It’s no secret that I’m an enormous basketball fan. So when the NBA made huge strides in the last two seasons towards mainstream popularity and the ratings increased, I was excited for other people I knew to start loving basketball the way I do. About half-way through last season, I started hearing whispers about a potential lockout. The whispers became conversations, the conversations became shouting matches, and eventually, the NBA players were locked out. What started as a whisper and ended as a roar has since quieted. It seems like no one is talking about the labor situation with the NBA right now. It’s quieter than Miami’s locker room after Game 6. Quieter than the U.S. Government in regards to Area 51. And even quieter than Steven Seagal in a library. In fact, the NBA Players Association (NBAPA) has missed or cancelled several scheduled sessions to discuss the agreement with the NBA brass. David Stern must feel like a spurned mistress.
Meanwhile, the players seem content with the idea of going over to Europe or Asia to play until the owners miss them enough to bring the players back. It started with Deron Williams signing to play on a team in Turkey. Other names soon-after surfaced. Many stars were apparently thinking about making the Iverson-esque leap across the pond (how did that work for him, again? Is he even still alive?). It was about that time that some players also realized their street-cred is set to diminish if they don’t play in America. That was an unacceptable notion for some and they had to do something about it.
Kevin Durant is a marketing machine. Many believe he is the love child of Michael Jordan and Phil Knight (Nike’s CEO). He is always representing some product at any given moment. He’s like a black athletic version of the late Billy Mays. He decided to take his burgeoning superstar status to Rucker Park. This story isn’t new, since Durant did this three weeks ago. But it was the start of something interesting… Players saying “Hey, don’t forget about me.” Durant played against the PS-118 all-stars and dropped 66 points in his Rucker Park mixtape performance.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t about to let KD out-do him. So Kobe appeared at a summer league game (side note: isn’t the summer league sponsored by the NBA, which is in a lockout? So this game was just a bunch of players unofficially getting together because they miss the spotlight? Ok, that’s what I thought) and scored 43 points. “Only 43 points!” you say? Yes, but Kobe also dramatically dribbled out the last 15 seconds, occasionally glancing at the camera in the stands, as he prepared to take the game winning shot. After he made that shot, dozens of people (who I’m guessing were paid by Kobe and/or Nike) stormed the court to hug the aging superstar. The only thing you can’t see in the video is the thoughts going through Kobe’s mind: “Suck it Kevin Durant, I can have people hug me on a basketball court too.”
With all of this competition to remain in the spotlight, I think the NBA players will start to up the stakes soon. It’s only a matter of time until Kevin Love stoops to half-naked shower gel commercials… wait. It’s only a matter of time until players start making claims that they’re going to play basketball China… wait. Well maybe, we’re just around the corner from Pau Gasol auditioning for a Broadway musical and Blake Griffin making his debut in the World Trampoline Championships. Either way, I don’t like where this is headed.