The Decline and Fall of the NBA

What happened to the NBA?

What happened to the NBA I used to know and love? During the 2009-2010 season, I watched the Washington Wizards play the Boston Celtics and witnessed an amazing spectacle: the Wizards failed to rebound during the entire second quarter! They didn’t defend well either, and Boston shot 60% from the field for the quarter. There were rebounds to be had, though—the Wizards just didn’t get any of them. What was even more amazing was that the Wizards only lost by two points! They failed to rebound for a quarter of the game and still had a chance to win! What is wrong with the NBA?

In the 70's and 80's, I actually preferred pro basketball to college hoops. The NBA had Wilt, Kareem, Bob Lanier, Pete Maravich, Connie Hawkins, Rick Barry, Nate Archibald, Elvin Hayes, Bob McAdoo, and many other great players. The 70’s gave us the Lakers with Wilt, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich (and Pat Riley); the Knicks featured Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe (and Phil Jackson); those fabulous Celtic teams starred Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, John Havlicek and Jo Jo White; the Milwaukee Bucks boasted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and Bob Dandridge; the Detroit Pistons featured Dave Bing and Bob Lanier; and the Baltimore/Washington Bullets were amazing with Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, and Phil Chenier.

Those were good days for the NBA, and when the older players retired, four ABA teams were admitted into the league. Suddenly we witnessed the talents of players from the so-called inferior league as Artis Gilmore, Julius Erving, George McGinnis, George Gervin, Maurice Lucas and others now battled with the established stars.

The excitement increased as the 80's brought us Lakers Showtime, with Worthy and Magic running the break while Kareem patrolled the middle; Moses Malone, Dr. J and Charles Barkley together on one team; the original Twin Towers (it would have been fun to watch Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon face off against their 90’s counterparts, David Robinson and Tim Duncan); and, an amazing Celtics team with Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale. The mid-80’s introduced a guy who would single-handedly change the NBA landscape named Michael Jordan. Despite his offensive brilliance, his teams weren’t ready yet to compete with the NBA’s upper echelon. He was fun to watch, though.

The NBA: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Ultimate Matchup of two worthy opponents:  Wilt Chamberlain vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The Ultimate Matchup of two worthy opponents: Wilt Chamberlain vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Nate "Tiny" Archibald led the NBA in scoring and assists in one year.
Nate "Tiny" Archibald led the NBA in scoring and assists in one year.
Before LeBron and Kobe, before Jordan, before Dr. J., there was the Hawk--Connie Hawkins.
Before LeBron and Kobe, before Jordan, before Dr. J., there was the Hawk--Connie Hawkins.
Rick Barry was the last of the underhanded free-throw shooters, and one of the best of all time.
Rick Barry was the last of the underhanded free-throw shooters, and one of the best of all time.
Pat Riley arrived in New York and reinvented Lakers' Showtime as "Slowtime"
Pat Riley arrived in New York and reinvented Lakers' Showtime as "Slowtime"
Kevin Garnett changed the game by going pro out of high school, but was it for the better?
Kevin Garnett changed the game by going pro out of high school, but was it for the better?
Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler:  two big men that would have benefited from going to college
Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler: two big men that would have benefited from going to college
Kobe and LeBron simultaneously represent the best and the worst of the NBA--two high school players that represent the best hopes for the NBA's present and future, but at what cost?
Kobe and LeBron simultaneously represent the best and the worst of the NBA--two high school players that represent the best hopes for the NBA's present and future, but at what cost?

The NBA has changed, and not for the better!

