SBJ/June 20-26, 2011/Opinion

Can NBA’s momentum withstand a lockout?

The NBA has not been the focus of such conversation, both in the mainstream and in the sports industry, since MJ hit his game-winning shot over Bryon Russell in the Finals of June 1998. Whether it was the “hate” of the Heat or the appeal of today’s top stars — on and off the court — people are talking and watching NBA basketball. That is supported by economic highs for all league revenue — but, yes, the game could really shut down.

Virtually no one you talk to believes the league won’t shutter for some of its next season, and as we hear and understand about a broken economic model and system, it still is remarkable to think that such smart men as David Stern, Billy Hunter, Adam Silver and others could see it come to that and stop all the momentum in the game. Villains are good for leagues, and the Heat played the role well. But does the league become the villain if it shuts down? And will the Heat and other strong story lines be forgotten after a nasty NBA lockout?

We all remember the fallout from the 1998 lockout and the years (and good fortune) it has taken for the league to hit all-time economic highs. Does the NBA really want to return to that and force itself to dig out of that deep hole once again?

HBO’s newest documentary, “McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice” shows why HBO Sports was one of the nominees for Best in Sports Television at last month’s Sports Business Awards. It still puzzles me why people questioned HBO as a finalist. I heard all the arguments about why it shouldn’t be: “They don’t do enough sports,” or “How can they be compared to the big networks that produce so much more?” To me, the honor was a nod to the quality of the group’s work. From “Hard Knocks” to its “24/7” effort around the NHL Winter Classic, HBO Sports delivers at a high level, and its programming crosses over to the mainstream.

If you’re interested in tennis or in the two riveting personalities of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, you must check out this latest offering. From telling the story of how their friendship formed to showing images I’ve never seen before and relating details of Borg’s fascinating yet mysterious “final” walk off the court before the awards ceremony at the 1981 U.S. Open (a day I’ll never forget), it is captivating programming.

On the opposite page, you’ll find a solid read about the state of MLS from a friend and former colleague, Ben Grossman. Many of you know Ben as the astute editor-in-chief of the media trade Broadcasting & Cable. Not many of you probably know that Ben started his career as a staff writer for SportsBusiness Daily before moving on to work for an MLS team. He has a strong and deep knowledge of the game and is one of its best advocates.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.
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