And they said it couldn't happen ...
This week, speculation over an NBA team in Las Vegas has once again reached a fevered pitch.
As I wrote about a couple of months ago, a developer is eyeing the former site of the Wet N' Wild Waterpark to build a new stadium, and that stadium will be called the "Silver State Arena".
For the most part, the general consensus has been that the arena was nothing more than an ill-conceived pipe dream, but this week brings news that the developer has already inked a contract with an NBA team. I'm not sure if the developer is lying his ass off or not, but this is his story and he is sticking to it. The stadium folks are declining to say which particular team is on the hook, but media speculation is that the team could be the Detroit Pistons since they are currently for sale.
Of course, the team contract is contingent upon the new stadium being built.
Frankly, I'm not quite sure what to make of all this. To me, it seems rather far fetched that anyone would bring a professional sports team to a dying city, but we already have two gigantic monuments due to overconfidence on the North Strip, so it's not as though a third would come as a great shock to anyone.
I've been over the stadium issue before, and my position has not really wavered. While it would be a great thing from a selfish perspective to have a stadium built in my backyard, I do not think that Las Vegas will support a professional sports team, and from a business perspective, I think it is a horrendous idea. There is no demand from local citizens for a team, and the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy no longer applies to this town.
Lack of fan support is not the only thing that concerns me about the stadium, however.
One of the stadium proposals seeks a sales and use tax of .8% in "special tax "districts". I am strongly against any sort of public financing for a private endeavor such as an arena.
Lastly, I'm just not 100% sure if the NBA is such a legitimate force that it should be pursued so vigorously.
I suppose my opinion used to be a little different.
In my lifetime I have attended many NBA games. Hell, I was such an enthusiastic spectator at one point that I paid more than I should have to be at the very first Bullets (I detest the name Wizards) game played in the MCI Center ... now the Verizon Center. I didn't start vehemently hating NBA basketball until two things occurred:
1) I moved to Los Angeles and found myself awash in bandwagon posebags at every game
2) I witnessed the 2002 Western Conference Finals
Number one was irritating; number two was a real eye opener and turning point. At least for me.
I stopped watching NBA games after Mike Bibby's broken nose fouled Kobe Bryant's elbow. It was just beyond ridiculous. I felt like a professional wrestling fan.
Although it sounds like an overblown reaction, that really was the last full NBA game I watched either in person or on television. My non-patronage of the league wasn't done loudly or with some big f**k you drama, I just quietly ignored it from that point forward. I could no longer watch the games with any enthusiasm. They just didn't do anything for me anymore.
NBA games are more or less a free throw shooting contest now, and defense is not allowed; making for a somewhat mundane game. The referees are far too integrated into the contest, and players actually play for foul shots instead of trying to avoid them.
I played basketball until I was in my late teens/early 20's, but "back in the day" the hand was part of the ball. If someone could touch your hand, then you had no business taking the shot. You had not worked your way open enough to shoot.
In my opinion, on the professional level ... if you dribble into a situation in which you are likely to get fouled, then you shouldn't get the call. Dribbling into a crowd is a risk and you took it. Risky shots shouldn't be rewarded with foul shots. Work your way open or take your chances. Even in High School we would have been embarrassed to accept the phantom fouls they hand out in the NBA.
These days, the league keeps a star player's numbers up in order to keep his jersey sales high. If a highly marketable player misses a shot, then they send him to the line to pad his stats.
Hell, the league doesn't even attempt to hide outright favoritism anymore.
A common refrain from color commentators these days is "Kobe is going to get that call every time in the Staples Center", and that just goes to prove that the game is not completely on the up-and-up. In a 100% legitimate competition, everyone should get the same call ... regardless of who they are and where they are playing. These days, you basically have referees protecting the corporate marketing machine, and the game is but a shell of its former self. It's a gigantic advertisement and money-making vehicle. It's professional wrestling with lip gloss and an orange ball.
I think the importance of the game (throwing a sphere into a cylinder) is overblown, and I think the necessity of such a franchise to a municipality is specious at best.
Than again, I highly doubt that anyone applies this much thought to a freaking game.
Anyway, for the first time I can remember, it looks as though Las Vegas has a real and tangible shot at getting a professional basketball team.
Instead of buying foreclosed real estate in Nevada, now may be a good time to invest in foam fingers.
Even if the team never materializes, you'll still make a better return.