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Legal battles. $400 million in revenues. Consolodation. Case dockets. Litigation, arbitration, negotiation. Baseless legal claims. Jurisidictions. As of now, these legal weapons have replaced zone defenses and pick n’ rolls in the National Basketball Association.
The NBA is “Fan”tastic, but ultimately, it’s Corporate-centric. This concept may seem contradictory. After all, professional basketball is a sport best played through the trustful synchronization of five players’ hearts and minds. The stage is a glimmering, 94-foot hard court. At present day, however, the game has been morphed into legal battle inside a court of law. Suits have replaced jerseys, gavels replaced whistles, acrimonious arguments replaced the poetic motions leading to a slam dunk.
Still, it would have been truly contradictory to our American ethos if there had been no NBA lockout. Be it a top flight accountant, a lawyer who represents wealthy estates, a ground floor sales rep, or a statospherically rich basketball player, we are all children of a hyper-privatized Corporate America. Those employees of the private sector, which includes professional athletes, are duty-bound by the rules of modern day capitalism to maximize profitability.
Knowing this then, why is it that fans get so upset during a professional sports strike or lockout? Some actually boycott their favorite sports afterward, which begs the question: why get angry at a private business for being a private business? Well, the NBA trademark “I love this Game” isn’t just a catchy slogan, is it? By virtue of sports love, we are deluded into believing that the NBA belongs to us just as we belong to it. We see ourselves as equals in the relationship; as conduits for the day to day energy that keeps the NBA running and profitable.
Indeed, emotional attachment creates a false feeling of ownership, illogical emotion. In way of a personal account, when I was first living in the city, I suffered a dreaded case of insomnia. The had transited from a spacious second floor space in a quiet suburban hamlet, where crickets chirrupped and cars whisked through an empty road, to a small, top floor brownstone apartment in Brooklyn. During the day, I was surrounded by the hum-drum of subways, clamorous conversation in bodegas, construction companies that got their drill on at 7 a.m. It was also the first time I lived more than a town or so from my family, who I am very close to.
My sleeplessness lasted for a few months. I finally cured it by ordering “NBA TV,” and listening to games on at night while closing my eyes. The familiar and surefire sounds of sneaker squeaks, a rubber basketball against that shiny hardwood, and nothing-but-net three point swishes were soothing memories of my childhood. Those sounds were also promises that some things in life will remain constant, exciting, accomplished, and good. After my sleep was restored, my love for this game felt stronger than before, boundless.
When we are in love, we can get senselessly angry, and likewise, senselessly forgiving. So when the NBA brings its private operations back from the court of law to the hard court, it’s safe to say that the game’s fans will continue to passionately follow their favorite teams. Still, the love won’t feel the same. Their love for the NBA is not their own. As with anything else, all ownership in love is only an illusion.