The Anatomy of Animosity

Published on June 7th, 2011

James & Alex break down why everybody hates the Heat, and what the Three Kings’ success means for the NBA.

In an NBA Playoffs that has seen many great games, plenty of overtimes, and some spectacular performances from the league’s stars, many NBA fans are still pissed off. While most casual observers seem to be enjoying these entertaining playoffs, most of the die-hard basketball fans I speak with and read about have been frustrated since the offseason announcement that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh would all be taking their talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat. Basketball analysts and fans talked all season long about why this happened and what it means, and all the controversy will find an ending this week as the Heat go head to head against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. I, James (not LeBron though; I’m sick of being mistaken for him), have been a casual observer of basketball for a long time so this story is mildly fascinating to me, but the way that the story seems to have transcended basketball into a media and pop culture sensation has rendered me fully interested. We’re at a point where there are new NBA fans who are very happy with what they see and most of the long-time fans seem to remain at least mildly upset about this story. I wanted to understand this disconnect and how the story of this team got so big in the first place. As the MacGuffin Men’s Senior Basketball Analyst and tenured professor at the Toronto Academy for LeBron Hate, I thought Alex would be the right person to help explain how we got to this point.

LEBRON LEAVING

I’ve heard the analogy that this is like the popular kid in high school getting to choose his team in gym class and he picks his other best friends. Does a lot of this come out of the notion that the biggest sports fans and sports writers often aren’t the people who could play the sport themselves and may have had similar frustrating experiences they weren’t on the winning side of? What role has the media played in this? Did they build up this story because it was a big story but really hated the circus all along? Do sports writers hate them more or less than the average fan?

The vitriol directed towards the Heat, and LeBron James especially, has a lot to do with the fact that the most passionate sports fans (and this works for writers as well) tend to kind of suck at sports. I love sports and competing, but I’ve never excelled in any competition other than movie trivia. We’re the guys that get picked last in gym class, the ones that only get picked by LeBron and Wade because the teacher is making you pick one of the useless nerds (see: the useless players on the end of Miami’s bench like Eddie House and Erick Dampier that are earning the minimum salary). It’s all similar to how people look at the Yankees in baseball: since the Steinbrenners own the only baseball franchise that is worth over a billion dollars, they can buy anybody. And the only non-New Yorkers who cheer for the Yankees are dickheads.

The media has played a huge role in the public perception of the Heat, but given our modern media climate, I think that has been justified. This is the first time, possibly in any sport (although this would be extremely difficult to pull off in hockey because of the hard cap, and the NFL would be an entirely different story), that something like this has happened so it is justified. While Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett teaming up with Paul Pierce in Boston to win the 2008 championship is similar, only KG was debatably one of the top 5 NBA players at the time; LeBron and Wade unquestionably are now, and they could even be 2 of the league’s best 3 players.

Do you have any problem with LeBron leaving Cleveland, or are you just bothered by how he went about leaving? Rank these actions by how much they bothered you: not telling Cleveland he was leaving before The Decision aired, agreeing to do the Decision, the 3 Kings’ absurdly celebratory press conference in Miami.

  1. 3 Kings’ introductory press conference: watching this clip still makes me physically angry. Championship celebrations are more understated than this. This clip made me vomit, not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7, not 8, etc times. Fuck you, MoHeatos.
  2. Agreeing to do The Decision: horrible PR decision, although ESPN benefited handsomely from it.
  3. Not telling Cleveland beforehand: this is a dick move, but it’s not an unprecedented dick move. LeBron didn’t owe the Cavs a phone call, but it probably would have been a classy thing to do.

Didn’t LeBron pay his dues in Cleveland? Why do athletes have dues and what are they generally?

Paying dues is an odd concept, and I mostly don’t believe in it. I think the only dues that really need to be paid are earning experience: part of the reason the Bulls couldn’t do anything against the Heat after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was that rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau was inexperienced and seemed to make literally no adjustments, while his star player Derrick Rose was similarly unable to make the proper adjustments to the Heat’s defense. LeBron James didn’t need to pay any dues; that he promised a championship to the championship-starved people of Cleveland and then failed to deliver before leaving is why everybody there hates him.

