How to Save the NBA: A plan to reboot an infuriating league

While NBA fan culture eagerly accommodates the free market fluidity of team rosters across the country, the flaws exposed in the current system call into question whether professional basketball will ever reach the global popularity that soccer has. Although the American basketball fan’s willingness to pledge loyalty regardless of team results echoes European notions of civic pride and fanaticism, the American sports fan’s commitment to its hometown teams lacks the depth of investment that it could have if the players that they cheered for were actually products of their respective communities or geographical regions.

Although the NBA thrives as it currently exists (for lack of a viable alternative), one issue cannot be denied: the dilution of talent distributed across 30 teams makes the NBA ticket less valuable than the league would have fans believe. The unpredictability of injuries and the fatigue that naturally sets in over the course of a long season makes it less possible for NBA teams to guarantee a high quality product every night, especially with success hinging upon so few star players on a team. NBA organizations’ attempt to supplement the live game experience with music, side attractions and t-shirt guns. However, paying NBA ticket holders would much rather feel like they were getting their money’s worth on the court.

The NBA exemplifies how capitalism has wedged between collective consciousness and the individualistic American dream (ignoring the legitimate argument that the collective consciousness is individualism). When witnessing success, sports fans are quick to embrace the players who represent their teams and can be just as dismissive when those same players fail, while maintaining their allegiance to the organization that the city is stuck with. The fickle attitude toward players that NBA fans sometimes carry stems from the limited connection that players have to the communities they represent.

But imagine an NBA where the fans could embrace their teams’ players as their own because they actually were. Imagine a league where teams, even when outmatched in talent, channeled their pride into a gutsy performance that even casual fans could respect. And imagine an NBA that had teams whose playoffs would not be ruined by 1 or 2 injuries.

The full implications may be challenging to ponder in an instant. Fortunately, Marz Daily Media has done the heavy lifting. So in this edition of The Weekender, Marz Daily Media presents The NBA Premier League!

Before we begin…

Roster basics:

  • American players may sign with their hometown’s regional team or their college town’s regional team. If neither team signs a player, the player may play for either region’s NBA Development League team
  • Players who wish to play outside of the home or college region must forfeit 1 full year of NBA Premier League eligibility while becoming a resident of the new region. The moving player may redshirt before participating in Premier League play (example: LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach would have required a 1-year delay)
  • International players, who did not attend an American college, may sign with any team, or be acquired via International Draft

What the 2011-2012 NBA Premier League Would Have Looked Like

The NBA Premier League consists of two conferences, each with two divisions. Each team has acquired players from their respective hometown or college town regions, as shown below. The asterisk (*) denotes international players who have been added to the rosters via an Executive Committee of one (ME!).

Colonial Conference – Northern Division

 

Boston Celtics

Region: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine

Roster: Dirk Nowitzki*, Emeka Okafor, Jeremy Lin, Matt Bonner, Marcus Camby, A.J. Price, Jared Dudley, Isiaiah Thomas, Ryan Gomes, Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Williams, Ersan Ilyasova*, Hedo Turkoglu*

Indiana Pacers

Region: Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee

Roster: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley,Andrea Bargnani*, Shawn Marion, Kevin Martin, Michael Redd, Jeff Teague, Josh McRoberts, Eric Gordon, Gordon Hayward, Johan Petro*

New York Knicks

Region: New York

Roster: Metta World Peace, Lamar Odom, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Elton Brand, Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Andray Blatche, Devin Ebanks, Manu Ginobili*, Steve Nash*

Philadelphia 76ers

Region: Pennsylvania, New Jersey

Roster: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, J.R. Smith, Kyrie Irving, DeJuan Blair, Tyreke Evans, Anderson Varejao*, Al Harrington, David West, Kenneth Faried, Richard Hamilton, Hakim Warrick, Kyle Lowry, Samuel Dalembert

Colonial Conference – Southern Division

Atlanta Heat

Region: Florida, Georgia

Roster: Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, Josh Smith, Louis Williams, JJ Barea, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Luis Scola*, Mikael Pietrus*, MarShon Brooks, Jose Calderon*, Derrick Favors, James Jones, Al-Farouq Aminu

Charlotte Hornets

Region: North Carolina, South Carolina

Roster: Chris Paul, John Wall, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Ramon Sessions, Anthony Morrow, Raymond Felton, Stephen Curry, Josh Howard, Antawn Jamison, Jermaine O’Neal, Nicolas Batum*, Danilo Gallinari*

New Orleans Jazz

Region: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi

Roster: Al Jefferson, DeMarcus Cousins, Monta Ellis, Paul Millsap, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass, Glen Davis, Mo Williams, Danny Granger, Eric Bledsoe, Ben Wallace, Tony Parker*, Rodrigue Beaubois*, Boris Diaw*

Washington Wizards

Region: Washington, DC., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware

Roster: Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Ty Lawson, Grant Hill, J.J. Redick, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Delonte West, Ian Mahinmi*, Marcin Gortat*, Jarrett Jack, Gary Neal

Pioneer Conference – Eastern Division

Chicago Bulls

Region: Illinois

Roster: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala, Iman Shumpert, Shannon Brown, Anthony Parker, Quentin Richardson, Nikola Pekovic*, Timofey Mozgov*, Nazr Mohammed, Juwan Howard, Corey Maggette, Evan Turner, Tony Allen

