(In homage to ESPN's Skip Bayless, whom Andrew pretty much got me into.)
Remember that Star Power post I wrote a couple of months ago? Well, let's just say there's going to be a lot less star-driven talent that may be gracing their presence for the rest of the NBA Playoffs.
I read a statistic a few days ago stating that we won't be seeing either Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Shaq included in the finals for the first time since 1999. This goes to show who makes it to the big dance often and who ends up dancing quite well. However, a lot of people are scared about whether the NBA Finals will dare to get the ratings and attention that it did last year.
Right now, we have the NBA Conference Finals going on. In the East, you have the Heat (which have the LeBron, Wade, and Bosh) and the Bulls (sans-Michael Jordan but have Derrick Rose, a surefire MVP winner). Then...you have the West. You have the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) and the Dallas Mavericks. Note how there isn't anything overly special about the two West teams?
Anyway, the past ten-or-so Finals have had at least two major star players that sport-watchers were familiar with. With the way things are going at this point (as of 5/16/2011), the Bulls (and whomever wins the West) may only have viewers coming from their home states.
After watching ESPN a few weeks back, they noted that the 2003 NBA Finals had the lowest ratings in NBA history compared to past match-ups (up until 2007, that is). We had the Spurs, which had a pretty good team, and...the New Jersey Nets. I could make so many New Jersey jokes right here, but I won't do that because it'll seriously cut the flow of the post. Nobody really knew or cared about the Nets, because the Spurs were just so much more well-known and people just assumed right away that the Spurs would win. Same thing as in 2007's finals; again, it was the Spurs, but this time they were facing the Cavs with a not-well-known LeBron James. Because nobody cared (and the Cavs wound up getting swept anyway), the ratings tanked. It's not just that nobody cares about how good the Spurs are, but the Lakers are so heavily stereotyped as "America's basketball team" and are thought that they will reach the finals every blessed year that Jack Nicholson (and now his daughter) sits in the front row at the Staples Center.
Speaking of the Lakers, just think of last year's finals...They were up against the Celtics, one of their biggest rivals. Huge rivalry=huge ratings. Simple as that.
What NBA officials fear is that if the television isn't filled with a familiar name this year during the finals, nobody will care to watch and money will be wasted on coverage. I'll admit just from my viewpoint that now that the big teams like LA are out, I'm dying to see what the new guys on the block will bring to the table. However, it doesn't seem like I'm in the majority of this debate. People will be saying, "Hey, who's that guy," and then turn on Glee or Jersey Shore to see things they're more familiar with. People will not watch a championship unless if there's some controversy, a major rivalry, or if some dangerously good-looking playe--I mean...singer
Here's the big issue, however... Can there be a "passing of the torch?" Can we get the spotlight off of the common star-driven teams like the LA Lakers or the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs and give other teams a chance? Going back to the teams competing in the West: although the Mavericks have taken part in the NBA Finals within the past ten years, they have never won a Championship, and in the Sonics/Thunder franchise, they have won one Championship--in 1979. Although certain games are broadcasted nationally on ABC, there is massive competition between hockey games being shown on NBC and baseball games on FOX during the weekends. My guess is that unless if you've played the sport or if it's a way of life in your area/region, you're more likely to watch basketball over the others mentioned.
Here's the catch though, if you've never played the sport, you might not like the fluctuating transitions between a fast and slow game of basketball; people either want a slower-paced game (like baseball) or a fast-paced game (like hockey)--not a mix. There aren't any statistics supporting this, but from playing the sport myself, it's a game of momentum. Basketball could be a really quick buzzkill and may no longer be fun to watch after the first quarter or so. If there are unknown teams not sharing the wealth in momentum, there might not be a huge chance for them getting any attention or recognition from outsiders regardless of how many commercials are shown on television or seen on the Internet.
If there is going to be a successful torch-passing so to speak, there has to be faith put into the other teams themselves. Glitz, glamor, and advertising are not going to save the league's ratings. Keep the playing grounds interesting, and you're going to get a following. I can't put it any simpler than that. Sure, there are probably other underlying factors that are keeping this problem from being resolved, but if you want to keep things fresh and interesting in the NBA, the league itself has to put their faith in their underrated and under-appreciated teams. Who knows? You're going to find more rising stars like Derrick Rose out there that will bring you attention and more revenue. I don't mean to make this sound like it's all about the money, but don't you want to make an impact in the fans' lives? Don't you want little kids to have as many role-models in the sport as possible? That's what I thought.
Stop drinking the Hatorade on your lowlier teams and PASS THAT TORCH, NBA!