Pass the Mic: How Money is Killing the Love of the Game

By: 09.05.08  •  47 Comments
LeBron JamesLeBron James (photo. Mannion)

A little while back we introduced a feature called “Pass the Mic,” where we hand the columnist reigns over to one of our readers for a day. In his debut column, Smack reader Gee suggested some NBA rule changes (moving the three-point line back, adding four-pointers, etc.) that got a pretty strong response from our readers.

We’re bringing back Pass the Mic for another run, this time with loyal reader David_Brandon. Today he examines what how the almighty dollar is taking over the game we love …

Before the $100 million dollar contracts, before SportsCenter, before the Space Jams, before the Double Nickel at MSG, there was just the love of the game. Guys playing in rec centers, at the park, in a backyard, the side of the street with a cut-out milk crate nailed to a tree. I see the League today developing into more of a business than a game. Not to take out of context that it truly is a business, but when players, coaches (this means you, Larry Brown) and owners start treating the game like a marketing strategy rather than something they used to simply love to do, it’s bound to cause major problems.

The first part of this mainly stems from the increasing number of NBA players defecting to Europe. I’ve honestly got no problem with someone wanting to mix it up and try something different, but it’s the motive that’s behind it all. If a player feels he’s been disrespected or the organization isn’t being as stand up as he feels it should be, i.e. a Josh Childress, he’s gone. Now if someone is just weak, i.e. a Sergei Monya, then he might not look forward to getting the hot plate from Kobe. If nothing else, the Euroleague is leverage for guys now. Lebron James got offered a ridiculous $100 million/2-year contract to ball in Greece. Those are CRAZY numbers! And just because Josh was the first “big” name to leave doesn’t mean players haven’t been doing this for a while. It’s been going on and it just happens that Josh was a Lottery pick, had the name recognition and the media made a huge deal about it.

The other part of this is how role players are turning into superstars when they leave the League. If you don’t think Josh Childress will go over there and become the new Jesus Shuttlesworth in terms of popularity, wait. Just … wait. He’ll probably put up similar or slightly improved numbers, but just the fact he came out there, people are gonna think he turned Kool Aid into wine. Everyone wants to be like Mike. Or Kobe. Or T-Mac. Or Lebron. Nobody ever says they wanted to be Pip, or James Worthy, or Laimbeer … you get my point. Every championship team has role players.

The San Antonio Spurs are probably the best example of this. Think about it. Look at their teams over the past decade. They’ve had a strong bench, strong coaching, supportive ownership and one or two superstars. Granted, now teams need three superstars to really make an impact (See: Boston Celtics ’08), but that wasn’t always the case. Guys are getting better overall, but if that talent keeps leaving the League for money, then it dilutes the level of play here. If guys are only concerned about the fame and money, then their play will reflect that. This is kind of an extreme scenario, but if guys are playing everywhere else in the world, when it comes to Olympic play in the tournaments, is it really going to be legit that we say our players are the best in the world?

Bottom line is we need to get back to the roots of the League, when a real rivalry was ok, encouraged and anticipated. When a guy who was a Celtic would NEVER be a Laker. When teams played “no lay-ups” type defense. When a center didn’t average 3.4 boards on the year. When guys played through injuries for pride of the name on the front of the jersey and not the back. When guys played because they sincerely loved the game of basketball.

Ok kids, that’s it for today. Next time we’ll talk about why Jacque Vaughn can’t make a jumper and why Chuck Hayes could possibly go 4-37 from the stripe.

I’m out like gettin’ paid in the States…

— David_Brandon

What do you think? Hit us with your thoughts on the topic in the comments section below. And if you want to be next up on Pass the Mic, let us know and we’ll reach out..

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