Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
I’m sure there are more than a few NBA fans that are angry at the league right now. Laker fans are probably seething that they don’t have Chris Paul because of a veto from the league, which then caused them to trade away a key part of their team, Lamar Odom, because he was unhappy with the trade. Knick fans are probably angry that, after years of tanking, they seem unlikely to add a top tier superstar as Tyson Chandler’s signing leaves no cap room for Chris Paul. Hornet and Magic fans are probably furious that the players they’ve been rooting for since they were drafted are doing everything they can to get out of town before Christmas Day. NBA fans as a whole are probably disappointed that they’ll only get 66-games this season rather than 82 because of a lockout that lasted way too long and seemingly solved little.
And we all have a right to be. The NBA has dragged its fans through the mud over the past few months and everybody that enjoys the game of basketball should be upset at the league for the many problems, new or old, it has.
But I beg you, don’t let any of that effect your view of this upcoming season. Even if you are a Hornet fan that is about to see the best point guard of this generation leave town after six seasons with the team, don’t stop watching. Even if you have been Dwight Howard’s biggest supporter over the last few years, fighting off critics who criticize his lowpost game left and right with Synergy numbers, don’t stop watching the NBA because he just orchestrated his way out of town. Even if you are a Laker fan that may finally see the demise of a great core group of players, don’t let that pain stop you from enjoying the game of basketball.
Because the game of basketball is back, folks. And for all its flaws, it is such a beautiful game. The passion, the emotion, the athleticism, the pride, the honor, the talent. Basketball, at least in my mind, isn’t matched by any other sport when it comes to those things. The intensity of the games, the players and even the fans can move one to tears unexpectedly. It has been said before but it deserves repeating: the NBA is in a golden age of talent right now and we are seeing some one of a kind players take the floor each and every night. The league and its system may be broken, but the players are not.
Except for two, that is.
There are two players that are broken. Now former NBA stars, there are two guys that will not be returning to the hardwood this season after no more than six seasons worth of basketball.
Brandon Roy and Yao Ming won’t be playing basketball this season, and that is incredibly sad.
Both guys are ultimate professionals. Tremendous human beings. Class acts on and off the court. Supremely talented. They were two players that had all of the intangibles to be faces of the NBA. There was no arrogance, no selfishness, no complaining. There was simply hard work, dedication and love for the game.
They were both up against the odds from the beginning. Brandon Roy’s knees were never meant for basketball, it seems. After tearing his meniscus, Roy battled the injury and got himself all the way back to an all-star level of play. Only to have it torn down again when he re-injured his knee. Again, Roy would fight back to get onto the court before his knees gave out again. After six knee surgeries Roy was informed that he had zero knee cartilage left. If he attempted to play again only to damage his knee further, his ability to walk would be in danger.
This diagnosis was the end of the line for Roy, who announced that he would be retiring for medical reasons just a few days ago.
Roy was such an incredibly fun player to watch. He was never an explosive athlete, which is evident by his knee issues, so he came into the league having to make the same adjustments to his game that Kobe started making a couple of seasons ago. He had to play on the ground at a position associated with high flyers. But he never disappointing. He was a basketball version of a five-tool player. He could score, shoot, pass, rebound and defend. Perhaps he was never a top five player in the NBA but he was definitely a superstar.
What was once one of the very best basketball memories of my lifetime – Roy’s heroic, uplifting and miraculous 23-point comeback against the Mavs in the playoffs last season – is now incredibly saddening. While it is great to know that Roy’s final home game of his career ended like that, watching him dominate a game like that makes you wonder what could have been for the 27-year old Roy. It makes you wish there was still one season left in him. Selfishly, I bet we all want Roy back on the court this season, just to see if he can prove to us all one more time how great he is.
Yao Ming, on the other hand, never faced limitations like Roy did, his greatest strength was also his greatness weakness. At seven-foot-six and nearly 300 pounds, Ming’s body was pushed to its limits each time he was on the floor. The human body wasn’t meant to be that size and running up and down the floor and jumping around with the incredible athletes the league has too offer took a huge toll on him. Ming’s lower body got the worst, having to support his large frame in such a physically demanding sport. Eventually, after several ankle and foot injuries, Ming decided to retire during the lockout.
Just like Roy, Ming had a desire to get back on the floor each time he was faced with a setback. And we all eagerly awaited his return, no matter how brief it would be. Here’s a player that could make $10 million a season simply by going out on the floor and being tall, but loved the game too much to cheat it like that. Ming was the most refined big man perhaps of all-time. His passing was incredible, his post moves were precise, his jumpshot was accurate, making him a nearly impossible player to contain. And he finished his career with an 83% free throw conversion rate. If Ming were a foot shorter his skills are good enough to make him a starting wing in the NBA – and he’d probably have better health, as well.
Ming was well on his way to becoming one of the greatest big men to have ever played in the NBA with his skillset and determination. Again, it is just saddening to have to say goodbye to one of the game’s greatest people, a true gentle giant, well before he should have moved on. Ming is an incredible ambassador for the game and someone that has done so much for the sport in China. That said, I think most NBA fans would rather him be back on the floor at the Toyota Center this year then running a basketball team in his homeland.
With two of the NBA’s best players gone for good as we enter into the 2011-2012 season, I ask all of you not to take this NBA season for granted. Despite the league’s shortcomings, don’t let them get in the way of the on-court product.
Think about it. We may be just one powerful dunk followed by another awkwardly landing away from Blake Griffin not being able to to replicate his special rookie season. Or one freak accident away from Chris Paul’s knees suffering yet another structurally damaging injury. Or one awkward landing away from Dwyane Wade ceasing to become Flash and having to adapt to his role as Robin instead. Or one broken finger away from Kobe having to adjust to being left-handed.
There is way too much brilliance in the NBA to let system issues ruin it. The league may be totally screwed up as it’s constructed but the players are not. And I implore you to enjoy the NBA as much as you can before someone else’s career is tragically cut short and you find yourself wishing you hadn’t missed a second of the action.