Wednesday, September 27th, 2006 at 12:49 pm  |  25 responses

Is Basketball Broken?

Men in Black gather to get a grip on American hoops.

by Lang Whitaker

Picture a darkened meeting room, a long mahogany table, crystal decanters of water atop the table, a phalanx of darkened Lincoln Towncars parked outside. Men in black stand around outside the facility like statues, their arms folded together like Byron Scott.

I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly how it went down, but there was a meeting yesterday between a bunch of basketball bigwigs: The David Stern Robot, NCAA head Myles Brand, Virginia AAU honcho Boo Williams, Nike CEO Phil Knight, Nike’s George Raveling, adidas’ Martyn Brewer, coaches Paul Hewett and Jim Boeheim, and various and sundry other hoops-related people.

Details remain sketchy: according to the New York Times, the meeting was in Indianapolis; Yahoo Sports says it was in Chicago. The Times also says: “Those at the meeting were asked not to speak with the news media so that the message would stay consistent.” In the next sentence, the Times quotes someone who was at the meeting, speaking off the record.

What was the meeting about? Trying to set up some sort of academy system for American basketball.

I did a post about this a while ago, after David Stern was quoted in the Times saying he was shocked to hear about how the youth basketball system worked. After I wrote that post I heard from a few NBA people who said that the NBA wasn’t playing dumb, they really just didn’t know about that stuff. So, let’s at least give The David Stern Robot some credit for trying to educate himself and at least talking about trying to fix this stuff.

Some people are upset that Phil Knight and Nike hosted the event, but hey, if all this stuff happens, someone’s got to give up the seed money. Nike did a similar thing years ago with US Soccer, being the name sponsor (and cash) behind the US’s Project 2010, an initiative to make the US a World Cup contender by 2010. I’m guessing they’ll be involved this time as well.

The Washington Post points out that Reebok’s Sonny Vacarro wasn’t invited, although he did meet with Stern a few weeks ago and there was a representative from adidas (which now owns Reebok) at yesterday’s meeting.

There’s probably no quick fix coming from these meetings, but the one thing we know about David Stern is that he doesn’t mess around: If he says he’s going to fix something or change something, he gets it done, no matter the consequences or issues involved with making it happen.

:: via True Hoop
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  • Matthew

    No matter what people say or how much Dave Zirn hates on the Sternbot, he’s doing his thing with the NBA. And yes, I like the dress code… Charles Barkley likes the dress code. Is it too much to ask these professionals to dress professional? I know alot of ppl talked and said how Stern was trying to take the hip hop out of the game. Well, explain to me why now every time you see Hova, he’s decked out in a fly ass suit. Same for Diddy. Hell, you’ve got TI and Luda wearing suits now. So I like Stern and what he’s got going on. Oh, and on the league age minimum, I’ll never forget about 10 yrs ago when Warrick Dunn, prolly Lang’s second fav player next to MV7, was asked about coming out early for the NFL. He decided to stay for his senior year and said, hey, I’ve been poor for 21 years… what’s another year?? Much love Warrick and props for D. Stern.

  • J. ross

    The Americian’s dominating force in basketball is declining because international basketball has become more competive.International players are also bigger, stronger, and faster. The best olympic team that was ever created was the 1992 team. Michael Jordan Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley proved how dominate Americian basketball was at this time. After 9/11 Americian players refuse to go overseas and play because of the terroristic attacks. Therefore quality of our player have gone down dramaticly.

  • Tom Jackson

    Lang – Everything a guy can read on this topic is how the International teams have closed the gap. How the rest of the world has caught up, never that our players are worse, that their players are just much better. So, an interesting question I’ve never seen anyone pose is this: Would the ’92 Dream Team have problem with today’s Argentinia or Greece? That is, I think, a very very important question in moving forward with this situation. What do you think, Lang or Sam?

  • jdawg

    Not that european players are better than us but we need to really fix our basketball system and programs. If a 13 year old could play tennis proffessionally, bball kids should be able to play in a proffesional level to be able to refine their skills!

  • Bryant Reeves

    Tom – the ’92 team would dominate any other team ever assembled. No question about it.

  • Tom Jackson

    What if you had…
    C – Shaq O’Neal
    PF – Bill Russell
    SF – LeBron James (at about age 27)
    SG – Oscar Robertson
    PG – Jason Kidd
    All in their primes. I think they’d give the 92 team a damn good run, Bryant. Or I guess all you haters could put Wilt at the 5 rather than the Daddy. Either way… I think they’d give it to Dream Team.

