Opinion Sports Columns

Unlocking the NBA Lockout

Terrence Payne

Sports Editor

NBA summer, now fall, has been a lot of labor talks. It’s been back and forth with little progress. The latest Tuesday afternoon/evening meeting made the slightest movement towards a resolution.

But still, the NBA has already canceled the preseason. Regular season games are next to go.

Now that’s the bad news from the NBA since the lockout began in July.

To be honest, I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the labor negotiations. Not because I’m not an economics major, but because like many NBA fans, I’ve still been able to watch basketball.

Throughout the summer, almost like a cult follower, fans have attended, streamed or seen highlights of NBA superstars playing in small gymnasiums playing for Pro-Am teams across the country.

It’s been sort of a renaissance in a way. This summer has been ugly, but some NBA superstars have shown the simplicity of the game: 10 guys, two hoops, one court and a ball, and you’ve got a game. And that’s exactly what they’ve shown.

Guys like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant especially have taken their talents to small gymnasiums, three or four times smaller than the arenas they play in during the 82-game regular season.

Durant has been the king of summer ball the past few years. He led a young, inexperienced USA team to win the gold medal at the World Championships in Turkey last summer. This summer, Durant has been up and down the East Coast, from New York to Baltimore to Washington D.C. to North Carolina, playing in whatever game will have him.

Like all great ballplayers, Durant shined at the famed Rucker Park in New York City on Aug. 2. The Thunder forward went off for 66 points. After the game, Durant posted this on Twitter:

“No lie, jus had one of the best times of my life at Rucker park…wow! I love NY…Harlem waddup.”

It’s like Durant had all the memories of his playing days on the playgrounds rush back to him.

Durant, with the help of other superstars and summer leagues, like D.C.’s Goodman League and Los Angeles’ Drew League, has sparked a sort of underground cult-like basketball league.

Just last week, a group of players from Philadelphia (Team Philly) took on Team Melo (Anthony, James and Paul) in Philly. On Oct. 15, Team Philly will take on Durant’s Goodman League team.

Last week, James, Paul, Anthony, Durant, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and others played in Paul’s CP3 Foundation All-Star Game, most of them having played days before in Philly.

No one has needed this summer more than James. After being heavily scrutinized for “The Decision” and coming up short in the late game situations in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, James needed to win his critics over. And this summer, I think he’s doing it.

Like Durant, he’s playing in games across the country, for charity, yet still playing hard. During the Team Melo-Team Philly game, James even showed off the post-game he’s been working on; the same post-game that was absent during the Finals.

After the year he’s had, it’s nice to see James attempt to revamp his image.

Now, I’m not all on the players’ side here. They have to make a huge compromise if they want to play this year. However, it’s been reported that several owners are okay with not having a season. But it’s clear that the players want to play.

This summer has had its share of headaches, with more to come. But through it all the players are showing they want to play. This summer has provided them a chance to relive their youth, when they first fell in love with the game.

Terrence Payne may be reached at tpayne2@springfieldcollege.edu

Leave a Reply