I just came across an interesting article on MSNBC written by Mike Celizic titled NBA has become a big, fat dud. The basis of the article is that for the most part the NBA is a league of dunks and one-on-one plays and not a team game. I am worried that maybe the NHL is heading down this path.
And if your greatest players arenâ€™t fighting each other for titles, who really cares how many points they score or how many times they dunk? Itâ€™s not as if thereâ€™s any great drama in a dunk, not like there is in a home run. When Ryan Howard steps to the plate, the battle between him and the pitcher is a mini-drama whose outcome you donâ€™t know. When Kobe goes to the hoop on a fast-break, thereâ€™s no drama at all.
And thereâ€™s too much of that in todayâ€™s NBA games, most of which are unwatchable by any but the most devoted fans. Watch the Olympics or a major international championship -â€“ heck, watch a college game -â€“ and youâ€™ll see actual basketball with picks and passes and defense and everybody involved. Watch the NBA and itâ€™s all about clearing out and going one-on-one. These guys are the most talented players in the world, but if they canâ€™t beat Argentina, thereâ€™s something wrong with the game theyâ€™re playing.
All of the NHL’s rule changes have been about giving the star players more space to work their magic which is not unlike most of the rule changes in the NBA to restrict defensive play. Celizic claims that the focus on dunks and individual play has resulted in great players but not great teams.
Once upon a time, there were great players on great teams. Today, there are great players who are great profit centers. People who were fans of teams are fans of individuals, and when thatâ€™s the case, itâ€™s hard to recapture what you once had.
Now, I am not a big NBA fan but it seems to me that the same sort of focus is taking place in the NHL. The NHL wants to promote great young talent like Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin but seems less interested in promoting great teams (in fact the salary cap all but ensures that great teams won’t last and we may be in an era of mass team mediocrity as seen int he eastern conference this season). The result on the NBA is that TV ratings have been steadily declining and the all-star game in Las Vegas had the lowest ratings ever. Now the NHL has no TV ratings to lose in the U.S. but all the focus on great young players and allowing them to show they skill is probably not the best route to gaining new fans. Players come and go, but teams stay. In Pittsburgh you don’t want to develop Sidney Crosby fans, you want to develop Pittsburgh Penguin fans. Six years from now Crosby may not be a Penguin, but the Penguins will still be in Pittsburgh (should they get the arena deal).