When and why did the NBA start sucking?

I. OVERVIEW :Don’t get me wrong, the NBA is still easily the best basketball league available to hoops fans, but gone is the intrigue of the 1980’s and 90’s, when the NBA was filled with star personalities such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, et. al. The NBA is still by far the greatest basketball talent in the world on display for sure, but it has become a snorefest.II. WHEN DID THE NBA START SUCKING?I trace back the the NBA’s downfall to the 1996-97 season. That was the season that Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury entered the NBA. With their entry, the hip hop movement kicked off, and everyone started becoming the same. The Answer was the truth, and he will go down as one of the greatest players and personalities that ever played in the NBA, but at the same time, everyone else became a caricature.III. WHY DID THE NBA START SUCKING?1. No more Michael Jordan :This guy was too great. He had the total game on offense and defense; he was an athletic specimen, with lightning quickness and killer hangtime; he had the intangibles to will a team to victory both as a leader and soldier; and he had the image, with the Armani suits, baldhead and mainstream appeal.Everyone else who was annointed to be the next MJ has so far failed. Don’t even get me started on Kobe or LeBron – none of them are close. Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway had some bad luck with injuries, but they wouldn’t have come close anyway. I have no comment regarding Harold Miner.2. Too much hip hop :I love hip hop and I love Allen Iverson, but the hip hop movement was terrible for the NBA. When AI first came into the league, his tattoos, braids and dress were revolutionary, but as soon as he got it started, everyone followed, and they became nothing special. With everyone doing it, the players’ rah rah displays on the court became a mere annoyance.Hip hop also destroyed the game. Iverson’s crossover, flair and toughness were amazing, but then everyone tried to make the NBA game into Rucker Park. The results manifested themselves in the sounds of bricklaying, fans breaking noses from wild passes, and guards getting swatted while trying to finish on three defenders converging on the basket. It was like listening to Vanilla Ice after listening to Public Enemy.I believe that the game’s transformation was a major reason why Team USA got spanked in world competition from 2002-06.3. No characters :The NBA was not scripted, but its roster of characters was much like the WWE’s. You had the Holy Trinity of Jordan, Magic and Bird. You had the Flying Mound of Rebound in Charles Barkley. You had the Dream Shaking Nigerian Nightmare in Hakeem Olajuwon. You had the old looking dude who made himself look even older by not shaving his head or moustache and wearing hot pants, long socks and tennis shoes in Clyde Drexler.You had the dominant-white-point-guard-and-black-redneck odd couple in John Stockton and Karl Malone. You had the Detroit Bad Boys led by the babyfaced assassin Isiah Thomas and his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad of Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn, et. al. Even the genuinely nice guy David Robinson was a character, with his Navy background. I could go on and on.Now, no matter how you try to put it, there’s no intrigue. The most intriguing players of their generation, Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson, are on the decline, and their potential successor is an unproven Michael Beasley.IV. FUTURE OUTLOOK :Part of the NBA’s decline is bad luck and part of it is not. David Stern’s strategy of marketing individual players over teams has caused fans to lose interest, unless there is a Lakers vs. Celtics finals going on.The guys have great talent and athleticism, but some ingredient is missing, and there hasn’t been a player in a long time with the combination of game and personality of the old schoolers. What there is, there is a sense of something having been contrived. It may be a mere cycle, and players with these combinations will come along again.However, the hip hop movement dominating American basketball is not a mere coincidence. Even if the guys were all to play fundamentally sound, team basketball, there would still be no intrigue. Back when hip hop was in its infancy, in the 1980’s and 90’s, players were themselves. They just let their natural flair take over, and that was the best flair for the camera.Do remember, though, that the culture and society that permeates the off-court world of NBA players will change eventually, and be more conducive to making the NBA more exciting.The NBA can either wait for a new generation of players to come along or develop…Or they could hire Vince McMahon.

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