One of the themes that will be explored here this season is that, today, championships have come to be over-rated, and competitiveness has come to be under-rated. To be clear, when I say that championships have come to be over-rated, I’m not saying it as one of the people who think everyone should get participation trophies just for trying. And when I say that competitiveness has come to be under-rated, I’m not saying it as an old crank lamenting that the game is not as competitive as it used to be. Yes, I liked the Knicks’ physical style of play of the ‘90s. (Go New York, Go New York, Go!) But, the truth is that I’ve only fouled someone hard once in my life, and when I did I felt so bad that I thought about sending him a box of chocolates the day after.
When I lament the lack of appreciation for being competitive, I’m talking about something else altogether. I’m saying that because we’ve come to view winning a championship as the only achievement worthy of any celebration, we’ve arrived at a strange place. Teams now “tank” somewhat regularly, on the theory that being extra-bad now will increase their odds of winning a championship later. The Sixers are the most egregious example, because they’ve been at it for a while and haven’t turned a corner yet. But other teams are tiptoeing on the line between rebuilding and tanking, and the game is suffering because of it.
The players themselves are a large part of the problem. LaMarcus Aldridge was on a Portland team that won 50+ games for a few straight years, and then he hit the free agent market this summer. He wound up on the Spurs, reportedly because he wants to win more. Along the same lines, Dirk Nowitzki consistently gives up millions of dollars of potential earnings, because he’d rather have more talent around him than compete on an even playing field with guys at his level who get paid what they’re worth. And I won’t get started on that “star” who used to play in Minnesota. You know, Kevin Love – a/k/a Kevin “Competing Is Not A Thing That I” Love.
The fans deserve plenty of blame, too. Many roast Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, for making what they deserve, while celebrating the likes of Aldridge, Nowitzki, and David West. I’m supposed to be angry at the guys who make what they’re worth, and celebrate the guys who take less so they can win? Why don’t we just give up on the idea of competition altogether, put playoff spots and championship rings up for bidding on eBay, and give them to the players who are willing to pay the most?
In upcoming posts of this thread, I’ll argue not only that tanking teams are hurting the game, but that tanking is ineffective as a long-term strategy. I’ll also argue that fans should adjust the way they analyze and credit players, and that the NBA should make certain changes to its structure to address this problem. For now, if you disagree with any of the above, I hope to hear from you.