I grew-up in Boston, in the 1960s and -70s.
In the Boston sports world there were some names that stood out:
Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Satch Sanders, Red Auerbach, K.C Jones, Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro, Jim Longborg, Reggie Smith, George Scott, Carlton Fisk, Jim Nance, Jim Plunkett, John Hannah, Babe Parilli, Bobby Orr, Derek Sanderson, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson, Ted Green, and Gerry Cheevers come to mind as I type.
The NBA players were particularly revered, even if the NBA wasn't exactly embraced like the other three major sports. In my early years, the Celtics won six championships between 1964 and 1974.
The Celtics were a sports dynasty in every sense of the word. In America, only the New York Yankees, could boast a championship culture like the Celtics.
The NBA might not have been very popular, but my hometown team was pretty much the greatest basketball team ever!
As a young adult, I was hypnotized by Larry Bird and his foil, the wonderful Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Bird and Magic brought the NBA to a level of respectability that had only been forecast, but never realized. These men were class-personified on the court. Their rivalry was the stuff of books and fairy tales. They showed a mutual respect and mutual admiration: Bird in his very quiet, almost meek style, and Magic in his happily boastful and hugely entertaining style. When they looked at each other, you saw the respect, the admiration, the intensity. It was a beautiful thing. They were class personified.
This is the kind of rivalry that makes a sports league. You can't plan it or plot it or manipulate things to make it happen; you can only hope you capitalize on it when it happens.
It happened, and the NBA made all the right moves.
As time passed, newer players were promoted and marketed by the NBA. Most notably, Michael Jordan.
Jordan is not class personified. In fact, he is the antithesis of class.
The NBA changed with Jordan. It has become un-watchable. I sometimes enjoy attending a match, but I never watch it on television anymore. Attending a basketball game at Madison Square Garden is amusing. There are an amazing number of stops in the action. Besides the actual time-outs that are called by the teams, there are the breaks between quarters, and most importantly, the TV time-outs.
At the arena, music blasts at ridiculous decibels, scantily clad girls 'dance' on the court, acrobatic young athletes perform amazing feats of physical prowess, the music blasts some more, then scantily clad girls 'dance' on the court, then acrobatic young athletes perform amazing feats of physical prowess, and then again the music blasts even more, then the scantily clad girls 'dance' on the court some more, then acrobatic young athletes perform amazing feats of physical prowess with members of the audience. Then there is some basketball played.
But it's not the basketball I remember from my youth, it is the NBA, which means the rules are bent a little. The more famous you are, the more steps you can take. The more popular you are, the more often you are allowed to change your pivot foot. The richer you are, the more you are allowed to physically abuse those less famous, popular, or wealthy.
The NBA is a joke. Now, two-plus decades into the post-Bird/Magic era, the influence of the NBA on youth basketball is appallingly obvious.
Professionals influence the way children behave.
Charles Barkley famously whined that he wasn't a role-model, thereby absolving himself of any responsibility as he acted like a total fucking asshole on and off the court. He WAS a role-model and many of his youthful admirers also became total fucking assholes on and off the court as they emulated him.
I know you've changed, Charles, but you blew it back then, and have to do a little more work apologizing and making the world a better place before you will gain my respect. Unlike Michael Jordan, I believe you are becoming an upstanding adult citizen and will one day be considered a positive influence on America's youth.
Not Michael Jordan. This is his legacy:
In Washington state, a high school student decided to record a basketball game to highlight the problem of bad officiating in the league (the high school league).
As the writer points-out in the article linked below:
As it turns out, the clip did more than just spotlight an officiating problem; it also made seniors Cole Vanderbilt and teammate Kennan VanHollebeke look like the dirtiest players on the court.Here is part of the video, which I think perfectly highlights Jordan-era basketball at its most vulgar:
That is not the basketball played by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, or any of their predecessors. That is the basketball of Michael Jordan and the rest of the millionaire thugs that make-up the NBA.
Read more here: Video of flagrant foul no-calls at basketball game goes viral