If you’re like me, an NBA fan — one who’s not bent on pondering all the oh so deep meanings of LeBron James’s soul-searching, self-deprecating, self-loathing What Should I Do? ad for Nike — the answer is simple: watch more ball.
Certainly, plenty tuned in TNT’s coverage of the new-fangled Miami Heat against the retooled defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics.
Indeed, the South Beach drama surrounding pro hoops’ erstwhile King and his new running mates D-Wade and Chris Bosh played a lot bigger than the Heat’s lineup, which opened with a loss before 7.43 million national TV witnesses. That was the most ever for an NBA regular-season game on cable, wiping away the 7.27 million drawn by a couple fair ballplayers known by the monikers of Air Jordan and Magic, back on Feb. 2, 1996.
For its part, ESPN is putting on a full court press of shoulder programming, with interviews and the like leading into the Heat’s first home game Friday night — LeCon and crew take on Comcast’s favorite, NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in the Wachovia Center — when they host the other top Eastern Conference contender, Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic.
That one also figures to draw a big audience, as the NBA tips off the 2010-11 season, its most-anticipated campaign in years, one that will spotlight the “next” player, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, the youngest scoring champion in league history and the man who helped Team USA capture the World Championship in Turkey.
Still, it’s ultimately all about whether the Heat, the Cs, or the Magic will play the foil for Kobe as he looks to eclipse Magic’s five crowns in LA and match Mike’s six, while sending Phil Jackson off with his second Lakers’ three-peat and 12th title overall.
However The Finals play out on ABC next June, it might be the last bit of pro ball fans get to see for a spell. NBA commissioner David Stern said league owners lost upward of $350 million during last season, and the ink will only be slightly less red this time around. Stern is tossing around the C word — contraction — as he talks about the players having to give back some $800 million of the $2.1 billion they collectively earned in the 2009-10 campaign.
Can’t imagine the players are down with that math lesson. Can anybody be see NBA history repeating, circa 1999?
Which brings me back to the question, What Should You Do? Turner Sports president David Levy said the programmer has contingency plans if the NBA air balls any or all of next season. That may be somewhat comforting to Time Warner’s board, TNT’s advertisers and affiliates But if you’re like me, an NBA fan, I suggest you heed the advice of colleague Tom Umstead and watch more ball and enjoy it while you still can.