It's borderline depressing the Dallas - Golden State series is taking place in the Western Conference. These games are probably the best advertising and promotion that the NBA has had since Lebron James was a senior in high school, and no one is seeing them except NBA superfans and people who don't have to be awake before 11am (fortunately I belong to both camps). I hate to get all high and mighty on the NBA; hell we've got young, up and coming NBA blogger Bill Simmons for that, but this game ended at 12:45am on Wednesday and it was probably the earliest finish of the series. And the NBA may end up regretting this...
The league has worked many angles in the last decade to recruit fans who have never watched basketball/bring back fans who have stopped watching. Let's look at some of them, the target audience, and the end result:
- WNBA(female viewers): The WNBA has maintained a rather strong fan base... for the WNBA. I don't know that any WNBA fan would think about the NBA itself, other than to proclaim the superiority of the fundamentals-based game in the WNBA. I can't imagine any way that the NBA has benefited from the WNBA, especially given the massive amount of face time and marketing the NBA has had forced on it.
- The Rookie Superstar(young kids, those looking for the "next Jordan"): The big example here would be Lebron James' appearance on the NBA scene as a junior in high school. Although, many basketball purists and internet columnists who are bummed their teams are in the lottery would have you believe that the Oden/Durant situation is one of national interest. The very audience targeted here becomes the problem. By trying to entice the people who want the next Jordan, criticism is invited. These are the fans who won't buy tickets to see their local team because they don't have one of the ten legitimate Superstars in the league.
- NBDL(stat geeks, guys who follow minor league baseball): This move was aimed towards people who already follow the game of basketball at an extremely dedicated level. At best, it keeps these people seriously involved. At worst, you end up watching an NBDL game.
- The Dress Code/Age Requirement(cranky white people): Give it up, these people are watching the NFL, where any semblance of personality or showmanship will likely earn someone a vertebrae-crushing gang tackle. All these rules have done is heightened the non-viewers' reaction to any incident. Look at it this way, whose public tantrum-throwing kid looks worse? The parent who drags them out by the hand and grounds them at home; or the strung-out parent that starts screaming louder and more obnoxiously than the kid? David Stern is looking more and more like a mother of three at Six Flags every day.
The games, stupid. The games. I read this week that even good basketball is conducive to the highlight package; alley-oop, hard foul, game winning shot, box score. The idea that any sports fan would prefer that to the entire second half tonight is absurd. Tonight, one of the most exciting basketball games I have ever watched unfolded in the late-evening/early-morning hours. The second half was a flurry of back and forth threes, drives, and a lot more threes. If you show this game to ten people who haven't watched a game all year, nine of them would probably watch the rest of the playoffs.
But until David Stern manages to trim the excess of the playoffs, these games will remain unseen. My solution? Contract the league and schedule, put six teams per conference in the post-season, five-game first round. Completely unrealistic and excessive, but it would guarantee parity, quality, and excitement in the playoffs. This series arrived by the grace of god. No eight seed has ever been this well prepared for the top team in the league. It will likely never happen again. But with a lighter playoff schedule the public would be able to watch nightly, prime-time match ups, and the likelihood of catching a game like tonight's would increase tenfold. The more people that see it, the more people that enjoy it. Who knows, this might not make any sense since it's 3am now.