As 2020 comes to a close many find themselves looking at the year that was, making goals for the near future, or some combination of the two. For the NBA, this New Year’s Eve comes at a weird time. Usually, at this point of the season, the NBA season feels like it’s just starting and the players are really in mid-season form. This year, the NBA season is really just starting and the players feel like they’re in pre-season form. Usually, after a long football season, casual NBA fans are approaching the game after a long summer and fall off. Now, after a long football season, casual NBA fans are back after just a two-month hiatus.
Either way, a new calendar year offers a chance for resolutions. Specifically, New Year’s helps us decide what things need to “be gone,” for things to “keep on,” and for things to get “turned on.” For an individual, this can look like
- Caring what other people think? Be gone.
- Eating a salad each day? Keep on.
- Investing in that passion project? Turn it on.
It’s time for the NBA to make its New Year’s Resolutions. With 2020 finally behind us, 2021 offers a new opportunity for the entire league. But what does that look like for the NBA? What needs to “be gone, “keep on” and “turn on” in a league of 30 teams, 500 players, and millions of fans? Let’s see…
Be Gone: Hating on the NBA Youth
The NBA has as strong a set of “underclassmen” as it has ever had. Specifically, in last year’s NBA All-Star game, 12 of the 25 total players were 25-years-old or younger. For reference as t how young that is: a 25-year-old was born after Michael Jordan had started playing baseball. These kids were born in a world post-OJ Bronco chase. American Online (AOL), and thus easily accessible internet, is older than half of the NBA All-Stars last season.
At age 25, LeBron James was still in Cleveland and had never had a televised Decision. Michael Jordan lost to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals the first time. Wilt Chamberlain averaged more than 48 minutes per game for the Philadelphia Warriors at age 25, but he was still five years away from his first championship. They each did well in the NBA, to say the very least.
These guys deserve a chance to grow into their best selves. It’s ok that Luka Doncic has poor shooting percentages in clutch moments at 21-years-old. That Jayson Tatum has the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals twice in three seasons is great, even if they haven’t won it. It’s Ok that Nikola Jokic is a little out of shape to start seasons and is learning how to take care of his body.
The NBA is in good hands. Go back and watch the way LeBron James played at 25 versus when he was 30. Go look at ways 25-year-old James Harden scored and compare that him leading the league in scoring the last three seasons. Steph Curry was making his first All-Star game at age 25… and now he’s a three-time champion and historic, game-changing guard. Give the youth time. Stop looking at all they can’t do, and enjoy what they can.
Keep On: Elam Ending of the NBA All-Star Game
An Elam Ending is when, instead of ending the game with a clock, there is a set score. Dr. Nick Elam’s magic number was seven, and he figured (mathematically) that if the winning team could score eight points in the last four minutes they won the vast majority of their games. In an Elam ending, at the first dead-ball in the last few minutes, a target score is set by adding eight points to the higher score. So if it’s 80-74, the target score is 88. First team to 88 wins. Thus, intentionally fouling hurts your chances of winning because instead of extending the game you’re shortening it.
In the NBA All-Star Game, Adam Silver instituted a full Elam quarter. The game was initially set to add a target score of 35 more than the leading score after three-quarters of play but, in honor of the Kobe Bryant, the score was adjusted to 24. At the end of the third quarter, Team Giannis led 133-124, but Team LeBron was the first to 157.
The fourth quarter, and the race to 157, was one of the best quarters of basketball that has ever been played. While it did still end with Anthony Davis at the free-throw line, the game was back to its roots. The NBA All-Star game is supposed to be the world’s best pickup game: free-flowing offenses, tough competitors, and the most talented basketball players For at least a quarter, that’s exactly what it was.
Turn it On: Expansion of the NBA
Seattle’s Sonics were stolen in 2008. Tampa Bay is hosting an NBA team this year. Las Vegas has added an NFL and NHL team in the last three years. If the NBA were to add franchises in Seattle and Las Vegas and move two teams from the West to the East, several things balance out.
The playoffs are officially the top half of the league because eight of the 16 teams in both conferences would make the playoffs. In the same vein as the NFL, conferences could be split into four equal divisions. Perhaps most importantly, the NBA gets two additional markets of fans. Two more regions get a team to cheer for and a way to see the NBA Stars come through town in person. Let’s get this rolling in the new year.
Be Gone: The Grey NBA Warm-Ups
Since the Nike x NBA Jersey Deal, the hooded warm-ups have been a hit. They add a level of swag to the pregame festivities that Reebok and Adidas lacked. They make the warm-up sweatsuit fashionable, and every NBA team has had some version of it each year.
This season, every team has at least two different warm-ups. One is the team color. The Knicks wear blue, the Celtics green, etc. The other? Every team has a dull, grey warm-up.
On some level, I get it. After checking my closet, I currently have five “different” grey sweatshirts. They go with everything. But what the NBA is doing is taking the different styles out of the game. The Grey warm-ups have an NBA logo at the left chest, above a Nike swoosh. The team name is down the right sleeve, black and white team logos down the right. The zipper accents as a black stripe up the middle.
And yes, because of their muted nature they all look exactly alike.
This is an awful experiment, and it appears lazy. It’s as if the Nike x NBA Reps were short on time and came up with some short-sighted uniform for every team. And in a shortened NBA off-season?.. That may be exactly what happened. Prove me wrong, Nike. Give us something else.
Keep On: NBA and WNBA Kobe Tributes
The Kobe Bryant Memoriam tour needs to continue. After Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and their close friends and teammates died in a tragic accident last January the NBA has been a long, continuous homage to Ko8e B2y4nt. Bryant was a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but we continue to talk about things he was adding to the game after his career was over.
Bryant worked with girls’ youth teams in the LA area as well as college and professional women’s ballers like number one WNBA Draft pick Sabrina Ionescu. His most famous, last courtside appearance unintentionally launched the Orange Hoodie campaign. Bryant’s work as a player was well documented but, as fans, we did get 20 years of that. We have those tapes, players share those stories. What we really lost out on was his support of the WNBA and the growth of the game across the globe. That was the work he was just getting started on, and the work we as basketball fans need to keep on working on.
On UP: Alternate NBA Jerseys
As much as the second warm-up is bad, the new and different alternates annually has been a fun part of the Nike x NBA deal. Much like English Premier League teams, Nike has rolled out a single new alternate jersey each season. The “City” edition uniforms may be similar each season (see Miami “Vice” uniforms), but they are never exactly the same.
At this point, why are we stopping at just four uniforms per team? Each NBA team has an Association, Icon, Statement, and City edition uniform. The Association jersey is usually white, the Icon is usually a team color. The Statement adds some flavor that the players like, and this year has a Jordan Brand Jumpman logo. The City edition represents the community somehow, either thematically or with a nickname. But why stop there? Why not add a Legendary edition throwback? Or a Remix edition that combines several? Why not tie in holidays (LIKE CHRISTMAS!)?
Nike: this would be a chance to really show off the creativity. The Nike x NBA relationship has shown that they can adjust to new uniforms each year. When LeBron James and the Heatles had nearly a dozen different uniforms, Adidas sold all of them. Why are we selling ourselves short here, Nike? Roll out more alternates. Turn it up!