Are people outside of Cleveland upset about LeBron leaving the Cavs? Do people see this as LeBron admitting he is not a great who can carry a team to victory, be a leader and make clutch shots, thereby admitting he’s a very talented individual player but not a great captain?

Basketball fans outside of Cleveland are upset basically because LeBron hasn’t been the superstar we want him to be. We want our superstars to remain on one team for their whole career; we’re the people who refuse to talk about Michael Jordan as a member of the W*sh*****n W*z***s, despite the fact that MJ had one pretty good season (individually) in the blue and white.

LeBron’s move to Miami was initially seen as him accepting that he was not a clutch player, seemingly accepting to dominate for 36 minutes and then let Dwyane Wade take over, but comments he has made throughout the season show he still thinks he is the best player on the team. This is obviously true, as Wade has said, and LeBron has shown a significant improvement in the closing moments of games as this year’s playoffs have continued. He will likely get much better at this before he gets worse.

Chuck Klosterman talked about not wanting to go to basketball games because they cater so much to people who aren’t basketball fans. Is this how people feel about the increased interest that the Heat is bringing the league? Is there a sense in the die-hard community of people who hate the Heat seeing themselves as the real fans of the game who have a level of superiority on these people new to the sport? Do they worry that the Heat are terrible ambassadors for the sport? Does this give newcomers the perception that the NBA is a league of hired guns with no team spirit that aren’t willing to put their time in?

I hate frontrunning fans. Most people that are walking around the streets of Toronto with a Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey on only like number 24 because he was the best player in basketball for a while. When he eventually retires, these fans will just find somebody else to root for, who may or may not be on the Lakers. The same goes for Yankees fans outside of New York, or Dallas Cowboy fans. This feeling is accelerated with Miami Heat fans because they don’t have enough of a history: it is conceivable that a Cowboys fan that grew up in the early 90s is still rooting for them because they got attached to the Troy Aikman/Emmitt Smith/Michael Irvin superteams. If you’re a Cowboys fan from Winnipeg because you were 7 and saw Troy and company win their Superbowls, that’s fine. You were a kid, you weren’t smart enough to realize your mistake yet. But if you’re a 25 year old Torontonian walking around with a number 6 LeBron jersey on right now, chances are that I hate you. There’s no way you were a huge Alonzo Mourning fan back in the mid-90s: every single kid was cheering for Michael Jordan then.

I have no issue with the Heat bringing more attention to the NBA. In fact, I love it for that aspect: the more NBA conversations I get to have, the better. The Heat aren’t terrible ambassadors of the sport necessarily, they just aren’t the ambassadors people like me want. I prefer watching a team run more elaborate set plays, but that doesn’t necessarily make the current Celtics better ambassadors for the NBA; they just might be an example for how the league used to be, while the Heat are the way the NBA is now.

When a team transcends the sport they play and become a major part of pop culture, gaining the attention of many people who barely care about basketball, do people share the feelings of someone whose favourite small band “sold out” and signed with a major label?

I don’t think so. Honestly, I doubt this anti-Heat and anti-LeBron sentiment is anywhere near what it is now without LeBron doing The Decision. Almost everything can be traced back to that, and I doubt half as many people care about this as much without that and the press conference at the American Airlines Arena. LeBron was basketball’s biggest star from almost his first NBA game; he wasn’t selling out, he was just making a pretty big heel turn.

How do you think this will be looked at 25 years from now? Will it change depending on whether or not they win? Would a Heat victory make people begrudge LeBron more or is he as hated as much as he can be right now?

