NBA lost its soul in New York

Between awful basketball, lousy attitudes, a bad local team and an indifferent local team, the NBA lost its soul here in the Mecca of Basketball.

The NBA season started this week, and barely much of a buzz about it in New York City.

No one cares about the Knicks since they stunk for so long, and even with Kevin Durant coming back from an Achilles injury, no one cares about the Nets.

You can sense a buzz of a new baseball season and football season since fans are invested in their baseball and football teams. This has not been the case with basketball since 2013, the year the Knicks last made the playoffs. I know people that hate the NBA these days.

Who can blame them? Too many divas force their way out of town since they have the power to do so, and too many players join each other to create a super team. Most NBA players are hard to root for. Everyone just shoots 3s randomly when they have the ball, and no one plays defense. Not many players respect the game, either.

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Durant comes off so unlikeable in a sense he does not enjoy playing the game. One would think he would enjoy the moment of him coming back to play for the first time in 561 days. Instead, he came off surly and disinterested when asked about the questions about him coming back. It wasn’t a big deal for him.

How could fans relate to a player like that? Why would fans even want to root for a guy like that? In New York, fans want players to connect with them and share their passion for the city and the game. That’s the problem the Nets have. Durant is not a homegrown player, and he is not from here, so it’s hard for him to get New York fans, and vice versa. The same can be said about Kyrie Irving.

Homegrown players draw the attention of New York sports fans. Everyone loved the Mets in 1986 since most of those players on the roster were homegrown. We can say the same thing in 2015 when the Mets made their World Series run. The Yankees attracted everyone in town in the 90s because their homegrown players and role players played a role in the Yankees dynasty. People love the ‘94 Rangers and the Stanley Cup champion Devils since they were all homegrown players.

The Nets are a team full of mercenaries. Their homegrown players are nothing more than glorified role players at best. It’s hard for New York to embrace the Nets as a result. The Yankees built a team of mercenaries to keep the dynasty intact after 2001, and despite winning a championship in 2009, the Yankees fans never grew attached to those teams.

When the Nets acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to pair with the surly Deron Williams in an attempt to win a championship, no one cared here. Again, it comes down to this team getting mercenaries rather than homegrown players.

For the Nets to get a legitimate fanbase, this franchise needs to develop players and win with them. There has to be a connection between the fans and the homegrown players. No matter how many championships and exciting moments the Nets create with Irving and Durant, it won’t be the same. This city has no interest in the Nets whatsoever for a reason.

The Knicks offer no hope. They lack a franchise player. When Tom Thibodeau serves as the symbol of the franchise, that’s not good since he is only a head coach. The players should be representing, and from this roster, it’s full of rookies trying to establish themselves. Does anyone believe Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and others will transform the franchise? When Emmanuel Quickley offers hope for playing a good preseason game, that says nothing.

This troubled franchise shows no signs of ending a playoff drought anytime soon. It could get worse before it gets better. They played noncompetitively in their first two games of the season, which explains why they are 0-2. They may not be getting their first win anytime soon from watching those two games.

Nothing is entertaining about the Knicks, and fans caught on to them. As long as James Dolan owns the Knicks, look for more of the same with no hope in sight. I never thought he would destroy NBA basketball in town, but he did it, and that should be his epitaph once he passes away.

It used to be the Knicks were bigger than life as a kid growing up. They built civic momentum and communal pride back then. I remembered the Knicks would draw a rating of 20 in New York and they were the most popular team in town, even over the Yankees. This once-proud basketball team would garner front and back pages of New York tabloids. Either a fan was a Knicks fan or he or she was an outcast. There were no split loyalties.

The Nets can try their hardest to duplicate what the Knicks did in the 90s, but the problem is the Knicks served as the brand with a long history of success for four decades before the last two decades. They generated so many fans from that. The Nets don’t have fans, and it’s doubtful anyone is going to care about Durant and Irving no matter how many wins and championship banners they display.

Between awful basketball, lousy attitudes, a bad local team, and an indifferent local team, the NBA lost its soul here in the Mecca of Basketball.

The Upstate Courier is an owned and operated property of Rossiter Media Group.
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