Is David Stern Right To Predict “The Greatest Basketball Ever Played” For This NBA Season?
Those are the words of NBA Commissioner David Stern. He said those words on Thursday before Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers took on Euroleague champion Regal FC Barcelona in Spain. He was answering a question pertaining to the Miami Heat and whether he believed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have turned into the “bad guys” of the league.
While he’s certainly entitled to his opinion—and while he’s pretty much obligated to say that every NBA season is going to be the best one ever—I have to respectfully disagree with the basketball boss. Here’s why:
1. The basketball world still isn’t quite sure what to make of the Miami Heat.
We’ve never seen anything like the trio that joined the Heat this off-season. Sure, we’ve seen superstar tandems and even superstar trios play together before, but we’ve never seen three guys, in their prime, who all wanted to team up and try to win a championship together. Because we’ve never seen it, we’re not sure how we’re going to react when the games start to count. Will we despise them? Love watching them? Hope they lose all their games? Hope they win all their games? We’re not sure yet. And until the games start and everyone starts choosing sides—which could take a year or two—we won’t get to enjoy the full effect the Heat could have on the league.
2. There are no great modern-day rivalries established yet.
Everyone in the NBA is real buddy-buddy right now. Okay, so Kobe doesn’t like Shaq, Shaq doesn’t like Kobe and Kobe says he can beat LeBron in a game of one-on-one. That’s all well and good, but in order for the NBA to feature “some of the best basketball ever played,” we need real rivalries. The Chicago Bulls and the Heat could turn into one. But outside of them, the league’s best teams are either too old (Boston Celtics), too young (Oklahoma City Thunder), too accomplished (Lakers) or too underdeveloped (New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, etc.). Until some of these teams form rivalries, it’s going to be hard to top some of the basketball played in the 1980s and 1990s.
3. Half of the players we’re most excited to see play are still too young to make an impact.
With the exception of Oklahoma City‘s Kevin Durant, just about all of the guys we’re super excited to see play this season are still too young to help their teams make a huge impact. We love Brandon Jennings on the Milwaukee Bucks and he should more love this season, but guys like the Sacramento Kings‘ Tyreke Evans and the Washington Wizards‘ John Wall are buried on rosters that won’t get much TV time this season. And forget catching either of them in the NBA playoffs. Give it two or three more years and then we can talk about an influx of young talent running things in the NBA.
4. Carmelo Anthony‘s situation is still unsettled.
‘Melo wants to leave, but it doesn’t seem like the Denver Nuggets are in any rush to move him. That leaves us with a premiere NBA superstar basically playing out his contract on an NBA team that could be one of the most exciting in the league—but that hasn’t ever managed to get over the hump. If ‘Melo goes to New Jersey, that’d at least give us another superstar in the Eastern Conference (i.e. a superstar that could be poised to face the Heat in the NBA Playoffs) and it’d give the league another superstar that everyone’s watching for the right reasons.
5. The Miami Heat are actually going to hurt the NBA. At least this season.
Think about it. Kobe could score 60 points on the same night that Carmelo Anthony gets shipped to the Knicks while his former team the Nuggets put up 180 points in a game—and the leading story on SportsCenter that night will still revolve around something that LeBron James and the Heat did that night. The spotlight on the Heat this season is going to be so bright that it’s going to be hard for anyone else to excite us. And, in the end, that’s going to be exciting—but it’s also going to make this season as a whole a lot less exciting than it could be. The “best basketball ever” is still a couple years away.