How The NBA Got Its Soul Back

IMHO, last year’s finals were the best thing that’s happened to the NBA since Jordan left the Bulls. Commish David Stern’s pseudo-gangsta hype built LA as the next Chicago, Shaq and Kobe as Jordan and Scotty except awesome-er.

I always thought of it as the difference between 50 Cent and The Roots. 50 may sell the knockoff jerseys and get the TV ratings for a season, but it’s the Roots that have held it down for a decade, doing their thing. Same deal in LA versus Detroit. Detroit plays classic ball, “do it the right way” as their Larry Brown mantra. It’s ugly sometimes, but so is ?uestlove’s hair sometimes too. Doesn’t mean he isn’t the best there is. Just that he doesn’t get on MTV much.

So when Detroit took LA 4-1 as the pretty boys from Tinseltown ego-imploded, there was balance restored to the Force. The tipping point was reached. Who represents true hip-hop: 50′s Kevlar vest, or Blackthought’s mike? And we know who would win in a battle, in both cases. But it doesn’t come to that. Detroit is a team. LA was, depending on the count, one to four inclusive egos resembling blimps that buzzed around the court, the press room, the court room, and the red carpet. The team, the crew, the sound, the fury, the spirit. Where’s the room for pop culture in that? It’s drama and respect. Ben Wallace’s hair won’t ever appear in the Most Beautiful People list. He plays basketball, and that well; not much else.

It’s still cool by me to have celebrity and such involved with the NBA. Spike Lee and his Knicks. LeBron. But remember who’s in the Finals this year: Detroit and San Antonio. That’s fly-over country, baby. Represent. USA, Argentina, Frace, they’re all there. It’s the melting pot, not the superstar sushi roll. And so Eva Longoria can get all desperate for the Spurs in the stands, and Stevie Wonder can bob his head to the rhythm of Billups bouncing down court. We all know that Robert Horry is hot. But now we’re about playing basketball the right way. 37-36 at half means that the teams pay for each hoop with a pound of sweat and a bucket of flash. The NBA has its soul back, and screw the ratings, I’m happy for it. Everybody is a star.

June 15th, 2005 | Best, Current, Music, NBA

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