LeBron James Backpedals From Truth: We Need Contraction
One moment, LeBron James is saying the NBA needs to "shrink" by contracting teams, and the next, he is saying those evil media folks are twisting his words on the subject.
When it comes to LeBron's original comments, which essentially were that he thought the league actually did need to get rid of some teams to improve the overall competition, he was wrong. He was WAY off base. He wasn't within a couple of fast breaks of reality.
That's because he didn't go far enough.
He should have said all four of the major professional sports leagues in North America need to contract. Then he should have peered into the eyes of everybody in the room with the unspoken look of "Yeah, I said it. So what do you want to do about it?"
The NBA should go from 30 teams to 27, 26 or less. With barely a nudge, for instance, Clipper fans would morph into Laker fans soon after that lesser of the two franchises in Los Angeles didn't exist. And, in contrast to the Colts sneaking out of Baltimore in the middle of the night during a blizzard, the Grizzlies could slow-dance out of Memphis in broad daylight at rush hour without hearing a whimper.
The same goes for the Nets, as their turnstiles threaten to rust every season, and they'll remain the "other" team in the New York City area, even if they relocate to Brooklyn.
Plus, regardless of their place in the standings, the Hawks have resided near the bottom in NBA attendance for decades, which means much of Atlanta would shrug and become more obsessed with Georgia Bulldog football if the Hawks flew out of town.
Elsewhere, in baseball, no matter how prolific the Marlins and the Rays have been at times, most folks around Florida couldn't care less. So get rid of them, or combine them with the Oakland Athletics -- if that struggling franchise also isn't contracted.
Phoenix. Atlanta. Raleigh. Nashville.
Nobody in those warm-weather cities would mourn the loss of their NHL teams after a few months (or days, maybe hours). That should be just the start of contraction for a league that also lacks fans in places beyond those more suited for sunshine than snow.
Oh, and you shouldn't have an NFL team when you're in your sixth consecutive season of covering up 10,000 seats for each of your home games in an attempt to create sellouts.
Hello, Jacksonville Jaguars.
It should be goodbye, Jacksonville Jaguars.
I can dream, can't I?
Unfortunately, the player unions of each of these leagues have become so powerful that contraction won't happen -- at least, not easily. We needn't go further than the ongoing NBA labor negotiations that feature commissioner David Stern suggesting that contraction would help the league's overall financial situation, and it would.
The NBA players union couldn't care less, though, since contraction would trigger the loss of jobs for its members.
So this wasn't surprising: within milliseconds of James saying what he claims he sort of said but really didn't mean to say or was misinterpreted in saying it, he got blasted by his peers.
Thus this ongoing sight of James backpedaling faster than he ever has either on or off a basketball court.
He says now that he doesn't even know what "contraction" means. He says reporters didn't hear exactly what they heard him say last week before a game for his Miami Heat in Phoenix.
This is what they heard LeBron say: "Imagine if you take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the (league). Looking at some of the teams that aren't great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren't good right now, and you add him to a team that could be really good.
"Not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league. But, hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid. It would be great for the league."
Yes, it would. And, as LeBron added that day in Phoenix before his backpedaling nearly took him from the Arizona desert to South Beach to somewhere over the Atlantic, "Hopefully, the league can figure out one day where it can go back to the situation of how it was, like in the '80s, where you had three or four All-Stars, you had three or four superstars, three or four Hall of Famers on the same team. The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is (now)."
No, it wasn't, and the Milwaukee Bucks of the 1980s were a microcosm of those times by ranking high among the NBA's all-time greatest teams that nobody ever remembers. They had stars such as Sidney Moncrief, Bob Lanier and Terry Cummings, and they were led by Don Nelson, who won NBA Coach of the Year honors twice during that decade.
In one stretch, those Bucks won their division seven straight years while winning 50 or more games each of those years.
Here was their problem: the Philadelphia 76ers of Dr. J, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, and the Boston Celtics of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. As a result, those Bucks never reached the NBA Finals, and they rarely reached the Eastern Conference finals, but they showed how gifted many of those other NBA teams were during the 1980s.
That's all LeBron was saying. Well, before he swore he really didn't say what -- well, you know.
What I'm saying is that, although the NBA's national television ratings are up by 30 percent so far this year, those ratings would soar to levels beyond a combination of vintage Air Jordan leaps if the league sliced either some or all of its franchises that produce yawning.
I'm still dreaming, of course.
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