While the NFL’s baffling officiating constantly infuriates me, and hockey continues to be the only sport that has few limits on its authentic rough and tumble nature, I find myself constantly disappointed by the NBA and its players. I feel like I’m hanging on, trying to find something I like about it, but I think the last string was just cut. In its constant disintegration into a trashy league that bears no respect for its past, the NBA is allowing its players to wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys. The Heat and Nets will wear nickname jerseys when they face off this season and the Nets will wear theirs this Friday night.
In a league that has lost credibility through numerous scandals such as the well-documented fix of the 2002 Western Conference Championship, a suspected rigged 1984 draft, and an officiating-gambling scandal like none other, you would think this would be the least of anyone’s issues. But the nicknames on jerseys is clearly a ploy by the league to make more money off more jerseys, while players lose their identity for a night, turning them into a more marketable item. Having your name on your jersey is not only a representation of who you are, it shows that your name, your family’s name, belongs proudly stitched on a jersey of the highest level of play.
Putting nicknames on jerseys instead continues the league’s consistent disintegration into one that associates itself with rappers, hip-hop, and pop culture. Nicknames on jerseys is comparable to casting away a birth name for some ridiculous moniker, in the same way that no-one recognizes Snoop Dogg as Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. But the media doesn’t help the NBA either as it becomes a magnet for this country’s vapid pop-culture obsessed society. ESPN actually took the time to report on Kris Humphries marriage to sort-of celebrity Kim Kardashian, and CBS Sports reported on Justin Bieber babysitting Chris Paul’s son during a Clippers game. It will be a sad day when a basketball fan stands up to admit that they give a single care about this, but then again, in a celebrity-obsessed culture, nothing is off the table.
There are few teams represented in the NBA by a team spirit rather than the individual, and that is how the league and its players are now marketed. I could name you just about every player from the late 90s Bulls championship teams, just as someone who watched the 80s Celtics could name every player. But nowadays it is less about the team than it is about the individual player, his persona, and his overbearing need for “respect.” Even if that means going into the crowd to punch fans, a la Ron Artest, circa 2004.
Also, the Brooklyn Nets should be the last ones allowed to participate in this foolishness, because not one player on that team has earned the right to put his birth name, let alone a nickname, on a jersey. Paul Pierce will use his age-old nickname “The Truth,” but the truth is, he should look at the mess of a team he is contributing so little to. Lebron James will most likely use “King James,” a nickname given to him before he was losing championships in Cleveland. But I’ll never forget “the decision” and how it only made him the king of comedy for the rest of NBA history.
I have always been a huge fan of basketball, and its hard working players who leave their craft on the court. But then again I am of the Jordan era, and those growing up with basketball today don’t have the luxury of many role models in the NBA, just star studded megalomaniacs fighting for their misinterpretations of “respect.”