By Cameron Blair
When Eastern’s defense of their OVC Championship ended in disappointing fashion with a first round exit from the conference tournament, I was disheartened to say the least.After a few days of wondering what exactly went wrong with this year’s team, and wondering if my covering the team was bad luck, I did something to take my mind off of the Colonels’ disappointing season.
I began tuning into TNT on Thursdays and ABC on Sundays on a regular basis. Why, you may ask?
I have renewed my love affair with the NBA and you, my dear sports fans, should do the same.
I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan during the Jordan-Pippen era. I know everyone liked the Bulls back then but I was hardcore. Everyone knew Jordan and Pippen, but I’m guessing very few people remember role players like Dickey Simpkins, Luc Longley, Stacey King and Randy Brown. Take that.
As a matter of fact, my devotion to the Bulls led to me being grounded for two weeks once. I snuck away from my house and got a Scottie Pippen-style flat-top haircut with money I had been saving for nearly two weeks. Yeah, I had a problem.
I lost interest in the league a bit when Jordan retired for the second time and the majority of teams began playing a boring, defense-oriented style that could cure insomnia.
Regardless, the NBA has returned to its former glory days thanks to an infusion of young talent, a good distribution of said talent (especially in the Western Conference) and more than a handful of bonafide superstars.
There are so many fun and intriguing storylines in the league currently that I would exceed my 800-word limit telling you all of them. In the Western Conference, there are nine teams that have won over 60 percent of their games vying for eight possible playoff spots.
You also have a group of incredible point guards in the Western Conference that rivals the greats from any era. There is two-time MVP Steve Nash making one of his last runs at a title with the Suns. Jason Kidd-who was recently traded to Dallas-is pushing for his first title as his career winds down.
New Orleans’ Chris Paul is averaging 12 assists per game and has emerged as the best pure point guard in the league. He is an MVP candidate for a young team playing its heart out for a city (New Orleans) still needing good news.
I haven’t even mentioned the San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker. At 25, Parker has already won three championships and is the perfect point guard for the uber-efficient Spurs.
Golden State, one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch, is led by Baron Davis. Davis is one of the league’s best clutch players for a team that can score 120-plus points on any given night.
Several true superstars trying to lead their teams to the championship have also revitalized the league. Kobe Bryant has the best supporting cast he’s had in years and is trying to win his first Shaq-less championship.
In addition to Kidd in Dallas, the team has another superstar with something to prove. Dirk Nowitzki is trying to put consecutive playoff meltdowns behind him and prove he is a truly elite player.
Moving to the less talented but just as interesting Eastern Conference, Cleveland’s Lebron James has emerged as arguably the league’s best player at 23 years old. James is on pace to average 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game this season, a feat accomplished by only Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
One of the NBA’s most storied teams has also returned to the league’s elite for the first time since the 1980s. After trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics have virtually clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs.
Imagine that. For the first time in nearly two decades there is the prospect for a Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals. It’s like the Yankees and Red Sox playing in the playoffs, minus the annoying fans.
So why does no one watch the NBA? People complain about the players’ behavior and attitudes. The word “thug” is often used. However, none of the players have been involved in performance-enhancing drug scandals like MLB and the NFL have. None of the players or coaches have been accused of cheating like the New England Patriots have.
One could bring up the brawl involving the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, but fights are far more common in soccer, baseball and football.
So why do other sports get passes for their transgressions while the NBA continues to struggle with a perceived image problem?