Is Basketball Broken?

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