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Voice of the 'Fan

The matchup the NBA wanted---for the wrong reasons

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There's a reason I don't watch much basketball anymore. I'm more of a baseball/football guy, though I'll flip on golf if there's not much else holding my attention.

In the last several years, the NBA has become more about politics, pecking orders, and Madison Avenue, not specifically in that order. The Association is beholden to its corporate partners, and that doesn't stop with ABC/ESPN (Disney) & TNT (Time-Warner). Whether you want to believe it or not, on a legitimately level playing field, I doubt very seriously that Miami could've beaten Boston in 7 games or less. Read between the lines.

On the Eastern Conference side, it's been all about ensuring that LeBunco James and the Heat return to the Finals to try to finish what they started last year, when they choked away a 2-0 lead against Dallas. This is not the same Heat that had Shaquille O'Neal lead them to the promised land 6 years ago against the Mavericks. Oh, no. Mickey Arison & Pat Riley spent money like it was water out of a faucet to bring LeBunco and his cast of stooges, led by William "World Wide" Wesley & Maverick Carter, and Chris Bosh to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade in his quest for a 2nd ring. However, the bad luck that plagued James in Cleveland followed him to Miami, hence the fold in the Finals.

Rightfully, the Finals matchup should've been either San Antonio, who'd run through everyone in the West before running out of gas vs. Oklahoma City, vs. Miami, or the Thunder vs. Boston. Either way, the Finals would've had more of a passing-the-torch theme to it, with the aging Spurs and/or Celtics making that last run before they get repackaged anew. Oklahoma City, relatively the new kids on the block, after the franchise relocated from Seattle, stopped the Spurs cold after dropping the first two games, just like Dallas had done to Miami a year ago in the Finals. Ok, so there's some fresh blood in these Finals, but that doesn't mean the Association is totally with it.

Not only that, but OKC isn't exactly a media capital on the order of LA or NY or even Boston. Miami? Ditto. However, because LeBunco has his endorsement deals (State Farm, Coca-Cola for Sprite), coupled with the angle already there about his avenging last year's choke job, the NBA decided that they needed the Heat in the Finals to goose television ratings, which aren't exactly going to blow people away anyway. Sure, the Stanley Cup finals are almost over, and there's another story waiting to be written there. However, there is baseball, and plenty of intriguing storylines to be had, holding people's attention, such as the Marlins threatening to duplicate the Heat's 2011 choke job, as they're sitting in 4th place in the NL East at this writing. Owner Jeff Loria should've been handed a book on Santayana, if you get my drift.

Boston's Rajan Rondo was reported to have said that the Heat were whining & crying to the refs during a game. I think it was game 5. I guess the league's power brokers realized that Rondo might've said something they didn't like, and so they made sure Miami would keep its date for the Finals at Boston's expense. They just didn't want the facts to get in the way of a good story.

So now we have Miami vs. Oklahoma City. Yes, there is the passing-the-torch angle to consider. Wade, James, & Bosh came into the league together in 2003 as part of that heralded draft class which also included Carmelo Anthony (now with the Knicks). They are finishing their 9th season in the league. Durant has only been in the league, what, 3 years? It's his time. It's just too bad the league either doesn't know that, doesn't want to admit it, or doesn't care, as long as their agenda is kept intact. To the league's power brokers, it's all about LeBunco justifying his decision to chase the money as a means of chasing that elusive championship.

Politics have dropped the NBA, in this writer's opinion, near the bottom of the credibility scale. The onus now is on David Stern to do the right thing and let the title be decided by the best team on the court, and not by politics or a league pecking order. Translated, the referees have to call the game as it's mandated in the rulebook, not according to who the stars are.

Basketball is meant to be marketed as a team game, but that has been lost in the era of marketing individual stars as being bigger than the game. Not just in the pros, but in college as well, which is why you have all these 1-year wonders who use the colleges as a way station to the NBA. It's time the game got a reality check, and soon.
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