But a funny thing happened. In the late ‘80s, the Bad Boys Pistons won two titles while simultaneously robbing the game of its beauty. Pat Riley later took Showtime to New York and reinvented it as Slowtime. Teams weren’t even embarrassed when they won by scores of 74-68—less than a good college team scored in 8 fewer minutes. Fawning broadcasters proclaimed these teams played terrific defense, but it looked more like players dribbling the ball until 6 seconds were left on the clock, and then launching any wild shot they could heave toward the rim (unless they scored by putting the defense to sleep). Rotten shots equaled misses and perpetuated the illusion of good defense. Isolation plays used to expose illegal defenses turned offenses into a two man game with three guys watching. The three non-scorers didn’t bother sprinting around as if running a play. It’s been suggested NBA teams in the ‘60s and ‘70s played “run and gun” basketball (citing this as why more rebounds were available), but I see the difference as that of teams trying to do as much as they could on the court in those days, instead of as little as they could.

Michael Jordan provided some exciting moments during his championship runs, but the league was so distilled, there was no one for him to compete against. Wilt Chamberlain had Bill Russell and then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Larry Bird had Magic Johnson; there was no worthy opponent to test Michael Jordan and demand his best game every time in order to win. Chicago’s finals opponents didn’t do it (Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix and Utah), and the fact that only Utah played them twice for the title indicates the league had no other great teams. It was small wonder that in Jordan’s NBA, a 72-10 season was possible.

The NBA’s regression didn’t end with Jordan’s domination of guys like John Starks and Jeff Hornacek. In a way MJ never dreamed of, Kevin Garnett changed pro basketball by joining its ranks out of high school. This wasn’t completely unique—Moses Malone went to the ABA from high school and Darryl Dawkins and Bill (Poodle) Willoughby joined the NBA right after prom night, but Garnett was different. Garnett was good enough to succeed in the big show, and he made other high school boys dream of bigger things than conference championships. Once Garnett arrived, any 6’8” kid who could post up players a half-foot shorter dreamed they could do the same to Alonzo Mourning, and saw college as a nuisance that kept them from earning respect and big paychecks.

The ensuing result was, there were now kids we never heard of on pro teams. The NBA drafted on potential instead of skill, and nearly every squad had high school players on their bench, replacing the journeymen of yesteryear who made the most of limited talent every minute on the court. Rosters were larded with players named Jonathan Bender, Leon Smith, Darius Miles, DeShawn Stevenson, Kwame Brown, and Ndudi Ebi! Korleone Young, James Lang, Robert Swift, Sebastian Telfair, Dorell Wright, and Martell Webster were also paid to watch the game from the bench. And let’s not forget Eddy Curry, Gerald Green, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Andre Blatche and Amir Johnson. Where would the NBA be without them? The game was ruined by inexperienced hotshots who thought they could play because they could dunk, perpetuated by broadcasters hyping their potential three or four years into their careers. Meanwhile, fans dozed on the couch at home, sedated by endless images of athletes who believed “putting on a show for the fans” made them stars.

The NBA thankfully forced kids to go to college for at least a year. Scouts could evaluate players based on what they actually did in a game—not just on the AAU circus (oops, I meant circuit). Some players with pro dreams but not pro talent were weeded out, or at least relegated to the second round of the draft and no longer guaranteed a contract. The wisest of them stayed in college.

The games in the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s were played on a highly skilled level; before there were point guards and shooting guards there were simply guards, and backcourts had to feature complete players. All frontcourt players were expected to both score and rebound. Over time the concept of a versatile player eroded and we were forced to watch point guards that couldn’t shoot, shooting guards that couldn’t bring the ball upcourt or make an intelligent pass; small forwards that couldn’t rebound, power forwards that couldn’t shoot, and centers that couldn’t do anything but be tall. Expansion was partly to blame, but the proliferation of “hurry up and get to the league” players contributed.

I learned to accept that players no longer mastered all aspects of the game because many were still great. Jason Kidd was never a good shooter but the rest of his game was brilliant. Dennis Rodman hit the boards, dyed his hair and got thrown out of games but did nothing on offense. His game was limited, but he was still better than most other forwards. (Rodman’s tragedy was that he limited himself; he decided he was going to get the ball, kick it out and let the other guys do whatever they wanted with it. He would rebound and defend, but virtually refused to put up a shot.)

