Once a league framed around team chemistry and building comradery to succeed, the NBA has rapidly evolved in to a merry-go-round of player movement and it is killing the essence of the game.
The NBA has always been an association centred around its superstars – they become the face of the team they represent, fight through good times and bad, but most of all, develop tight two-way bonds with the fans in that city.
Recent retirees Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant – known as ‘lifers’ – stuck with one NBA team for the entire duration of their careers (21 and 22 years).
Their final games in front of their home crowds were unlike anything I had ever seen in sport before.
Every shot they made had the crowd erupting like it was a game winner, followed by a seemingly endless ovation post-game, accompanied with tears from both player and the fans.
They were unforgettable moments that meant so much to both parties, I mean, they both went through so much together; doubt, heartbreak, frustration, uncertainty, glory. Twenty-plus years of experiences shared. They connected.
Fast-forward to today’s NBA landscape, where stars are constantly ridiculed every day on social media.
Pressure mounts on a select bunch of players like no other players have been exposed to before.
Now, time and time again, players are leaving or demanding trades from their teams to the point it is becoming normalised among the league to avoid scrutiny or prove ‘haters’ wrong.
NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, believes a lot of players in the league today are “genuinely unhappy”, directly blaming social media.
Silver compares team engagement today with teams of the 1980s, stating that on plane rides the team once had no other option but to communicate, play games and form bonds.
“(But) if you’re around a team in this day and age, their headphones are in and they’re isolated. They’re head down,” he said.
Players are unhappier than ever before, leading to constant team changes year in, year out.
How can fans ever experience connections like they had with Dirk or Kobe again if this trend continues?
The NBA is losing its emotional connection with fans – and something must be done about it before we lose all emotional ties.