Can We Acknowledge How Soft the NBA Has Gotten?

After a less than satisfying NBA playoffs, the offseason has been extremely exciting. CP3, Paul George, and Gordon Hayward have found new homes, and stars such as Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving could soon be on the move, too. Granted, likely none of these moves will do anything to stop the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. I know what you’re probably thinking, but no, this isn’t gonna be an anti-Warriors, anti-superteam post. The fact of the matter is, the NBA has always been a league fueled by dynasties. The Lakers and Celtics combined for 8 of the league’s 10 championships in the 1980s. Jordan’s Bulls and the Rockets took 8 of 10 in the 90’s. And only 8 teams have won a title since 1999, with the Lakers and Spurs each winning 5, along with the Heat’s trio of titles. So clearly, parity isn’t the problem. The NBA is a league where having one guy on your team like Magic, Bird, Jordan, Kobe or LeBron, makes you instant title contenders. Players are gonna want to be on their side, I don’t think there’s anything particularly soft about that (unless you’re KD because he’s one of those guys in his own right who went to play for the team that he blew a 3-1 conference finals lead to, but I’m sick of talking about that one.)

So no, I don’t blame the whole “superteam” era as why the NBA has gone soft. I mean, would you rather have seen LeBron, Kyrie and KLove take on Curry KD and Klay in the Finals, or Dirk’s Mavs against John Wall and the Wizards? It’s a star-driven league, and having them link up makes for entertaining basketball. My problem with the NBA is how players react when these stars switch teams.

Clearly, I’m in agreement with most that Durant’s move was soft, but only because of where he went. I didn’t think he should have stayed in OKC because I don’t think Russell Westbrook is the ideal guy to play with when you’re the best scorer in the league. He’s too ball-dominant and shot-happy to be the point guard for a player of KD’s caliber. But Westbrook is very talented in his own right, and like most I was excited to see what he could do on his own this year, especially against the Warriors. But after awhile his beef with KD got old. He acted like an 18-year old girl who got dumped before prom.

The whole “KD left me, everyone feel bad” act got really old really fast.

LeBron has already started to do the same. I’m a big LeBron guy, but basically everything he’s done this offseason has been cringeworthy. From his workout video that would later be mocked by Steph while Kyrie laughs,

To using hashtags like “Enjoying My Summer” to downplay the Kyrie beef

it hasn’t exactly been an ideal last few months for the NBA’s best player. Stephen A. Smith honestly brought up a good point about LeBron yesterday: as much as players respect him, does anyone fear him? The answer probably would’ve been yes after the 2016 Finals, but the answer is a firm no right now. I love Bron, but the way he’s handling all of this is such a bad look for basketball.

So how can the NBA fix this? At the end of the day, the players are still going to go and play where they want, and that’s fine. Like I said, it’s a player-driven league, the power is in their hands. What they shouldn’t be doing, however, is being so buddy-buddy with all these guys on opposing teams because they may want to link up and play together somewhere three years down the road. That’s what makes the league soft. Kyrie laughing it up at Steph’s LeBron impression at Harrison Barnes’ wedding? It’s totally fine to be at a wedding with guys on other teams, but it’s a bad look to be laughing while the guy who’s team just wiped the floor with you in 5 games in the Finals mocks a guy who’s still your teammate. Have some pride, dude, you just got EMBARASSED in the Finals.

I’m not saying players have to hate each other off the floor, but it should at least feel that way. Guys weren’t dapping each other up before important games in the 90’s and asking how their families were when they were about to go up against each other. Act like you hate the opponent, get in the mindset that you’re gonna beat them, and then talk about whatever you want after the game. Hell, it would be even better if they really hated each other. If these guys were real competitors, they wouldn’t say no to adding a player who could make their team better just because of past personal beef. While you’re on a team, the mindset should be me and my teammates vs. the world. If that changes later on when you go to another team, then so be it.

So is the NBA as doomed as some people think it is? I don’t think so. But it sure as hell ain’t what it used to be.

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