How did the NBA respond to the explosion of raw, unskilled players? By drafting Vlade Divac, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic, Dino Raja, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, Hedo Turkoglu, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Yao Ming, Manu Ginobli, and Peja Stojakovic. The league looked overseas to find athletes that possessed the same skills players from the “old days” possessed—they could shoot, dribble, defend, box out to rebound and move without the ball. This is what the NBA used to be about, when high school players went to college and honed their skills before moving on.

Hope for the future?

True hope for the NBA’s future might come from an unlikely and unexpected source: an elimination of the guaranteed contract. Why should anyone in any sport be assured a roster spot based on their position in the draft? Let everyone have to make the team to get paid. This would definitely weed out guys who know they don’t really belong. (If sports salaries were more reasonable, kids wouldn’t be in such a hurry to grab all that cash, but I’ll save that topic for another day.) Players would attend college to improve their skills, understanding the importance of making the team—not just being drafted. Guaranteed contracts will never be eradicated, but their elimination could help the game.

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are the NBA’s best rivalry and I acknowledge it is enjoyable to watch them play each other, despite neither of them having attended college. The NBA still needs good college players, however, to both improve their product and build their fan base. John Wall’s NBA debut will be far more eagerly anticipated with his success as a Kentucky Wildcat. Without college, Wall would be the next Tracy McGrady or Rashard Lewis—fine players, but guys no one really cares about except hometown fans of the teams they play for.

The old NBA I knew and loved is gone and largely forgotten, but I still enjoy the game and watch for signs of its resurgence. I look forward to the day when I anticipate NBA games on television again, and root for teams that have more going for them than players with talent but not skills. When that happens, the NBA will be fun again. It will be—dare I say it? Fantastic.

NBA merchandise available at

More by this Author

Comments 29 comments

ToadRun profile image

ToadRun 6 years ago

Great write up. I plugged it for you at so hope you get some extra readers. :)

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks for your comments and support, ToadRun. I appreciate the plug. Here's hoping the NBA can make a comeback someday.

Has_aWayWithWords profile image

Has_aWayWithWords 6 years ago from United States

I loved basketball especially as a kid. Jordan, Barkley and all of the other greats of the 80's and early 90's, it seems that around 1996 we began to see a steady decline not only in talent but in attitude. It became all about money and endorsements instead of a love of the game. All sports are seeing this I'm afraid, it just seems worse in the NBA

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

aWayWithWords, I appreciate your comments.

The 80's were a great era and the draft that yielded Jordan and Olajuwon could be seen as the best infusion of talent ever. Talent has dipped markedly since those days and, as you suggest, the game seems to be about money and endorsements now. A sad state for a sport I truly love.

Thanks again for commenting.

Truth From Truth profile image

Truth From Truth 6 years ago from Michigan

I agree about the current game, and while I will give kobe his credit. Lebron still has a lot to prove as far as winning goes. I just watched a game last night that might make me give up on the NBA. I am sick of games that are nearly predetermined. I watch every Celtics game and at least one more random game a week. I watched the Celtics play the Hawks last week, the hawks won. I was disappointed there were a few calls I disagreed with but it was loss end of story no complaints. The game last night was a different story all together. Atlanta shot 33 free throws to Boston's 18, even though Boston was home. The Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was ejected, then seconds latter the assistant coach was given a Technical foul. I know people will think this is just me being biased for my team, but I felt like giving up on the NBA in the third quarter of the game while Boston was still leading by 5 points. Anyway for all your reasons above about less polished and skilled players, along with my belief that the officiating is no longer questionable but truly corrupt. I think I may no longer watch the NBA. At Least for the short term. I will turn to College basketball. I believe the officiating in College is more fair. I also believe that most College teams have discipline, and a strong team first commitment. I really enjoyed your article, and I miss the game I remember from the 70's and 80's. I also would have enjoyed a match up of the Houston twin towers against the Spurs duo of Duncan and Robinson. I also would enjoy to see Wilt against Shaq, even though I know wilt would have dominated him. Maybe also Jerry West and Oscar Robertson against Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce. Well sorry to rant Mike you made great points, I always enjoy your Sports Hubs. They are well detailed, and engaging. Thanks Mike.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Truth, I always appreciate your comments. Never worry about their length.

