Is College Basketball doomed to irrelevance?

I was listening earlier this week to the latest Bill Simmons – Chuck Klosterman podcast(s), where the hosts tackled a variety of topics. One of those topics caught my ear, however, and it had to do with the nature of celebrity and the current state of the sport of basketball, which starts at about the 8 minute mark of Part 2 of the 7/18 podcast.

Anyone who’s listened to (or read) Simmons regularly knows he’s only interested in college basketball in relation to what kind of talent is bubbling through the pipes to feed his precious NBA. Meanwhile, Klosterman is very much a college sports fan, both basketball and football.

What made this discussion worth listening to was Klosterman saying that the NBA game has exceeded the college game in terms of the number of people who care about it, something that he didn’t think was possible when he first started watching basketball in the late 1970s. His summation of the reason why was quite interesting:

In every tier of society, entertainment, sports, politics, everything. There’s a greater emphasis on celebrity. And you can’t be a collegiate celebrity the way you can be a professional celebrity. You know, you can’t be a collegiate star the way you can be an NBA star, because an NBA star can mean things that have nothing to do with basketball. And that’s what drives everything now. Everything is driven by people’s sense of relationship with what they are watching. “Do I feel like I know this person? Do I know what this person is like outside of what I am watching?”.

This notion of “celebrity” in society is a near-constant these days, and much of it has to do with the interconnected nature of our culture. Whereas before, due to the distances between information sources and the time it took for news to travel, it was truly difficulty and unique for a person or group to achieve nationwide celebrity status. Now, culture is constantly focusing on celebrities, and the ability to follow multiple individuals in the pop culture sphere is there for anyone with a Twitter account. Read More »

NBA Draft – Top Five Winners

I’ve never been one for speculation. Spending hours wondering who will go where in drafts is only interesting to me if I personally know someone who is trying to get drafted. Draft night itself, however, is one of my favorite nights in sports. And I will defiantly spend hours of my time afterwards analyzing each team’s picks once they’ve been made.

Here are the teams that I feel did the best in this year’s NBA draft:

 

1. New Orleans Hornets — duh.

The Hornets could have taken Anthony Davis, then selected my two uncles, and still would have had the best draft of 2012.

Davis is the kind of player that only comes around once or twice a decade. If you are reading this column, I am assuming that you already know how incredibly talented Davis is at the game of basketball. He’s got the agility of a 6’3” guard in a 6’11” body. And unlike most centers in the NBA, he tries 100% of the time, listens to coaches, and doesn’t throw a fit when things don’t go his way. He’s a defensive nightmare and he’s still getting noticeably better.

But the Hornets won huge with Davis for another reason too: he’s the most marketable first round draft pick since LeBron.

Sports marketing professionals will tell us that big men don’t sell. Kids on playgrounds imagine themselves being Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose, breaking ankles with their crossover and making that game-winning three. Kids don’t imagine themselves being 6’10” and grabbing rebounds. It just isn’t relatable.

But Davis has something better than relate-ability. He’s got character.

That eyebrow is going to be worth more money than Heidi Klum’s legs. The t-shirts, the jerseys, the endorsements, the fake brows – the ensemble is going to sell out merchandise faster than most teams can sell tickets. The Hornets will be raking in cash from this kid and his unibrow all around.

New Orleans had other picks as well, and they used them on shooting guard (whoops, I mean point guard) Austin Rivers at number 10, and Kentucky sixth man Darius Miller at 46.

Although I’m not a Rivers hater like some that are out there – I actually like his confidence on the court, and I think that he will be a better pro than college player if he continues to be coachable – this pick puzzles me a little.

If the Hornets are serious about keeping Eric Gordon, why draft a player who basically plays the same position? Gordon and Davis both need the ball in their hands, and Rivers is not the guy to get it to them. Read More »

Changing the Rules, Part II

Last week, Samantha gave us her ideas for some rules changes to help make the game of college basketball better. She continues her suggestions in this newest entry.

Here are a few suggestions to make the game better, Part II:

 

Media Availability of the Losing Team

A couple weeks ago, LeBron James finally got his hardware. The nation watched as LeBron and Dwayne Wade hugged, and Chris Bosh fully emerged himself in champagne.

But amid these images of celebration, the nation also watched a very private and personal moment between Kevin Durant and his family.

Many people across America applauded CBS for capturing such a poignant moment. It apparently made viewers feel better to watch someone break down and cry. People said it was “beautiful” and “touching.” But it just made me uncomfortable.

Durant is a 23-year-old kid, who worked his assoff to reach a goal he’s dreamed about since he was young – and the cameras were there to capture his reaction to having failed at it. Anyone who loses a National Championship/World Title/Gold Medal should be entitled to immediately vacate the premises, find their mother, and cry.

Alone.

As in “without cameras in his face and millions of people watching at home.”

Imagine you just got fired. How would you feel in that moment? Would you think of all the people you let down? Feel ashamed for not being able to do better? Now imagine that instantly after you’re told, someone sticks a camera in your face and asks you how you’re feeling. And everyone in the world is watching your reaction.

If there were ever a rule that I really care about changing, it is this one: the players/coaches of the losing team of a title game are not required to speak to the media until 24 hours after the game has ended, and cameras are not allowed to shoot them once they have stepped off the court.

The majority of media members, and millions of the viewing public, feel as though it is their right to be able to look in on these moments.

It isn’t. Read More »