Yes, the National Basketball Association, the nation's oldest professional basketball league, the one that used to proudly air commercials featuring various preening actor fops blurting, "I love this game?" The very same NBA that is in the midst of its playoffs, and a mere week away from the championship round. Well, as fate would have it, at roughly the same time the aforementioned giddy commercials were first being aired, the league was at the apex of its popularity. Alas, those halcyon days are gone, as most folks, even those who still watch NBA games with some regularity, don't really love it. Old habits are like that, hard to get rid of even when the pleasure principle that once inspired them is as withered as the skin on a month old mango.
So, while the league, as it likes to refer to itself, still rakes in money hand over fist, what with all their clever merchandising schemes and such, the NBA's salad days, like those of the once holy NBA trinity, Magic, MJ, and Bird, are long gone. I say this as one who once loved watching NBA games. In fact, for all my youth, and into early middle age, I was interested in the goings on of the NBA. But gradually, for a variety of reasons such as a degraded style of play, a certain punitive top down administrative rigidity such that players are treated as chattel, precious and overpaid chattel to be sure, but still chattel, I have mostly lost interest. There is also a sense that like the larger culture in which the NBA inhabits, it too, like so many far more important institutions, has become a bloated and not so faintly corrupt entity that might well serve society better were it dismantled, re-thought, and then perhaps, just perhaps, rebuilt in a vastly different manner.
Perhaps I wouldn't feel as strongly as I do that the world would survive nicely without the present day incarnation of the NBA had I not witnessed the aftermath of one of the most mind numbing featured events of each NBA season. I am speaking of the NBA's "draft lottery", where the five worst NBA teams are given the chance, the operative word being chance, to have first dibs on the collegiate rank's best prospect. That's right, the NBA doesn't, as in every other sports league, just automatically award the team with the worst record the first draft pick. On no, instead, in their infinite wisdom, the NBA has a hopper into which go the highest number of ping pong balls sporting the logo of the franchise with the worst record, thereby guaranteeing that the team with the absolute worst record not only has a chance- a 75% chance apparently- of not getting the top pick, but of not even coming close to obtaining the top pick. Smart! And indeed, on more occassions than any egg head statistician is sure to deem remotely possible, the worst team, as per the NBA's dunderheaded system, has been screwed out of the top pick. Such was the case again last night, as the poor, hapless, Memphis Grizzlies-formerly of Vancouver- thus explaining such a senseless name for a team from Memphis, wound up with the fourth pick. The team with the second worst record, the Boston Celtics, a once wildly successful franchise, but now perhaps the most unfortunate in all of sport, wound up in the fifth and last, nay, worst position. To a once very interested party such as I, never has the phrase, "NBA action, it's fantastic", seemed more ruefully ironic.