The perception doesn’t depend on whether or not they win, as I think everybody is confident that Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh will win a title. The questions are ‘when do they win?’ and ‘how many do they win?’ And the answers to those questions will be imperative to how this is viewed in the future. Like the Allen/Garnett trades were the appetizer for James and Bosh joining Wade, The Decision will likely be a precedent setter. All we have to do is look at Carmelo Anthony’s push to be traded to the New York Knicks this season: LeBron’s decision to do what he wanted when he was a free agent was so frightening that the Denver Nuggets allowed Melo to demand another superstar in New York via trade while the Nuggets still had him under contract. While this is nothing new, teams have never been as frightened as they are now to lose their stars and gain no assets in return. The sooner the Heat win a title, and the more titles they win, will determine how many of these types of moves we see.

I doubt a Heat title will make people hate LeBron any more than they already do; the couple clutch performances he had against the Bulls raised his stock slightly with a lot of his dissenters, and more good clutch performances will only help. And even poor performances when it really matters will only make the LeBron haters louder, it won’t make them multiply.

What if it wasn’t LeBron and the Heat bought two or three great players instead? I know this couldn’t have happened/doesn’t make sense for a few reasons but let’s pretend LeBron stayed where he was and the Heat got Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. Would people hate this version of the Heat just as much and see them as the Yankees of basketball if BronBron wasn’t involved?

That is an interesting trio of players to choose, because they are three of the most humble superstars in the league, which they are often praised for. LeBron announced The Decision in primetime on ESPN; Kevin Durant announced that he signed an extension with Oklahoma City via a single Tweet. Rose/Durant/Nowitzki are also much more complementary players than James/Wade/Bosh, as both Wade and James dominate the ball. Rose is the only player in the other trio that has the ball in his hands all that much: Durant is good at merely catching and shooting, as his occasional willing deference to OKC teammate Russell Westbrook has shown, and Nowitzki would probably murder me right now for a chance to play with another legitimate star. Part of the reason I, and a number of basketball fans, hate the Heat is specifically because LeBron and Wade play similar games, which was painfully apparent for much of the season. If you watch most games, it’s not hard to tell when it is Wade’s ‘turn,’ whereas Rose/Durant/Nowitzki would work much better in concert. Put simply, the level of anger for that trio would be nowhere near what we’re seeing now. But then again, the latter three can’t compare in star power to Wade and LeBron; even though Rose was the league MVP and Durant the league scoring leader, these players are not very well known.

Can you chalk up any LeBron hate up to fans of teams that LeBron didn’t go to?

Certainly not much of it. Again, it all comes back to The Decision because everybody hated that. If anything, we would have a more vocal group of LeBron-hating Knicks fans if James simply Tweeted he was joining the Heat.

How much would I have to pay you to sit through the LeCision in its entirety right now?

I have actually never seen it, aside from The Soundbite, as I was in a movie theatre at the time it aired. However, I would watch it in its entirety if you bought me Pizza Hut. And by ‘bought me Pizza Hut,’ I mean you would have to buy me a Pizza Hut franchise. I would also have to shotgun beers in the bathroom when you weren’t looking in order to get through that exceptionally awkward Jim Gray interview.

After LeBron’s LeNouncement to leave Cleveland, the owner of that team, Dan Gilbert, wrote an “open letter” to Cavaliers fans. He was very critical of LeBron and how James announced his decision. This was very public, immature, and unprofessional and the league fined Gilbert $100 000 for the letter. What’s the funniest part about Dan Gilbert’s letter: how quickly it was released, the tone, the promise that the Cavs would win before LeBron, or the Comics Sans font selection?

Everything about it was hilarious, but to use Comic Sans for anything beyond the age of 12 is a special type of hilarity.

This team seems to have come from the 2008 USA Olympic Team, the similarity of the 3 players’ ages, and their friendships. Michael Jordan and some other past NBA stars have said that they would never contact rivals about getting on the same team to win the championships like the Heat players did. Would it be different if it was something the coaches put together?

