Thursday, January 27, 2011

*Melo-Drama: Legacy of the Superfriends

Watching the New Jersey Nets' futile attempts to land Carmelo Anthony has been like watching seniors have sex: it's awkward, depressing, and you just know it's going to end with both parties getting hurt. After weeks of public speculation, posturing, name mentioning, and ego stroking, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov finally took the classic Russian strategy and pulled out after the damage had already been unquestionably done. The level of star-player ass-kissing in the NBA is now reaching ridiculous levels and we have the Miami Axis of Evil to thank for it.

When Lebron James and his annoying, tag-along kid brother, Chris Bosh left their respective teams for the greener pastures and lush media market of Miami, they set a new precedent for the way players are expected to carry themselves in their pursuits for title rings. The trick to this new-age practice of me-first sportsmanship is making it about the rings. You want to leave the team and city that made you a multi-millionaire, and an international celebrity because you think this other team can give you a better chance at a title. Magic won 5 titles with the same team. Micheal won 6. These are the heroes that history will remember as true champions and ambassadors of the sport. Role models. If Miami goes off for a half dozen titles the public will give them as much credit as a kid playing franchise mode on Xbox set to easy so he can stack his team and go 82-0. The line has been drawn. If you want to compete just text your buddies and coordinate a mass exodus to a team on the rise.

The NBA is traditionally a league that is driven by the star power of their premier players, but gone are the days of GM's and owners being able to keep these brats in check to any plausible degree. Spoiled-rotten players are now only one Tweet away from essentially holding their franchises ransom, with a list of demands complete with pizza for the hostages and a helicopter on the roof to whisk them away to a city of their choosing. Why embrace qualities such as perseverance, loyalty, and class when one can simply disregard these relics for the far trendier traits like self-gratification, elitism, and the raising of one's profile?

Carmelo Anthony (and more specifically his wife) saw the circus that became the Miami Heat this past summer. With his contract about to expire why not bolt for the hometown Knicks? Who's to stop him? The Nuggets now find themselves in a position where they have to move a player against their will. A player they have spent the past eight years building their franchise around. They're also in a position where the entire league knows just how desperate they are to get something, anything, to show for their massive investment.

Sports is after all a business, and investments need to produce returns or you FAIL. This is a notion lost on this generation of athlete; They are the source of revenue for these businesses. These teams pour millions into marketing, merchandising, and payroll to make star players star players. Somewhere along the line said athletes grow a misplaced sense of entitlement and seem to forget that it is a two way street, this business of sports. The pampering is taken for granted and they begin to believe that they are in fact the larger-than-life deities their Nike ads portray them as.

The Nets pulled out all the stops to bring Carmelo to the Jersey shore, but in the end it simply wasn't good enough. Melo is going to be Knick sooner or later, regardless if the team that gave him a career gets a return, or the team that wanted him gets their image dragged through the mud, and both get a roster full of disgruntled team mates. Why should that concern Carmelo? Carmelo isn't playing in either of those cities next year so why should he care? Where is the accountability? The same will go for Chris Paul. The same will go for Deron Williams. The same will go for whatever big-name free agents are available year-in and year-out from this season forward. Parity be damned, the NBA is now a league of cool kids and science geeks. Get used to it. Thanks a lot Lebron...

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