Kansas City Kings

Region: Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wyoming, Colorado

Roster: Chauncey Billups, Joe Johnson, Ricky Rubio*, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Tyler Hansbrough, Brandon Rush, Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer, Ekpe Udoh, Kelenna Azubuike, Josh Harellson, Maurice Evans, Jan Vesely*

Minnesota Timberwolves

Region: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota

Roster: Carl Landry, Devin Harris, Steve Novak, Goran Dragic*, Al Horford, Wilson Chandler, Chris Kaman, Jason Richardson, Willie Green, Javale McGee, Shane Battier

San Antonio Spurs

Region: Texas

Roster: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Deron Williams, Kenyon Martin, DeAndre Jordan, Stephen Jackson, Anthony Randolph, Kendrick Perkins, Rashard Lewis, Wesley Johnson, C.J. Miles, Gerald Green, D.J. Augustin, Marco Belinelli*, Omri Casspi*

Pioneer Conference – Western Division

Los Angeles Clippers

Region: California

Roster: Russell Westbrook, Paul Pierce, Tyson Chandler, Nene*, Baron Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Jrue Holiday, Arron Afflalo, Nick Young, DeMar DeRozan, Matt Barnes, Trevor Ariza, Omer Asik*

Oakland Warriors

Region: California

Roster: Jason Kidd, Brandon Jennings, Andre Miller, Brook Lopez, Dorell Wright, Josh Childress, Ryan Anderson, DeShawn Stevenon, Chuck Hayes, Robin Lopez, Austin Daye, Thabo Sefolosha*, Andris Biedrins*

Phoenix Suns

Region: California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Hawaii

Roster: Pau Gasol*, Gilbert Arenas, James Harden, Richard Jefferson, Lou Amundson, Channing Frye, Chase Budinger, C.J. Watson, Jeff Pendergraph, Jerryd Bayless, Kawhi Leonard, Beno Udrih*

Portland Trailblazers

Region: Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana

Roster: Kevin Love, Carlos Boozer, Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Luke Ridnour, Avery Bradley, Nate Robinson, Rodney Stuckey, Spencer Hawes, Mike Dunleavy, Martell Webster, Klay Thompson, Darko Milicic*, Carlos Delfino*

You might be wondering…

Q: Only 16 teams?! What about all those good players that don’t get on teams?

A: In the interest of guaranteeing the most elite talent, this cutoff will ensure that each team only has exceptional depth. The vast regions that some of these teams cover also leaves room in other regional markets to have spectacular talent in this alternate universe’s NBA Development League.

While the contraction to 16 teams seems like it would leave a lot of players out in the cold, the more competitive roster selection allows basketball fans who live too far from their regional NBA team to make shorter trips see players that they followed all through high school and college as they try to get called up by the big show. Cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Seattle (without Premier League teams) would generate ticket revenue for their D-League games thanks to diehard U of Michigan, Ohio State, and U of Washington fans. The entire region stands to gain through job creation and access to live basketball that is still quite good.

And let’s face it: with 30 NBA teams that can sign 15 players (only 9 of whom actually play), the system is clearly broken when high school basketball programs have better attendance than games featuring NBA hopefuls. More crudely, no one wants to watch real-world D-League basketball. It’s worse than the WNBA. Seriously.

Q: Since international players did not grow up in America, can they just get traded and go wherever they want whenever they want?

A: No. Once an international player signs to a team, they become a resident of the team’s state. Such residency makes the player subject to the same terms of mobility as any American player, meaning they, too, would have to sit out an entire year in a new team’s region before returning to action.

Q: What about this Bizarro D-League? Can redshirting players play for those minor league affiliates during their waiting period?

A: Yes! Teams that sign players from another region may place their acquired players on their minor league roster. It is of the opinion that the Executive Committee that such an allowance will help organizations generate a buzz in minor league markets (thus boosting ticket sales in those areas) as well as keep their newly acquired players from getting too rusty without in-game experience.

Q: How many games will be played in this league per season?

A: 40, not including playoffs. 40 games is enough for 16 teams to play division rivals 4 times, non-divisional conference teams 3 times, and non-conference teams twice. I defy anyone to tell me that an 82 game season in today’s game is conducive to a consistently high-quality product.

Q: These regions will not solve the small market vs. big market problems concerning revenue generation and competitive player compensation. With so many great players on teams, will players be able to make the huge salaries that they make in the real world?

A: Maybe not, but and here’s the bright side: no salary cap. Players can negotiate their contracts based on the cost of living in their region, ticket sales and merchandise.

Team revenue (and, in turn, player salaries) can increase even more with the introduction of sponsor jerseys. If players have to have Aaron’s, Kohl’s, or Publix across their chest to keep up with the Knicks or Lakers, then organizations have every right to exercise that option.

Q: Is any of this even remotely possible?

A: Of course not, unless the Men In Black locate all of the rich people involved in the sports industry, show them the flashy thingy, and tell them that they actually care about the health of the sport and the communities that basketball serves….so…yeahhh.

Afterword

Anyone reading this article should understand that, in doing all this work, I Love This Big Game Where Fantastic Happens. But the NBA’s flaws make clear that the role money plays in sports damages the integrity of competition, team spirit, and the public interest. Sports writer Bill Simmons has suggested several interesting and entertaining ideas to improve the NBA, which are more actionable than the NBA Premier League, but equally as unlikely (alas).

I appreciate all of the people who are still reading for humoring this outlandish concept that will only be fodder for basketball geeks like me. For those of you out there who are sick and tired of injuries, greedy agents, and idiotic team management so drastically altering the game we love, I dedicate this post to you.

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