Players in the NBA are the most recognizable of any athletes in any of the four major North American sports. The simple reason for this is their faces are constantly exposed and there are only 10 men on the court at any given time, so they have plenty of opportunities to be seen. The NBA’s latest 90-second pregame rule is just another step in the wrong direction for a league that needs more personality, not less.
The NBA has continued to make these changes in wake of the “Malice At The Palace”, where the league suffered terrible image problems. They started with a dress code, where players were expected to be in suits on the sideline. That rule has since softened, but it is still in effect. Another rule has been limiting how demonstrative players can be on the court. If they act out towards an official, they are immediately given a technical foul.
The newest rule is that pregame rituals are to only last 90 seconds in total. This isn’t about shortening games, it’s about stifling their personalities. These rituals aren’t taking anything away from the game. They aren’t dirty or offensive. They get the crowd and the players fired up. It’s horrible how the league continues to push the players away from these types of showings.
I think about how much fun the players have before games and how the rituals became part of the culture. Michael Jordan used to sprinkle powder on press row. LeBron James used to throw the powder into the air. His Cleveland Cavalier teams used to have awesome pregame “scenes”. Kevin Garnett has his quiet time at the base of the basket. There are numerous others, but the point is, they’re fun, and they shouldn’t go away.
It’s a touchy issue and the league would vehemently deny it, but it’s a bunch of old white guys making rules for a predominantly young black league.
I’m not saying players should be allowed to complain every single play, but some of that needs to be allowed. Players need to vent and need to get their emotions out instead of keeping them in. All professional sports are extremely emotional and the players need an outlet.
So David Stern, if you’re listening, let the players be themselves. Let them show us their personalities. It’s why we watch.
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