Standing Room Only
I consider us to be members of the luckiest generation of sports fans.
We were alive when new stadiums and arenas opened with non-corporate names, and limited luxury suites. We’re still here today to witness the technological advancement of retractable roofs, the death of the multi-purpose astro-turf stadium, and the commercialization of sports.
We recall a time when the only source of sports info was the nightly news and the daily paper. Now, we can tell the play-by-play in a game 300 miles away, while we’re supposed to be writing a paper (or an article). Indeed, the Internet has changed how we access sports news forever.
We’ve also witnessed some of the most historical figures the sports world has ever seen. Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Barry Bonds.a lifetime worth of highlights and milestones from these three individuals alone.
One of the most memorable sports moments of my lifetime took place at the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona. Right away, I know you’re all thinking the same thing.the Dream Team. Never before had a team of NBA players been assembled for international competition, and while any NBA players could have sufficed, the USA selected the best.
Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley.the list of players read like a hall-of-fame induction program. The top teams from around the world took just one look at the Dream Team, and they too wanted to be like kids and chase them for their autographs. As the U.S. ran through its opponents, who never got over the shock of who they were playing, everybody knew where the greatest basketball players of the world resided.
Remembering all of this makes it especially hard to look at the shape team USA is in today. I can venture that most of you didn’t even know the World Championships of basketball were being held before the U.S. lost to Argentina on Wednesday. That loss was the first ever by a team made up of NBA players, a streak of 58 mostly lopsided games.
There are many reasons why this U.S. team was vulnerable right from the start of the competition. First of all, the top players in the NBA decided playing for their country would take up too much of their vacation. Shaq, Kobe, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter: these five alone would barely break a sweat in defeating any team they played. The current team USA is instead made up of Ben Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal, Raef Lafrentz, and Baron Davis. Forget about household names, these guys would have problems getting recognized in their own cities.
Secondly, you have to realize that the world is much better at basketball then it was ten years ago. Just look at how many international players are on each NBA team, and how the number one pick in the draft hails from China. No longer do they stand in awe of the NBA play
ers, because frankly, most of these teams have NBA players themselves. They play with the highest of fundamentals, and strongly believe that the game is very simple if the entire team is involved.
Of course there are some teams that continue to struggle. Honestly, I think myself, my Thermo professor, and the cashier ladies from Mallinckrodt could challenge the team from Algiers. However, teams such as Spain, Argentina and Yugoslavia are not only contenders for this year’s championships, they see themselves as the successors to the U.S. in dominating the entire sport.
Finally, there is the reason that nobody really cares about the NBA anymore. As diehard a fan you might be, there is a problem when the biggest story in your league’s upcoming season is a player’s surgery on his big toe, and a 7-foot 5-inch 21-year-old who hasn’t ever touched an NBA basketball.
At team USA’s loss on Wednesday, there were only 5,000 fans cheering, with many of them supporting Argentina. Note that this game was being played in Indianapolis. With a lack of interest and a lack of fan support, players just might feel that these games are meaningless, and thus have decided either not to participate or not give their full effort on the court. Perhaps they feel jealous that in a game versus China, more people are interested in their reaction to how Yao Ming plays then how their own team is doing. Maybe they just underestimated the competition altogether.
Regardless of what the true reason is, the NBA has a lot of work ahead of them if they want to return to the prominence they held throughout the 80′s and 90′s. Sure, there are no labor struggles, and salary caps ensure equal competition for all teams, but a lack of conflict does not always equal increased fans.
As football begins to take center-stage, and baseball is guaranteed to have an exciting post-season, the NBA limps into its season with the blemish of this year’s U.S. squad. While there may never be a team assembled with as much sheer star power as the Dream Team, today’s players need to be more focused, motivated, and team-driven in order to hold a place in our hearts as they once did.
Otherwise, we might as well keep dreaming.
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