This coming Sunday, the Nets and Celtics will play a 44-minute exhibition game, the first of its kind. It’s an exploratory measure in an effort to give players more rest, and this is the first test case (not sure how one game provides enough information, but that’s a question for another time). LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki both publicly said they would support decreasing the number of games in the regular season, but that a 44-minute game wouldn’t have much of an impact. Then, Michael Jordan chimed in, and he was miffed why Dirk or LeBron would want to play fewer games.
Since almost everything about MJ has seen the light of day at this point, perhaps you’ve heard of the “love of the game” clause in his first NBA contract. It states Jordan can play hoops against anyone, at anytime, whenever he wants. Before he became more popular than Jesus, there are a few anecdotes of MJ squaring off against strangers on playgrounds all over the country right after finishing a season with the Bulls, or even during the season.
Since most NBA players are forbidden from participating in activities where they could potentially injure themselves, these clauses aren’t as common these days — though its believed Kevin Durant has one in his deal with OKC.
That’s why Jordan’s comments about LeBron and Dirk don’t surprise us.
When the NBA announced they would try the 44-minute game this Sunday, LeBron James made it clear it was the number of games in a season, rather than how long said games went, which mattered the most for his well-being and state of mind.
“It’s not the minutes, it’s the games,” LeBron said before Cleveland’s preseason game against Indiana. “The minutes [don’t] mean anything. We can play 50-minute games if we had to. It’s just the games. We all as players think it’s too many games. In our season, 82 games is a lot.”
Dirk said the NBA should shorten the regular season from 82 games to the “mid-60s.”
Jordan, in case it wasn’t clear, doesn’t agree.
“I love both of those guys, but as an owner who played the game, I loved playing,” Jordan told ESPN during a telephone interview. “If I wasn’t playing 82 games, I still would’ve been playing somewhere else because that’s the love for the game I had. As a player, I never thought 82 games was an issue.
“But if that’s what they want to do, we as owners and players can evaluate it and talk about it. But we’d make less money as partners. Are they ready to give up money to play fewer games? That’s the question, because you can’t make the same amount of money playing fewer games.”
And there’s the rub. We doubt the National Basketball Player’s Union would agree to anything which limits their constituent’s earning power, and as Jordan mentioned — from an owner’s point of view — the players would have to accept less money for fewer games. Since a team’s ability to make a profit stems from ticket sales, television advertising rights and merchandise, fewer games limits the number of opportunities to earn a profit in all three areas.
Dirk and LeBron understand that, but still think the season should be shorter.
“I think you don’t need 82 games to determine the best eight in each conference,” Nowitzki said. “That could be done a lot quicker, but I always understand that it’s about money, and every missed game means missed money for [all] parties — for the league, for the owners, for the players. I understand all that, and that’s why I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.”
Jordan used the NFL as an example for why the current, 82-game regular season, isn’t so bad in terms of the physical ailments that often arise in football.
“It’s not like football,” Jordan said. “We don’t really have to worry about concussions and some of the physical damage that football players deal with after they retire. I can understand football players wanting to play fewer games from a physical standpoint. But basketball’s not the same. I’m not diminishing the fact that we go through a grueling season. But I wouldn’t want to shorten the game or play 15-20 fewer games.”
To be fair to Nowitzki and LeBron, they aren’t Michael Jordan. Not many people — not just athletes — are as hyper competitive as the GOAT. Jordan loved to compete, AND he was better at basketball than anything else. In fact, he was better at basketball than whatever most people do best. So of course he’d want every opportunity to dominate at his chosen profession. LeBron and Nowitzki both have championship rings and MVP awards, so it’s not like they don’t know the work and effort required to reach that level, but Jordan’s competitiveness sets him apart even from players as talented and accomplished as James and Nowtizki.
Do you agree with MJ or LeBron/Dirk?
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