NBA's Bah-Humbug Christmas: Luckily, A Symbol Is Just A Symbol

Posted: Dec 23 2013, 10:06am CST | by , in News

NBA's Bah-Humbug Christmas: Luckily, a Symbol Is Just a Symbol
Photo Credit: Forbes

There’ll be a blue, blue Christmas in Lakerdom, where LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were to face off in the marquee matchup of the NBA’s five-game bill. Instead, it will be Nick Young vs. Bron with Bryant out (and Steve Nash and Steve Blake).

For the rebuilding Lakers, it’s just one of many games in which they’ll be out-manned. For the NBA, it was the exquisitely wrapped diamond ring of its Christmas programming, now reduced to an open box with a faux velvet covering, holding a gem in its emryonic stage, i.e., coal.

Christmas is now the NBA’s unofficial opening day with the real ones (Oct. 29 this season) more like previewing Broadway plays to work out the kinks.If the goal is to hold the Finals in June when the only competition is the months-old baseball season, the price was tipping it off during the World Series, in the middle of the NFL season.

The league and the networks cranked up the hype last week. Studio shows beat the drums. Conference calls made ABC announcers Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Hubie Brown and NBA Network commentators Grant Hill and Dennis Scott available to the media.
Meanwhile, lights began lights began winking out all over the marquee. Happily for the NBA, a symbol is just a symbol.

The first player interviewed on’s “Inside Stuff” was Brooklyn center Brook Lopez. Wearing a sweater that looked perfect for sitting next to the tree Christmas morning, with his eyes shining brightly, Lopez noted, “Growing up, I always remember watching the games on TV with my family….”

Unfortunately, Lopez can watch this one with his family, too. Last week’s return from injury lasted two games before Lopez broke a bone in his right foot and was lost for the season.

Take Chicago vs. Brooklyn, the first game on the bill, as Henny Youngman used to say, please. Who could have imagined the Bulls, would start 10-16 and lose Derrick Rose yet again or that the Nets would start 9-17 after the ballyhooed arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce? Certainly no one who drew up the Christmas schedule.

Moving on to the second game, Oklahoma City at New York. How was anyone supposed to know the Knicks, who finished last season 54-28 would start 8-18? If no one could have, the Knicks did just that.

The remaining Lakers then face Miami in the premier slot, 5 p.m. Eastern time. As a game, it could be OK with the Lakers playing over their heads (11-10 without Bryant). As an attraction, it’s a black hole before the nightcaps, which are attractive but late with Houston at San Antonio at 8 p.m. and the Clippers at Golden State at 10:30.

The significance is nil. Symbols aside, the NBA is enjoying unparalleled prosperity with steadily rising revenues; negotiations about to begin for a mammoth, new TV deal, and a larger percentage of the proceeds than ever going to owners and small markets, as opposed to players and big markets.

Commissioner David Stern, who once joked that his favorite matchup was “the Lakers vs. the Lakers,” has been even more blessed for three seasons with hatem-them-or-love-them lighnting rod Miami coming out of the East and worthy opponents in the West. The Finals, which had gotten higher TV ratings than the World Series three times, all at the height of Michael Jordan’s career, have beaten the Fall Classic in the last four years.

Marketing is inevitable but like anything else in sports, subject to the gods’ whims. If gods there be that are interested in the NBA, they look grumpy this Christmas.

Source: Forbes

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