A long time ago, a reporter asked Bill Russell if he ever thought NBA players would "fix" a game. Russell replied that players make to much money for gamblers to buy them off--no NBA player would risk his career for $10,000 or even a half million dollars. He added that the referees are another story. If a gambler wanted to fix an NBA game for betting purposes, the way to go about it would be to pay off the official. They don't make a lot of money, their job is difficult and subjective, and a lot of mistakes and disparities are prevalent all the time.

One has to wonder if the referees are just poor, corrupt, or part of a larger scheme to create parity. Close games are better drama than blowouts. It makes sense for the NBA to want close games, lots of game sevens in the playoffs, etc. What better way to facilitate that than through the refs?

I'm not saying the refs are corrupt (although I'm not saying they aren't, either), but the refs can affect the outcome of a game as much or more than anyone, including the players.

Even without conspiracy theories, I agree with you--the officiating of pro games is so consistently bad, it is hard to watch the sport.

Thanks again for your comments, and like I said--never worry about their length.

Take care.

rml 6 years ago

Very well written, you make a good point about Michael Jordan not having anyone good enough to challenge him.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, rml, I appreciate your comments. I believe it is clear that Jordan never had that worthy opponent that made him play his best, and it is too bad--can you imagine watching a game where Jordan would be challenged to give his all to beat the other guy? Like watching Bird and Magic, it would have been great fun to watch.

Gemineye profile image

Gemineye 6 years ago

Excellent article. The games today is based so much more on athleticism than fundamental skills. Although I do think LeBron is something real special to watch play the game.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Gemineye, thanks for reading and leaving your comments. I agree with you, the game is about athleticism now--fundamentals are less valued, and the players demonstrating a superior grasp of the game's fundamentals frequently come from overseas.

I also have to admit, LeBron is a joy to watch. I'm typically against high school players going straight to the pros, but I have no problem with LeBron James. He's worth the price of a ticket.

Thanks again.


Matt 6 years ago

Personally, I will respect Kobe Bryant more as a player than Lebron until he develops a skill-set that displays more than raw athleticism. I know he's still young and he's still growing as a player (which is mind-boggling when you consider what he's already capable of) but until he develops post moves, a solid mid-range jumper, defensive intelligence and a respectable free throw percentage, he's still not the player that Kobe is. These are all fundamental skills that players like Jordan, Bird, Magic and all the true legends of the game possessed. Athleticism goes a long way (as Lebron has shown) but it garners less respect, in my opinion, when compared to a player who's considered an equal, but is less athletic. This is why I will always respect Larry Bird. Anyone who played with him or saw him play knows that Larry couldn't run or jump and wasn't particularly strong, but he still accomplished more than most with the body he was given. This, to me, is a player that is more "skilled". Maybe I'm speaking too soon tho because Lebron has a long career ahead of him and plenty of time to grow. Time will tell.