  • J

    I don’t know if this is even possible or if there are rules against this but could an NBA team take a high school player (15 or 16 years old maybe), sign them to a contract, and train them until they are ready for the NBA? The team could provide tutors for the players’ education, and if the player decides that they want to play college ball, they should have that opportunity(NCAA rules would need to be changed). I always hear about Soccer and basketball clubs doing this type of thing in Europe so why can’t they do it here?

  • SkyDubai

    Oscar Robertson to me is one of the most over-rated players of all time (not saying he wasn’t good, but just over-rateD). Most people who talk about him have never seen him play and the basis of calling him a ‘great’ is b/c of his triple double stats.

    Let me point out something. Back in Oscar’s day, NBA teams, on averaged, attempted something like 15-20 more shots a game each, there were more than 20 additional rebounds up for grabs and about 10-15 assists to pad the numbers. If you normalize the numbers back to present day levels, you’d find that Oscar is the modern day 24/7/6 guy (give or take). Of which we have Kobe/T-Mac/LBJ and a few others at that level. so if we put Oscar at the pantheon, why not include our modern day superstars who have acheived Oscar’s numbers while facing better competition and better athletes.

  • Drew

    a Dream team from say 1968 would give the 92 Dream team a match.

    Kareem, Jerry West, Wilt, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Hal Greer, Ricky Barry, Lenny Wilkens (as a player not a coach!), John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, Nate Thurmond


    but other than that, no international team could match that team.. no way.
    with mullin and Bird and Jordan a zone would be taken apart.
    Even Karl and Ewing could hit a 15 footer to stretch a zone.
    Robinson was was too fast for any 7 footer too.
    Magic can pass over any zone and Pippen was the do it all who could shut down anyone.

  • Tom Jackson

    If that’s the case SkyDubai, why didn’t everyone, hell ANYONE, average anything like the numbers Oscar did? It’s all about proportion and relevancy when you compare players from different eras. Oscar Robertson nearly averaged a triple double for his entire career. But he’s overrated? I’m not sure anyone who knows anything about basketball could ever “overrate” that. It’s sick.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    um, on the original topic (the meeting) the fact that Nike and Phil Knight hosted the meeting IS the problem with American basketball. To oversimplify just a bit.

  • Dblizzy

    SkyDubai, I kinda understand your logic, but I wouldn’t call him overrated. It’s hard to compare players of today to players from back then, it’s all relative. Is MJ or Lebron better than Oscar, we can’t really tell. All we can say is that Oscar, compared to the players he played with, was really really good. And Lebron, compared to the guys hes playing with is really good. It’s just really not the same game. On the otherhand, I think the 92 Dream Team in their prime would beat any team, international or otherwise. It’s not just that they were great players, but they were incredibly smart players as well. They understood how to play a team game as well as go one on one, plus they know all those veteran tricks…

  • NZ Baller

    ‘After 9/11 Americian players refuse to go overseas and play because of the terroristic attacks. Therefore quality of our player have gone down dramaticly.’

    Hmmm…. that’s a dubious claim bro, I really doubt 9/11 had any co-relation whatsoever with the decline of your international basketball talent

  • Young C

    One of the reasons the NBA is suffering is because of the NCAA. The NCAA is one of the most hypocritical organizations in the United States. The colleges make millions of dollars off their “student/athletes” while all the athletes get at most are free tuition, which is nothing compared to the endorsements and salary they could receive if they weren’t hindered by the amateurism rules. More importantly, these “student/athletes” have to split their time between being an elite athlete, schoolwork, and having a part-time job on the side in order to make a little bit of cash. What winds up happening is they focus the most on being an athlete, because thats what will possibly make him a millionaire in the future. Then, they get special treatment in class because they are athletes and wind up getting a degree in a major that they only took to make their work easier. They also have no money because all their time is spent on their sport and barely passing their classes. The NCAA also has restrictions on how many hours players can be coached per week which slows the development of American players.In Europe, their elite atheletes, even under 18, go to academies where all they do is play basketball 24/7. This would never work in America for minors because it is against the law for them not to go to school and they cannot play professionally because it is against the law to hold a minor to a contract. But for athletes over the age of 18 it would definetly work in America.

  • albie1kenobi

    damnit Russ. another way too intelligent post. that was so on point it makes you wonder why this point wasn’t brought up before.

