Welcome Back, NBA – The Streets Have Missed YouA Sports Scribe, Basketball — By J. Clinkscales on October 26, 2012 at 4:00 am
Last fall, the NBA lockout had hoops fans drowning in their tears, civic leaders fretting about arena lease payments, and television cameras feeling bare without the suits of Craig Sager and Walt Frazier. It was certainly bad when you consider everything within a stone’s throw of the action, but there was one other place where the effect was close to the nuclear winter, as Kobe Bryant theorized.
Where I live, love and learn. Yeah, that place.
You see, a professional sports organization is supposed to be neutral when it comes to its fans. There’s not supposed to be an inkling of a preference for what types of people choose to watch the games in person, but no matter what, every league would love the people with the fattest pockets and largest of appetites. After all, the money teams make in their games comes from a mix of corporations, mid-sized businesses, suburban families, after-work “bros,” visits from nonprofit groups and anyone else willing to throw down a minimum of $200 for a few hours.
Yet, what truly makes a sport go is how it’s spoken of away from stadiums and arenas. And in a lot of cases, it’s how it’s spoken of by people who don’t dole out the cash to attend the games, but will park in front of the TV and strike up a conversation as soon as the game ends.
Oh, sure, football dominates wherever it’s discussed, but there are probably far more discussions at work because of office pools and that annoying guy blabbing about his fantasy team. Baseball can somewhat lay the same claim, but with the diminished national profile and the exhaustion of the PED/steroids cloud, it just seems as if it’s a sport that’s taken a concert feel – the buzz waits until fans converge at the park. Hockey and soccer aren’t dissimilar to baseball, and unless you’re a passionate fan of the individual sports like tennis or golf, it’s not often that those games can capture your friends’ attention spans for months.
Basketball, on the other hand, takes on something more when you walk through city streets. You’re never too far from any outdoor courts, and there’s no question that the nearest recreation center or YMCA has a hoop or two inside. They’re far more prevalent than ball fields or rinks in most places around the country, and to save you an urban planning discussion, it helps that the game doesn’t cost much for communities with shrunken budgets or city dwellers with limited resources to get involved.
Those courts are a constant reminder that the NBA has such a hold. Those courts are where every kid is a dreamer and every adult is trying to channel his or her inner Charles Barkley on the boards.
[Of course, at this point, you’re probably saying to yourself “he can’t mean all the streets!” In fact, you’re probably thinking that there’s some sort of code here, and truthfully, you’re right. An overwhelmingly black sport where the players are far more recognizable because of their height, uniforms and numerous tattoos? Absolutely, there’s a racial angle to the buzz. Yet, there’s more behind it.]