Back in 1891, Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball. It happened in a YMCA gymnasium then located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Originally, the game had only 13 simple rules. It started with two nine-player teams. Today, the two teams have just five players each on court; and the rules have quadrupled.
Dr. Naismith was an employee at The School for Christian Workers. He was given orders by his superiors to invent a physical activity that would be “a healthy (though rowdy) distraction for male students, during the harsh New England winter”. There is no historic evidence that he had any clue(s) as to what he was unleashing on the world of sports; since he had been unsuccessful in his earlier attempts to introduce soccer and lacrosse to the indoor arena.
Over the last 125 years, basketball has become so popular that there are now roughly a quarter-billion players worldwide; and there are even more fans than players. There are many leagues worldwide that suit both amateur and professional qualifiers: one can start playing this game from as early as kindergarten. It is now undoubtedly one of the most popular physical games in the world.
There are many aspects of the game that will now be unrecognizable to Dr. Naismith. The court markings have changed from its original intent; and inevitably, so too the style(s) of play. Various physical innovations have led to a revolution of sorts. While technological advances have led to scientific contributions which make the contemporary game quite different from the one he started; but as the kids say on the streets today: “it’s all good”.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) was formed in the month of June back in 1946. There were eleven teams then; today there are thirty. Of the thirty, only one is based outside the USA (in Toronto, Canada). In seventy years the NBA has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. There are many offshoots supplying all sorts of basketball paraphernalia and accoutrements. Today the game is seemingly more about the “Benjamins” than the skills.
The NBA season starts in October and ends in June of the following year. During the course of any season roughly 500 professional players will suit up. In the 2014-2015 season the average salary was 4.6 million dollars. No other sport can boast of such a high salary-average. The top player in basketball today can possibly command thirty million dollars for a season; and this excludes the money he can earn from endorsing sports products, and/or plus working on/in other commercial and media enterprises.
In my last column I predicted that the Golden State warriors would win the NBA title for the 2015-2016 season by whipping the Cleveland Cavaliers in either five or six games, over the seven-game title-series. It didn’t happen. The Cavalier’s won game seven and in so doing they ended up with the title. How they won has left a sour-taste in many a mouth: and that includes mine.
Now, I know that many of my detractors here will call this my “sour-grapes”’ column: that’s fine with me. They can call it whatever they wish. As I always say: I tell it like it is; I write it or speak it; then I duck.
I predicted that the Warriors would repeat as champs but they didn’t. I say they were robbed by conniving NBA officials (including the referees) who wanted a seven game series; and possibly even a Cavaliers victory also. Once it got to game seven there were big dollars to be made via television ratings and commercials. The NBA folks did everything they could to make this happen.
So why do I say this? Well there are many reasons for reaching this conclusion. If one were to go over all the games, you will find a disproportionate number of foul-calls in favor of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If you further examine the foul-calls made, one can also find many non-calls, on fouls that the Cleveland players made. The Warriors front-office should develop a montage from game-tapes to illuminate these points. It would be quite revealing.
Remember that the Warriors came into game five with a three to one lead; after winning the first two games plus game four. However in that fateful fourth game there is an incident involving the captain of the Cavaliers team LeBron James, which provided the catalyst (or conspiracy) for a Cleveland comeback.
In the heat of battle during that game, James stepped over a key Warriors player named Draymond Green. In basketball anywhere this is a major no-no. It is the ultimate “diss” (disrespect). It’s the type of move that usually leads to serious playground fights, which often enough end in bench-clearing brawls. People get hurt behind the type of testosteronic move LeBron made.
Green instinctively and defensively lashed out. He never struck James. A few seconds later they both faced off in what was ostensibly a verbal tiff. After the smoke cleared, the refs ridiculously called a regular foul on Green. After the game, the NBA officials inexplicably upgraded that foul to a ‘flagrant’, and handed out a one game suspension to Green. This caused the Warriors to be undermanned for the crucial fifth game in the series.
By the time we get to game seven one could see that the Warriors key player (Steph Curry) wasn’t his usually brilliant self. Throughout the series he was being ‘manhandled’ by the Cavaliers. Curry was being physically abused by James and company from game one. And for some mysterious reason the fouls weren’t going his way.
Go to the videotapes and you will see James, Smith, Shumpert, Irving, Thompson, and other Cavalier
players routinely manhandling Curry. In game seven Shumpert actually climbs on Curry’s back with Curry being called for a foul. It was disgusting.
I can only hope that the management of the Warriors team will soon raise hell about what transpired here. We all know about the media-hype relative to ‘Le James’ and his return to his Cleveland hometown. We also know about the media-hype surrounding the fact that the city hadn’t won a championship in any of the professional sporting leagues, since when Eve was a virgin back in Eden. So when Steph Curry’s wife tweeted that this series seemed rigged (or that the fix was in), we should have all taken her more seriously. The ESPN announcer (Smith) who castigated her was out of place with his admonitions. Smith is one of those over-rated sports-journalists who had incorrectly predicted the outcomes of the last half-dozen NBA finals; while still inexplicably holding his job.
I am a bit surprised that the events of this series haven’t led to a congressional investigation of sorts. After all, Republicans wasted millions investigating Benghazi, so this could be redemptive for them. After all, basketball is still a multi-billion dollar industry and a major commercial enterprise, which engulfs the whole nation and not just two dozen cities. Millions of dollars were bet on this series (especially in Las Vegas) from which taxes are taken. Gambling is indeed regulated by laws and polices involving all three branches (and all three levels) of government. If there was a conspiracy in getting the Cavaliers this championship, then inquiring minds (like mine) need to know.
Stay tuned-in folks.