Lakers it has to do with the sport of basketball. It has to do with watching the highest level of a sport and realizing that the game is not decided by the players, or coaches, but by the referees.

You think the NFL, college basketball and football are bad? Please! You have not experienced the NBA. You have not "enjoyed" a basketball game where at the end of the night you really asked yourself, "Did Team A ever have a chance tonight?"

I have always stood by the NBA. People have bashed it and strayed away, but I have stood by it. I am a loyal fan. I believed the league had good intentions and would let the players decide the outcome.

In the summer of 2008 the scandal of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy hit its peak. Donaghy reported that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals was called in a way that favored the Lakers. Plain and simple: NBA referees cheated. Donaghy took the fall and the NBA swept the mess under a rug. Donaghy was the outcast. The NBA said he was the lone person involved in this operation. We, the fans, were lead to believe that officiating was fine now that Donaghy was brought to justice.

Foolishly I actually believed this.

But after Game 3 tonight I am again faced with the reality that the league has not changed. The ticky-tack fouls are always coming and the referees always control the outcome of the game. And tonight in Boston it was disturbingly evident. The offensive foul on Kevin Garnett in the final thirty seconds of the game was yet again another confusing call by the NBA referees.

David Stern has done a lot for the league from expanding the teams, to globalizing it to the world, but I can not for the life of me understand why he, year after year, keeps the same group of referees on the court. Does a 58 year old man have the same eye sight as a 30 year old? The NBA thinks so. Donaghy has been prosecuted, but still the NBA's games remain heavily influenced by the officials. They really make you think as the viewer, "Now why should I think things are being called fairly again?"

I want to believe the league has integrity and is being fair, but I all too often experience games where the referees play a huge part. Basketball is an aggressive sport. Stern wants to remove that and in turn he has created a league that centers around favoritism towards star athletes all while making the game a free throwing shooting contest.

The officiating in 2010 NBA finals has not been bad, not it has sucked. It has painful to say the least. This continuous presence of a terrible officiating crew night in and night out of the NBA has drained me of my motivation to watch anymore NBA games. I was anxious to watch a Celtics/Lakers series. I was anxious to see a rematch of the Finals from two years ago, but after Game 3 I could care less. I am lost for words as to why I keep coming back and defending this league.

David Stern will continue to ignore the fans and continue to implement a style of basketball that drains the sport of emotion and aggression. I still believe the league fixes games and after tonight's game I have no reason to think otherwise.

Watching the NBA is not fun anymore.