The idea that Jordan had no rival or legendary superstar to compete with is a very interesting one when you look at the history of the game. Starting way back with Wilt and Russell, then Bird and Magic, then Jordan and....hmmmmm, no one. It's almost like the basketball gods created the ultimate team in the Celtics of the 60's and pitted them against the ultimate individual player in Wilt Chamberlain simply to create a matchup that would appease them. Years later, they created Magic and Bird, two total opposites who's careers represent the ultimate rivalry in sports history. Everything from their individual styles to the teams the played on clashed and made for competition that saved the sport. When their time had come to an end the bball gods were ready with yet another duo that would captivate the minds of NBA fans, but....something went wrong. We all know about Michael Jordan and what he accomplished as a player, but where was HIS rival? Who was supposed to challenge HIM in the finals year-in and year-out? For anyone who watched Jordan play in college, there is a name that comes to mind when speaking of that era. A player who was described by many as "a bigger, stronger, faster version of Michael Jordan" The kid from Maryland that was the Lebron James of his time: Len Bias. It seems strange that Len was drafted to a team with such prestige as the Celtics, at a time when the game's best were entering the tale end of their careers. Almost like he was SUPPOSED to be there to carry on the tradition of winning in Boston. But as we all know, this didn't happen. Now I know there is a never-ending list of college stars who never lived-up to their professional expectations, but consider this: Jordan has never been considered to be the best college player of all-time (far from it) but look what he did in the pros. Len Bias played the type of game that translated well to the NBA: he had an NBA body, a very consistent mid-range jumper, played excellent defense, blocked shots, cleaned the glass and even had leaping ability that rivaled Jordan at the time. He was a complete player fundamentally, but also had the athleticism to go with it. There have been others that played the way Bias did in college and turned out to be busts at the professional level, but something about the timing of this player's emergence, the team he was drafted to and the comparisons that were drawn to Jordan make me feel like he was the missing piece. Call me crazy, but it seems to me like the greater beings weren't too happy that our society caused the death of what they planned to be the future of the NBA and our punishment has been the disjointed and dilapidated version of the NBA we have now.

Maybe I'm making too much of Bias, but when you look at it all, it seems to make a lot of sense.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Matt, you seem a true and genuine student of the game. Your thinking here mirrored my own. There are always going to be moments in the history of the NBA where another action or a different decision might have changed the game completely. For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seriously considered playing in the ABA because he wanted to play for New York, but George Mikan was said to have bungled negotiations and Kareem went to Milwaukee. If Kareem played for the New York Nets in the ABA and battled Artis Gilmore, who is to say the ABA might not have lasted, particularly if the Nets still managed to somehow acquire Julius Erving? If the ABA still folded in 1976, where would Abdul-Jabbar have landed, and what would the NBA have been like if he played somewhere else?

Along those lines, I agree that if there are basketball gods watching from above, they intended for Len Bias to be the worthy opponent for Michael Jordan. They were close enough to the same age that they would have battled for the majority of their career, and if Bias played to what most considered his potential to be, Jordan would have had an opponent that demanded he play his best against in order to win. The NBA would have been a better league for it, and the game might be very different right now.

I will confess that I was considering writing an article about that very subject, and if you would be willing to email your last name (or a pen name, if you are more comfortable) to me, I would greatly enjoy mentioning you in the article and crediting your comments as an inspiration. You can email your name to me by clicking on "contact Mike Lickteig" in a box on the far right column of this page. If you are comfortable doing so, you may leave your name or an alias in the comment field here.

I would again commend you for both your knowledge of the game and your considerable writing skills. I am quite impressed by your talent. Thanks again for commenting.


IFD1253 profile image

IFD1253 6 years ago from Indianapolis, IN

Great point about the guaranteed contracts. I have long contended that the CBA (not the one Isiah destroyed) has been the number one contributor to the downspiral of play in the Association. It's like anything else in business or politics: when you remove profit incentive, you get inferior products. When the profit is guaranteed, why put forth the effort?

Anyway, I realize that this match-up wasn't exactly Bird-Magic, but Reggie Miller was quite the foil for Jordan. The year the Bulls set the record for regular season wins ('96), they went 2-2 against the Pacers. After once again splitting the regular season matchup, the '98 Eastern Conference Finals proved to be a knock down drag out 7 game affair. Just sayin'

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

IFD1253, thanks for commenting. I am convinced the NBA would offer a much better product without guaranteed contracts. If contracts weren't guaranteed, the one-and-done players would shrink to a manageable level. Currently, all you need to do is look good--you don't have to be good--and you will be a millionaire.

Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers probably were the best rival for Jordan and the Bulls during their championship run. I never thought Jordan had to put forth his best effort every time to beat the Pacers, but they did give the Bulls a challenge. As you say, not Bifd-Magic, but perhaps deserving of more consideration than they are traditionally given.