Yes, it would. As I have mentioned a couple times already, the Boston Celtics’ General Manager Danny Ainge did this sort of thing before, albeit via trade and with superstars that complemented each other much better than Wade/Bosh/James. That’s one of the weird things about this: nobody cheers for coaches and general managers, but when the players actually use some autonomy and decide where they want to go, everybody piles on them. That being said, The Decision happened, and LeBron didn’t even choose to go to the best destination to win championships (Chicago would have been the smarter destination), but the outcry is interesting nonetheless. Coaches and general managers know the game the way we grew up watching it, because in a lot of cases they were once the players we watched while our opinions on basketball were being formed. Yet once something new is done by the players themselves, we turn on them. It just kind of goes to show how conservative almost all sports writing, discussion and thought is.

Many of the former players that said they would never have joined forces with the other best players in the league were simply drafted into different situations, often because the league was smaller. Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, and Magic Johnson was drafted onto a team that already had Kareem Abdul-Jabar, who still holds the NBA record for most points scored in a career. Michael Jordan lucked into Scottie Pippen, who was certainly top 5 for much of their time together, and Charles Barkley ended up with Hakeem Olajouwon and Clyde Drexler after already playing with greats like Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving and Moses Malone in Philadelphia.

How would this be different if LeBron won a ring quickly in Cleveland?

Less Cavs fans would have burned his jersey, probably, but people would still be pissed. Seriously, The Decision was such a bad fucking idea.

LeBron was the first reigning MVP to change teams since Moses Malone in 1982. Is LeBron truly at the top of his game right now?

Absolutely.

Some feel Bosh and James didn’t play as hard as they could at the end of their tenure with their previous teams. Bosh had an injury that many people believed he would play through if he were staying on the same team. Do you think this is true and would people make a bigger deal of this if people cared more about Bosh and the Toronto Raptors? How similar were the positions that James and Bosh were in before they left for Miami? It seems to me they were both drafted by less-than-great teams, played there as the star for several years, failed to get a ring and left for the Heat. Is this assessment right and what causes the different levels of hatred for these players? Is it simply that James was a much bigger player and Bosh didn’t announce his choice on an hour long special? Would Bosh have handled things differently with LeBron’s level of fame? LeBron is from Ohio and was branded the hometown son, while Bosh is from Texas and played for a team on the other side of the NBA universe. Does this change how the respective hometown crowd and the larger basketball world reacted to this?

People would have made a bigger deal about Bosh not playing with the injury if anybody cared about the Raptors, yes. But the positions LeBron and Bosh were in were not the same at all: by the end of Bosh’s run, and for some even years before, Raptors fans knew that he wasn’t a good number 1 option for a team that wanted to win and that Bosh was out the door in July 2010 no matter what. LeBron was the best player in the 2010 NBA regular season, and public perception seemed to be that he would remain in Cleveland, despite James giving hints that this would not be the case (the key one being the announcement of his change of number). The differing responses are due to the fact that no smart basketball fan thinks that Bosh is a legitimate superstar, and that he didn’t do The Decision. However, many Raptors fans will be quick to point out that Bosh held an odd and slightly offensive Twitter campaign, asking followers to tell him where he should play the next season, not to mention the documentary debacle. Both Bosh and Dwyane Wade hired documentary crews to follow them while they visited with other teams, and there has been speculation that they did as many visits as they did specifically to get more material for their documentaries, despite Bosh and Wade never actually wanting to play anywhere but Miami. It is because these players are not on LeBron’s level of talent and fame that there wasn’t more outcry about it.

Chris Bosh looks like a dinosaur but no one wants to say that because he no longer plays for the Raptors. Does this make you sad?

Not particularly. It’s not like Hubie Brown was ever breaking it down on the telestrator like, “Okay, so look here: when Bosh turns his head at a 45 degree angle, it leaves our camera man an opportunity to get a shot that looks like it is right out of the 1993 Spielberg classic Jurassic Park.” You can still make that joke around basketball fans and they will laugh. ‘Snoop Dogg’s cousin’ is another popular one.

