My beloved National Basketball Association. The league that me and my friends from the Central Harlem community I grew up in loved since we were 10 years old. In fact, I still remember one of my childhood friends, Michael George, interviewing at The NY Post for the Knick Beat Writer Position. He was asked what made him a strong candidate for the position. He replied "Are you kidding? In addition to having experience writing sports, me and my friends from Harlem have lived and died with the Knicks and The NBA all our lives." He did a great job covering both the Knicks and Nets and also doing his part training Steven A. Smith to be what he is today lol.
Yes we loved the NBA. I still remember my Freshmen year in HS as a shy much slimmer person than I am now. After getting cut by the HS varsity team at Charles Evers Hughes HS in Manhattan, I dedicated my sports life to knowing the NBA backwards and forwards. I loved watching those local games on Channel 9, and when HBO first started I loved watching the games there as well. Yes HBO had the games for 1 season lol. I could tell you every players college and how they did prior to being drafted. At that time there were 9 rounds in the Draft, and even the guys chosen in the 9th round were celebrities for a brief time.
As a very young person dedicated to The NBA I was blessed to have what was than called a "G.O." card. That card, which kids received at all NY area high schools, was designed to get HS kids involved in attending sports events at a discounted price. Boy has that changed over the years thanks to Corporate involvement buying tickets that usually are not even used if the game is not an exciting one.
Well I used my card and went to almost every game for over 3 seasons. Always had the same thing to eat: Ice Cream Cup, Popcorn, and Coke. Loved watching Walt Bellemy and tricky Dick Barnett. Also was fascinated with Dick Van Arsdale and even Dave Duetz, a seldom used player that me and my friends swore we could beat in a game of one on one. Funny thing we did get that opportunity later that year in The Village on a rainy day. We were walking by the courts on 6th Avenue and who was there? Dave working on his game believe it or not. We went in to challenge him. He played us 1 against two and we never scored a basket. Just shows how good NBA Players really are. Also remember Earl Monroe joining Clde Fraser. What a backcourt! And these guys were visible all over NYC, and still are. Still remember summer leagues with The Knicks participating with Reed, Bradley, Stallworth, Bowman, Riordon, Cazzie, and even Emmitt Bryant and Hawthorne Wingo. Those NBA players at the time were easy to reach out and touch. Nate Archibald was really good at this. He was always around coaching kids and supporting charity causes. Still does believe it or not.
Boy those were the days. But The NBA seemed different than. Remember the NJ Nets first season and how proud we were of John Mathis (current Kennedy HS of NY Coach) playing at the Teaneck Armory. Remember Dr. J playing for the Virginia Squires and packing Rucker Park for games. He was un-believable as was the Connie Hawkins and others.
Yes the NBA at that time was a league we all could relate to. We loved the NBA because though the players were being paod, they seemed more sincere and pure. They seemed to love playing basketball and did it year round by also participating in summer leagues and off season all-star contests. The NBA? WE LOVED IT!!
What has happened? Yes it is more successful than ever before financially. David Stern has taken it to new heights after becoming the commissioner after either O'Brien or Kennedy if my memory is correct. But by doing this, it seems like it is just so commercial and controversial. Anyone remember the Spike Lee film about him growing up in Brooklyn as a New York Knick Fan? That was such a true picture of how it was to me. Now, I could not even tell you who is on The Knicks roster. Now I am sure many others can and most still love the game. But for me. it has just become such a business, which I understand, that I can not look at it as a pure sport as I did years ago.
Now this brings me to the players playing in the NBA. What happened to guys sticking together? What happened to loyalty? Charles Barkley, who to me has never really been the player folks made him out to be, gets on Labron James case about potentially playing in NY? How about the Stephon Marbury stuff going on? If the NBA wants to be so corporate I would advise Stephon to keep every dollor and do not accept a dollor less. It is not personal, it is just business, just like the NBA! I would come to every game and sit while enjoying the game. heck I might even bring a few snacks.
But if anyone has ever met Stephon, they would know he is really a nice person with alot of folks depending on him for support. He also is most likely hurting inside from not being on the court. And as wrong as he might be, so are the Knicks by the way they treated him before he participated in 1 practice. Sometimes those with smiles on their faces are the ones who are the worst people. Stephon needs all his money because the NBA, as a corporation, might do all they can to keep him from playing for another team.
Oddly I have spent time with David Stern. He seems like a wonderful man and happens to be from my beloved Teaneck, NJ, where I lived for many years. He and I use to talk Teaneck every time I saw him. Even at a NBA Christmas party many years ago. He saw me and came right over to discuss Teaneck HS and Hoops LOL. Yes the NBA is doing well financially. But I still think it has lost its ties to families it once had and become more of a glamour league, which is what they must want. NBA All Star Weekend is like the Super Bowl Weekend with parties, concerts and more. Just wonder if there are any folks who remember the times I described. Those times we lived and died by our local NBA teams? The Big East and ACC, they were just not that important.