Monday, February 21, 2011

*Dunk-Off Underlines NBA Anti-Canadianism

Why don't they just call it "Dunk Idol", and have Steven Tyler and J-Lo decide the best dunks? The results of the NBA Slam Dunk competition more resemble America's favorite popularity contest than a legitimate judgement of slam dunk creativity. Blake Griffin was the media darling heading into the All-Star festivities, even before his best friend died and endeared him to fans everywhere. The NBA got the result they were looking for and Griffin walked away champion, even though his dunks really were nothing that special (a 360? really? no dunk that can be pulled off in a game should be in a dunk competition). 

Maybe I'm speaking out of Torontonian bias here, but Demar DeRozan's first dunk was arguably the best of the round, and was unfairly under-rated by a panel of judges who, like most of the NBA, likely don't see Toronto as a genuine basketball market. This underlines a larger problem around the league in the perception of Canada's only team. 

Tracy McGrady recently made comments about fans in Toronto "not even knowing what they're booing about", heating up the discussion about Toronto's attitude towards former players, and the NBA's attitude towards the Great Frozen North in general. Trust me Tracy, we know why we're booing you. It's the same reason we boo your cousin Vince, the same reason we boo Hedo, and Benedict Arnold-Bosh: You're all douche bags.

It isn't Toronto undervaluing or misunderstanding the politics of the sport of basketball, but the famed ignorance of the American public rearing it's ugly head in the form of spoiled basketball players not wanting to be cast-offs to the island of misfit toys known as the T-dot. There is a prevailing notion that we somehow are uneducated fans, or that we only know about hockey. We may know hockey in and out, and it may be the big ticket north of the border, but Torontonians are some of the most knowledgeable sports fans in North America.

The perceived indifference of fans stems from mismanaged teams that leave very little to cheer about, not from ignorance to the nuances of the game. If anything, that should be an indication of our sophistication, but these ego maniacal morons can't wrap their narrow minds around the concept of being wrong. Of having carried themselves in a less than classy fashion. Of having disrespected the franchise that made them millionaires, and the adoring fan base that made them stars in the first place.

If there is one thing that defines Toronto as a sports market, it's that we are suckers for our stars. We latch our hopes and dreams onto them and label them as "ours". When the revolving door spins around, as it always seems to do in this city, we can't help but feel betrayed because we held up our end of the bargain.

When DeRozan scored a 44 on his first dunk, the city of Toronto collectively shook it's head. That dunk was creative, original, and took an amazing amount of skill. The people he was beaten by pulled off dunks that mostly had been done before. There was nothing special about them, but the theatrics that were employed; the flag-bearers, the double net, the choir, were what won them points. Not dunking skill. Why is it that a hometown guy can't even get his due respect just because he's wearing that god awful word on the front of his jersey? Toronto.

The NBA obviously had an agenda with this event. In Blake Griffin they have a fresh new superstar to market. They have a solid gold story to play on with his friend having passed away only days before the competition (all due respect to the poor young man's family). And what better way to have a coming out party for the NBA's most exciting dunker than to hand over a gift-wrapped slam dunk championship? I have seen dozens of people dunk over cars, and actually over the car, not half-assing it over the hood, which Griffin really didn't need to do. He has the hops to have pulled the move off properly. Not only that, but McGee looked as if he wasn't even trying to win with his final dunk. It was certifiable SLACK.

DeRozan was screwed out of his due two years in a row, and likely won't have another chance to showcase his talents at the next All-Star weekend, and it really is a shame. He's got the skill and athleticism to be a legitimate star in this league, but never had a fair shake at showing it on one of the biggest stages.

The NBA's credibility as a league seems to dwindle yearly, with a crooked match-fixing ref, labour disputes on the horizon, and self-indulgent stars ganging up to set a dangerous precedent that will condemn the notion of parity for years to come. Unfortunately, we here in Toronto are regarded as idiots, quite possibly because we are the only market in the league that doesn't buy the NBA's bullshit.

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