The LeBron as a villain thing seems more like wrestling than anything else I can recall. Who else has been this hated in other leagues? There are agitators like Sean Avery and people certainly liked Ron Artest less when he started punching fans, but when was the last time the biggest player in the game was a heel?

It’s incomparable. LeBron is the biggest star in his sport, the best player in the sport, and he turned into a villain in five seconds flat. Maybe if Michael Jordan had punched a baby in 1993 it would have been on this level, but NBA Commissioner David Stern probably could have found a way to cover that up, too.

THE HEAT

When people say they hate the Heat, how much do they mean they hate LeBron?

It’s mostly about LeBron, but let’s not act like Bosh and Wade aren’t dickholes too. Bosh does his primal scream thing every time he does something good, and Wade honestly thought it looked cool to wear a bandage under his eye that read “WADE” or “FLASH.” All three of those guys are ridiculous.

How has LeBron acted since he started playing for the Heat? Does he whine about more calls than he used to? More than other superstars? How is his sportsmanship? Does he try his hardest? He wanted to be more of a distributor on the Heat; is he playing selfishly?

LeBron doesn’t whine any more or less than he used to; superstars whining is one of my least favourite things, but all superstars have to do it. Early this season, Derrick Rose wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt from the referees until he started complaining about no calls. I hate this about the NBA.

I think LeBron tries his hardest, but his playing style has not changed as much as he would want you to believe, judging by his preseason comments. He did not become more of a distributor; most of the Heat’s season just involved Wade or LeBron being the primary offensive option while the other stood in the corner and waited their turn. It was weird, but it worked, I suppose.

Do you feel bad for the hypothetical Heat fan who has been die hard since the team was created?

No. As Dan LeBatard can loudly attest to, they’re pretty happy right now.

Dwyane Wade really seemed to benefit from ridiculously one-sided calls in the 2006 Finals. How come I don’t hear a lot of people hating on him? Does anyone hate D Wade?

I don’t like Dwyane Wade anymore, although I did up until the 2006 Finals. Once I saw him getting an absurd amount of calls, and realized that the NBA was just trying to turn him into their newest uber-star, I turned away from being a fan. I still loved his vicious dunk on Varajeo last year, but I dislike Wade himself. And he has only gotten more frustrating, arrogant, and whiney as time has gone on, so that doesn’t help anything. He is not as broadly hated as LeBron simply because LeBron took the brunt of the blame for all of this, despite the fact that it might have really all been Wade’s doing. Again, no decision in this mattered more than The Decision.

Do you think the Heat is given enough credit for honing the skill of Dwyane Wade and being a good team with enough salary space to get Bosh and LeBron, even with their minor salary cuts?

I think Pat Riley has been given an appropriate amount of credit for getting these three players. Executives are rarely thought about by the casual fan, so it was not like Riley’s face above a contract was ever going to be more pervasive than LeBron’s. Riley has gotten plenty of recognition from the sports media, even being the co-winner of the NBA’s Executive of the Year award. He was involved with the trade, but had less to do with the media circus, which is where all the Heat hate comes from.

The development of a player like Wade, again, is rarely attributed to the organization, although I believe that a player’s situation is more important than most people seem to believe. I’m more than confident that Rajon Rondo is not the player he is today without playing with Allen, Pierce, and Garnett, just like I don’t know how Dwyane Wade would have fared in Toronto had the Raps taken him instead of Bosh in 2003. Due to the Raptors’ general ineptitude, Wade likely wouldn’t have a title had he ended up in Toronto, and because of Bosh’s deficiencies as a player, he wouldn’t have won in Miami. The Heat definitely deserve some credit for helping Wade along as a player, but the amount of credit will always be a wholly intangible thing.

How much of the vitriol against the Heat has to do with them being a Miami team? People often deride the Miami fans for acting like the Lakers fans by arriving late and leaving early, even for playoff games. Miami is also known as a vacation town or as a place that no one is born in, but many people move to. This lends itself to the idea that these aren’t basketball fans that are proud of their town, but merely people from all over hopping on the bandwagon. Would we be looking at the same thing if this team was assembled elsewhere?