  • Young C

    A simple solution is to have a minor league that the players could go to rather than going to college right out of high school. The athletes could be paid for 4 years of service(assuming the NBA raises the age minimum to 21 and 4 years removed from high school) in the minor league, while at the same time making enough money to make a living. It would be kind of like the going to the army right out of high school, minus the bullet wounds from war. The minor league could even have it where a portion of the players’ salaries are deposited into a separate account for tuition so that the players who do not make it professionally can go to college and have something to fall back on. The college part of the contract would be gauranteed so that even if the player gets cut or doesnt get drafted to the NBA he would still be able to go to college. Not only would this allow the players to focus all of their attention on their sport and get paid, but after their career is over it would allow them to fully focus on school rather than having them coast through college and get a degree that they didn’t truly earn, or not graduate at all. The concept of the “student/athlete” is completely idiotic, because it is impossible to focus 100% on school and 100% on being an elite athlete. At most, all these “student/athletes” can hope to achieve is 50/50. And last time I checked a 50 grade would be an F. As it currently stands, both the colleges and the sport is being cheated, so separating the two is the most logical thing that could possibly be done. The NCAA would still exist, they just would no longer have the elite athletes playing for them. The less talented but true student-athletes would be playing, mostly for recreation, and not be expecting to make it to the NBA.

  • Young C

    Im starting to look like Myung with these long comments. Sorry, but I had to make a point.

  • Froggiestyle

    “This is going to be a tough series. We’re gonna go home, watch some tape and make some adjustments. But we’ll be ready for game 2″………….. NOT that’s hands down the biggest difference. For marketing reasons ($$$) our guys only know how to win the best of 7 series. No one is used to having it all on the line for one game only. I wish there were two rings that could be one in the NBA. The “usual” grind it out method and another winner takes all round robin where you win or go home EVERY GAME. It’s no coincidence that college hoops is fun – anyone can win. That’s what happens in Int. hoops – shoot even kobe got punked in his game 7 and he’s got balls of steel. The NBA has become more of a grind it out business and had lost the sense of urgency that there is only one game, you lose you go home (for real).

  • Harlem World

    Fundamentally it comes down to money (as Russ touched on). It takes an EXTREMELY RARE player to push themself to excel and get better once you have financial security for the next 2 generations of your family (MINIMUM). Most of us are motivated to do something so we can pay bills and enjoy some of lifes luxuries – today’s NBA star doesn’t have these worries or financial motivation. The truly special players are motivated by greatness and legacy. This is why (much as I don’t personally care for him) Kobe Bryant is the best in the game. He puts in the work on a level similar to the ’92 DT greats. You KNOW Larry, Magic, Michael, Pip ALWAYS came back year on year with something extra to their game. These days you don’t see that much at all. Iverson has the heart of a LION, but has he gotten better with time through intense summer workouts or just maturity added on top of a ridiculous skill set? And to answer the orginal question – nobody…NO BODY is beating the ’92 team. Do all the matchups you want, but when it comes down to it, a combination of Magic and Jordan and Bird beats anything you can put out there. ANYTHING.

  • http://www.thecrossovermovement.com B Mac

    The answers they seek are in a book titled Cross Over: The New Model for Youth Basketball Development. For more info, visit http://www.thecrossovermovement.com.

    An Academy, at least Sonny’s vision, meets the needs of only 40 players. What about the other thousands? The forty top players are the ones not being exploited for wealth; they are used, no doubt, but they get plenty of free stuff for their efforts (not the least of which is the double edge sword of fame and fortune at a young age). Its the other thousands which fuel this system who are taken advantage of because they have a dream and some slick talking shoe rep knows how to sell himself to the kid and his parents. Just look at the adidas phenom camps as evidence; $500+ travel expenses to “get ranked” as a 10 year old? However, very serious people convince parents of its importance. Please.

    Anyway, the book covers a lot more in detail.

  • Drew

    I still say the ’68 team I drew up would give them fits.

    Everyone forgets just how damn dominant Wilt was.
    And asking bill rusell to be a better version of Rodman and not worry about scoring is scary.

    Big O and Jerry West in the backcourt would be competitive with Jordan and Magic.
    Barkley vs Elgin would be awesome to see as well.

  • TrippleX

    My top 5: Nash, Gasol, Dirk, AK47 and Kobe.

  • http://isbasketballbroken Criz_Millz

    No its not but the all stars we have now are the Superstars from old,so to counter that u have to send good have working player thats scrappy and hard nose,not just All Stars that don’t know the meaning of the Dream Team,all the NBA stars need to read a book call Bound for Glory The Dream Team, its too many egos in the NBA now,The Dream Team had no egos NONE, and the NBA needs to adjust,make the NBA international rules and we will do better,i saw the world team looking for fouls from the refs, they are babied in the league now and its sad,very sad,let me pick the team and we will win no doubt and bring USA basketball gold back where it belongs,


    how is everybody writtin in ittalics

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