When asked about the attraction of the upcoming Heat-Lakers game, LeBron James pointed to all the stars on the court, and said he wished every NBA game had that kind of appeal. He suggested contracting the league to ensure stars aligned more frequently and fans got more of the matchups they crave.His explanation conveniently supports his decision to join Wade and Bosh in Miami, and his desire to do away with Christmas Day games.
“You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated, not just a Christmas Day game,” he said. Logically, his argument stands.
But almost instantly, some basketball observers, agents, and fans were outraged at James’ suggestion. Supporting contraction betrays LeBron’s fellow players who have worked to counter David Stern’s contraction threat – which cuts jobs but helps the league’s self-reported financial struggles. Contraction also betrays fans of defunct franchises who would be tempted to swear off the NBA altogether.
Clearly, more stars on the court at once doesn’t compensate for turning off entire fan bases, and taking away jobs from players. An easier way to accomplish parity might be to call fewer fouls. The NBA bends over backwards to protect stars, and that makes them a necessary component for a contending team. If the NBA can use that technique to resist expansion for another generation, it will eventually saturate with enough talent to satisfy James’ vision.
But whether or not you agree with James, the stance was undeniably interesting. And that’s a lot better than the muted, non-committal, or party-line opinions athletes typically offer with regards to big picture issues. That’s why we were happy to hear James’ thoughts.
If we roll our eyes when athletes answer in cliches, we can’t be quick to skewer them when they voice an opinion with which we disagree. They have a far different perspective. That’s why their opinions are interesting, and media spend hours hanging around athletes hoping for a few entertaining lines.
If we bite the hand that feeds our hunger for uniquely opinionated athletes, we’ll forever condemned to listen to sound bites of athletes “working hard,” “taking one game at a time,” and “thanking God for success.” Brutal.
So, for once, let’s take it easy on LeBron.
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