Thanks again for your comments, they are greatly appreciated.


SportsInfo247 profile image

SportsInfo247 5 years ago from Arizona

I agree with you regarding the lack of skills possessed by today's players. I also feel that there aren't as many superstars as there used to be in the NBA. There is a whole group of good players, but not many great players. The addition of foreign players has been a good thing for the NBA, other than a lot of people who are casual fans don't know who these players are when they arrive in the NBA. I think that hurts a little, until the fans start to see how they play. Great article.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Sportsinfo, thanks for stopping by. You raise an excellent point in mentioning the NBA doesn't have as many superstars as it once did, and I agree completely. There are more very good players than the old days, but significantly fewer great ones. The influx of players from overseas has helped, but what they bring to the table is an understanding of the game US players no longer possess. Foreign players play the game the way American players used to, and I think NBA players are better served if a player stays in college.

That is another discussion, however.... Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.


wirelessbrain12 5 years ago

I do feel like this is true now a days. The NBA becomes so boring to watch because some people don't do the basics. I feel like the NBA is just getting lazy.. for ex. people are now in superstar teams like the big 3 knicks and heat. Also the lakers are slacking. The NBA needs somethings to wake em up.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

wirelessbrain, thanks for your comments. You're absolutely right, it's all about super friends teams now. It started a few years ago when Gasol joined Kobe on the Lakers, and Garnet and Ray Allen teamed with Paul Pierce in Boston. Jason Kidd went to Dallas, Shaq went to Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston, etc. The NBA needs to send its players to college so players can learn the skills they need to bring to the game. I hope their new bargaining agreement sends players to college for at least two years. It will help.

Thanks again for reading.


slappywalker profile image

slappywalker 5 years ago from Saratoga Springs, NY

This was a good read Mike. I'm a diehard Detroit Pistons fan though, especially the Bad Boys, so I'll blame the uglification of the NBA on the Knicks. Just kidding.

I am just a fan of the game of basketball, so it is hard for me to acknowledge that the league has actually gotten worse, even though it has definitely hit a rough patch. You make a great argument for the things that are going on though. I can't even disagree with you.

My only worry is that forcing kids to go to college could end up damaging the college game and contributing to more corruption by agents and AAU coaches. I think it would be better if basketball had a more developed minor league system for the kids who clearly are not qualified for college but still need seasoning before lacing it up for the NBA. Basketball could definitely learn from baseball's minor leagues in that aspect.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Slappywalker, thanks for your comments--I apologize for allowing circumstances to postpone my response for months. I agree that kids in college are vulnerable to scheming agents and the AAU circus. In many ways I wish the AAU summer basketball leagues would disappear. I am also not a fan of John Calipari and his way of selling the NBA dream to players for recruiting purposes. I do believe that even one year of college prepares players for the NBA in ways that sitting on a pro team's bench never will, and that is why I support it. It gives the college game star power, and it brings fans of college ball to the NBA to watch their players on the next level.

Thanks again for stopping by, I am appreciative.


bagsofwater profile image

bagsofwater 4 years ago from USA

This is a brilliant article, very informative, just wrote a hub about what has transpired in the NBA over the last few months with the lockout

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Bagsofwater. I will look for your hub, and I'm eager to see what the shortened NBA season will offer fans. Take care.


brandonvand profile image

brandonvand 4 years ago

the wizards failed to rebound in the second quarter and still had a chance to win. so you're implying the celtics should have won by a considerable margin. sounds like an indictment on the celtics. or are you saying this is indicative of all teams? but even if it is what in particular is wrong with the nba because a team doesn't win a game like that in a blowout? not seeing the connection between paragraph one and the rest

