Suppose you bought a gift online and what you received was entirely different than what you expected. Luckily, most places will let you return it. Yes, it’s a hassle, but at least you’re able to get your money back.
The same can’t be said for professional sports.
Let’s face it. As fans, we look over the schedule looking to see what teams or players will be coming to town.
If it’s the NBA, fans look to see when LeBron James, Russell Westbrook or Steph Curry will be visiting. If you love the NFL, you probably have Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers or Odell Beckham Jr. circled on the calendar.
This isn’t a secret by any means, which is why “superstar” ticket packages have been created and are always a hot ticket item.
But that is exactly why fans want their money back.
The Cleveland Cavaliers — the reigning 2016 NBA champions — took on the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night and it wasn’t a memorable night for the home crowd. Although Memphis ended up winning the game, the fans came to see “the Big 3” — LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving — and were sorely disappointed as Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue decided to rest his star players on the second night of back-to-back games against the Grizzlies.
Sitting healthy players has become an increasing trend as teams try to maximize their star players output while making sure they will be rested when the playoffs come calling in April.
Just look at what the San Antonio Spurs have done over the years under head coach Gregg Popovich. In 2012, the NBA fined the Spurs $250,000 for not informing Miami, the media, or the league office in a timely way for leaving their stars players (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili) at home before a nationally televised game against the Heat.
Fans Deserve Better
After purchasing the “superstar” packages or buying individual game tickets for the big games, fans — who are already paying premium prices to get them — are paying to see the biggest and brightest stars.
And when those stars don’t show up fans are getting ripped off.
It’s like ordering a hamburger and only getting the buns.
Where’s the meat?!
Because of how the NBA schedule is setup, Western Conference teams only get to host Eastern Conference teams one game per year and vice versa.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Because Memphis and Cleveland are from different conferences, Grizzly fans will only get the chance to see LeBron James and the crew once a year, unless they happen to be matched up in the NBA Finals.
No matter if you are a kid, college student, father or grandfather, missing out on the league’s best talent is a complete travesty and needs to be fixed.
One fan said it best when he brought a sign to the game on Wednesday which read, “I traveled four hours and spent $800 to see LeBron (play) and he’s at home.”
— Tom D'Angelo (@tomdangelo44) December 16, 2016
A mother’s comment on social media got a lot of attention when she wrote about how her son chose Wednesday’s basketball game over having a birthday party in order to see LeBron play.
“Wow! My 10-year-old son is a huge Cavs/LeBron fan. He chose to go to this game instead of having a birthday party. We live 3.5 hours away from Memphis so I’ve taken a day and a half off work. I knew there was a chance Lebron could rest. My son said, “That’s ok, at least I’ll see Irving and Love play.” Oh well, looks like I’m out 3 tickets, a hotel room, and 1.5 days of personal leave.” But worst, my son is going to be devastated when I tell him.”
Why It Makes Sense
Coaches aren’t just resting players for the fun of it.
With the amount of technology that’s available today, coaches, trainers, and management can track almost anything they want to track. Players are constantly being monitored to see where they are at and when teams put all the data together, sometimes it may very well tell management that XYZ player needs a rest in order to get back to their optimal performance.
And while the Spurs have been notorious for resting star players, they’ve also shown how beneficial it can be as they continue to be one of the top teams in the league over the past two decades.
Also, if I’m an owner, I want longevity out of my players. For example, instead of having Michael Jordan for 15 seasons, having him for 20 years would be a no brainer. Imagine how incredible it would have been to see James and Jordan going up against each other if Jordan could have stayed in the league for a couple of more years. Now that would have been a sight to see between two of the all-time greats.
And while NBA fans lose when star players are rested, that also means players will likely be in the league longer. Now who wouldn’t want that?
Fans are absolutely being ripped off when star players are left out. But looking at it from another perspective, it just makes sense for teams to rest their star players throughout the season.
If you were an NBA head coach, would you want you guys to be burnt out before the playoffs started? Of course not. You would want them to be fresh and ready to go.
But at the same time, if LeBron wants to be considered as the best player to ever play the game, he can’t be doing it on the bench.
Just look at Jordan. The 14-time All-Star didn’t get any “rest days” and even played when he should have been in the hospital.
Remember Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals?
With the series tied 2-2 between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, Jordan added to his legacy of being one of the top players to ever play the game. Despite having the flu or flu-like symptoms, the 14-time All-Star played through all the pain to score a game-high 38 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. After every timeout, Jordan would collapse on the bench and started chugging fluids as fast as he could to help re-hydrate himself.
But with the current system that is in place, somebody is going to lose.
That is why the NBA should look at changing the schedule a bit — starting a couple weeks sooner or ending a couple weeks later — to help alleviate a lot of the tough back-to-back games where coaches use that opportunity to rest their star players.
As the great Julius Erving once said, “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.”
The top NBA players in the league right now are making $20-plus million per season. And if it wasn’t for the fans who are the backbone of the league, players wouldn’t be making that much in the first place. That’s why it’s a shameful practice with the current system to rest star players which then undercuts the fan experience.
Jordan was once asked why he played in preseason games with some of them taking place in smaller cities. His response was perfect:
“The people may only get once chance to see you play, so you want to give them your best.”
And that’s exactly what the NBA and professional sports needs to start doing.
If not, I want my money back.
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