The reason the Miami Heat fans have been such a joke this year was because they had both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on their team and still weren’t selling out their stadium, which is absurd. At least the Lakers fans fill all the Staples Center seats and sit quietly while they watch a basketball game and try to look cool; the Miami fans can’t even be bothered to show up to see two of the best players on the planet until it is playoff time. I don’t like either LeBron or Wade, but even I would be at every game I could get tickets to just to watch them play.

Most other basketball stadiums would sell out every game with those two on one team, and that’s why the Miami Heat fans are such a joke. Oh, and also the Fan Up campaign that essentially begs them to show up on time and stay the whole time reads like a high school principal begging his students to watch the school’s 2-14 basketball team, not a team with two greats.

PLAYOFFS

Let’s assume the worst and say that David Stern is telling the refs who will win each game. Couldn’t the narrative be about Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry continually falling short but then finally reaching the top of their profession? It could be similar to Scorsese winning his Oscar for The Departed: even though it wasn’t his best work, it continued to solidify his legend as one of the greats. Obivously the Heat are selling jerseys and getting new fans into the game but couldn’t that maintain as those 3 have a lot of playing time left in them, unlike the older starters of the Mavs? And wouldn’t this send a signal to some of the All-Star franchise players to leave small markets and band together on established teams, something against the NBA’s overall financial plan?

Just a quick note: Nowitzki has been playing out of his damn mind all spring. Kidd’s best years are long past, but Dirk is carrying the Mavs almost by himself in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time. ESPN’s Bill Simmons mentioned that Dirk is a lone superstar surrounded by veteran specialists, and that the last time somebody got this far with that sort of team was Hakeem Olajuwan in the mid-90s. If Nowitzki is not playing as well as he ever has, I would really like to see the tapes of when he was.

That being said, the NBA doesn’t really have an interest in seeing the Mavs win this year: there are very few passionate Mavericks fans outside of Texas, and the Heat winning a title would get the league more publicity than the Heat losing. It would certainly help the legacies of Nowitzki and Kidd, but they are not superstars with a huge number of fans, so again, the NBA would rather see the Heat win.

The Heat have already encouraged stars in smaller markets to try to leave their current teams: as stated previously, Anthony strongarmed his way to New York this year, and Chris Paul has mentioned wanting to leave New Orleans as well (although he has re-neged on that). This was already going to happen, and I doubt the Heat winning this year will change how often it does happen. That being said, while this definitely is a hinderance to the smaller market teams, stars teaming up does increase the amount of interest in the league, not to mention increasing the intensity of the regular season. When the Celtics saw the Heat join together, they took aim at them (and eventually failed), much like the Bulls were pissed off by being jerked around in free agency last year by LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. I have never watched as much regular season basketball as I watched this past year, and that is partly because there is a certain intangible anamosity to opponents that has appeared in the league pretty much every night. Stars teaming up is unquestionably good for the league as a whole, it’s just not so good for the smaller market teams that will end up filling the basement of their respective conferences.

In the playoffs, Chicago Bulls centre Joakim Noah was fined half of what Kobe Bryant was fined at the end of the regular season for calling someone a f****t. The difference is that Noah said it to a fan and Kobe said it a referee. How do you feel about this?

The NBA made a huge mistake somewhere, either by not making the fines the same amount of money, or in not making it clear that Kobe got double the fine because his slur was directed at the referee. In making the fines different amounts of money (Kobe paid $100 000, while Noah only had to pay $50 000), the league is basically saying that it wasn’t so much saying the slur that was the problem but who it was directed at. But by giving Kobe double Noah’s fine, the league is implicitly saying that the referee in question is worth $50 000 more to the NBA than the gay community who would likely be more offended than the actual ref or fan. Both fines should have been the same amount, no question.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been particularly quiet, contrary to his typical courtside activities. As an owner, he has earned about $1.6 million in fines for running his mouth during and after games. While you can tell he is still passionate about this year’s playoffs, he has remained relatively calm in comparison to previous years. What do you attribute this to? It should be noted that this is the exact match-up of the 2006 finals where the Mavs lost in what is recognized as a very poorly officiated game, which was followed by Cuban making very public remarks about poor officiating and criticizing the league. Why is he so quiet now? Is he a) worried about paying more fines b) concerned about his image c) certain that NBA Commissioner David Stern wields a lot of power over these referees, who can wield a lot of power over the outcome of these games?