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Brandonvand, it might not have been clear that the Celtics vs. Wizards game simply got me thinking about the NBA in general, and how it had changed in ways I don't particularly see as beneficial. The intent was not to analyze in specific terms what the Wizards or Celtics were doing that night. I would say that if one team can hold another without a rebound for a full quarter of the game, well--yes, that game should have been a blowout and out of reach, particularly since there were rebounds to be had. I wondered what it meant-- was it indicative of teams not caring enough about wins and losses to finish off an outmanned team? Could it perhaps be a lack of adequate coaching, suggesting that the guys in charge did not know how to capitalize on the rebounding advantage they held? Or, in the Wizards' case, not having an awareness of what to do if one's team is being outplayed in one or more ways? Did it indicate a lack of fundamental skills the NBA should demand of its players (that is, in fact, my conclusion)?

I was not saying the same problem is seen in every team, either, except in the most general terms. The game has changed into something different. The Celtics-Wizards game I viewed as a symptom of that change.

In my mind, the 2012 NBA All-Star game last Sunday was another indicator of how far the game of pro basketball has declined. We saw more than two quarters of drives into the lane for dunks while the "all-star" opponents watched in admiration. When the urge to actually compete took over in the second half, it manifested itself most obviously in Dwayne Wade's chop to Kobe Bryant's face, breaking his nose. Wade then defended his actions by claiming Bryant fouled him twice (suggesting his own foul was somehow justified), and it was good that they could move past it and continue to put on a show for the fans.

Twenty years ago, the All-Star game was still a game, not just the Slam-Dunk contest revisited. Forty years ago, they actually played to win in the annual contest, recognizing that a true game was the actual show. Players still went to their strengths, rather than believing fans want to see Andrew Bynum hoisting three pointers.

And that was my point with the first paragraph. It was meant as an indictment of the two teams and the league as a whole, but not intended as a specific analysis of that particular game per se. I apologize if that was not clear. I am appreciative of your time. Thanks for reading and take care.


manny in ny 4 years ago

I always enjoy your comments mike.I was watching tons of games every year since around 1970,up until bird retired.Then i slowly stopped watching for many of the same reasons you duly noted.Great take on things!

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Manny. I will confess I have enjoyed watching Oklahoma City reach the NBA finals this year, but it hasn't changed my perception that the game isn't as good as it used to be. Currently, NBA centers are so lacking in skills that many teams are going small and playing without a big man in the middle. Imagine trying that against Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Moses Malone. The results would be laughable, but perhaps no more so than sending Joel Anthony or Tyson Chandler out against Wilt or Kareem.

I still believe that if the NBA sent kids back to college, they would get a better product. Until that happens, well... it won't be the same.

Thanks again for your comments.


djwc6 4 years ago

great article!although i never stopped watching the nba, i did slow my watching around the early to mid 90s.I remember watching a phoenix game and they were running the 5th or 6th isolation play in a row to charles barkley and i was thinking "what have they done to this great game".there were basically eight players standing around watching a one on one tournament

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

djwc6, thanks for stopping by. I remember watching the Suns with disgust at the very thing you mention--nothing but isolation plays for Barkley. Those teams were very talented, too, but the talent largely was wasted as the Suns tried to exploit Barkley at the expense of the beauty of the game. It was even more ridiculous to see Sir Charles react with disgust if he threw the ball back outside for a jump shot and the shot was missed. It wasn't basketball in any pure sense, and it wasn't fun to watch.

The game has changed a bit to take advantage of the individual players' skills a bit more, but it seems there is no one out there anymore with a true understanding of the game. It is playground ball throughout. The aging Celtics show signs of still knowing what a team game is, but no longer have the legs to outrun the gunners. There is no Bill Walton, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson--players who saw the game completely and made teammates better with their understanding of basketball. I hope that type of player isn't gone and forgotten, but they might be.

Well, thanks again, and here's to hoping the NBA finds that transcendent player once again and reclaims its former greatness.


gary harding 2 years ago

can't stand to watch over a few seconds of a NBA game. Because there not games, you might call it a circus, it is a better way of describing the NBA

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article