I think option C has more to do with it than either A or B, but I think Cuban’s reasoning is likely to simply take away any chance of distracting his own team. By allowing the Mavericks themselves to get the attention, the focus remains on actual basketball, as opposed to what the square-headed billionaire in the Mavs hockey jersey is doing on the sideline. I think Cuban knows this is probably the last good run this team has in them, and he’s trying something new to give them the best chance he can.

Dwyane Wade holds the record for most free throws shot in a 6 game series with 97 in the 2006 NBA Finals, and basketball is infamous for its generally poor refereeing. The Tim Donaghy referreeing scandal proved a lot of people’s suspicion that NBA officiating is not totally honest. I’ve heard you be quite vocal about many teams, particularly the Heat’s opponents, getting screwed out of calls. Does it surprise you that the NBA keeps this up after a very public and fairly recent refereeing scandal?

The 2006 NBA Finals was pretty embarrassing, but most fans really do kind of just leave any questionable refereeing aside after any given game, as evidenced in how little fan outcry there was over the Donaghy fiasco. In 2002, Ralph Nader claimed in a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern that Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings was, more or less, rigged to allow the Lakers to win (which it was). The 2006 Finals basically proved that the NBA league office shapes playoff series’ (which it does). That there has never been a large public outcry, or even some good investigative reporting by ESPN (who are partners with the NBA) or Sports Illustrated is saddening to me. It is because people like myself like the game of basketball enough to watch despite knowing that any given game could be rigged is what keeps the league from changing its ways, I suppose.

That being said, the refereeing in the Mavs/Heat series that is currently ongoing has been relatively even, and after the terrible refereeing in Game 3 is probably actually favouring the Mavs. The refereeing all playoffs has been far more horrendous than any other playoffs I had watched previously; it has been abysmal.

Scenario: the Mavs go up 3-2 in the Finals. LeBron gets injured. The Heat come back to win in 7. How does the average NBA fan feel about this? How does David Stern feel? How do you feel? How do Heat fans feel?

First, I don’t think LeBron can be injured, so this scenario is flawed right off the bat. But hypothetically, I don’t know that the average fan really feels either way about it; either they wanted the Heat to win or they didn’t, and I doubt having LeBron watching from the sidelines really changes that. David Stern would be pretty happy about it, as photogenic superstar Dwyane Wade gets to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. I am pissed off, likely because the Mavs are a bunch of chokers who never want to come out from halftime with any sense of urgency. Heat fans yell about purple drank again for one night before forgetting the whole thing ever happened the next day when it becomes cool to be really into riding around in a Vespa. I am clearly rooting for the Mavs, but I have little belief that they can pull this off.

Comments

  1. Posted by Hattie Rahaman on June 19th, 2011, 15:26 [Reply]

    I’m from Germany so we are certainly proud of Dirk Nowotzki. A German is definitely a superstar in the very best basketball league on earth. We are now delighted how the Us residents celebrate “our” Dirk. This is probably much less well recognized in the states.

    • Posted by alex on June 20th, 2011, 14:48 [Reply]

      As Canadians, we can identify a little bit: if Steve Nash ever won a title, I think the country would probably shut down the next day. What Dirk did throughout these playoffs was truly incredible, and I’m sorry I ever doubted him and the Mavs in the Finals. Sadly, the American media coverage has been more about LeBron’s failures than Dirk’s success, but the good news is that media coverage doesn’t win a title. Dirk is a champion, and that is awesome. Thanks for reading, Hattie!

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