Three of the top ten draftees in the 2021 NBA draft were from teams not in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) program.
Last night, I was sitting in my sister’s kitchen as she made peanut butter jelly sandwiches for her five-year-old daughter.
But when my niece walked in, her face dropped dead. “Gross, I hate these sandwiches.”
Firstly, how can anyone not like PB&J? It’s a classic! I have it second all-time for convenient sandwiches you can make at any time, right behind the chicken salad and just in front of the cheese and tomato.
Anyway, I’m not recounting this story just to showcase this utmost important list for you. I did it because my sister said something pretty resonating in response: “Well, there are kids out there with bigger problems than this.”
So, after hearing numerous NBA stars like LeBron James come out and point out their frustration with participating in an All-Star Game, I only have one response: “There are people with bigger problems than this.”
Before everybody starts commenting that suffering is a relative concept or something like that, look, I get it – these guys have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. And yes, their off-season was incredibly short, especially for Finals participants the Heat and Lakers.
I am also well aware that while the event will take place in fun-town Atlanta, the stars will not be allowed to exit the venue like in previous years and have to go through severe quarantine regulations away from their loved ones. The sacrifice is real.
But these are the difficult times that call on players to perform on some extra difficult hurdles. The reason Jay Williams told NBA players that their playoff bubble complaints were “falling on deaf ears” was because every single human being on this planet is struggling in the pandemic.
A pandemic that sees people’s small businesses go under and restricts people from seeing loved ones – yet, complaints from basketballers about having to follow strict protocols that protect them. Protocols that most people are not afforded because their work cannot afford them.
All from players receiving bucketloads of cash from not only salaries, but sponsors too. I just struggle to sympathise with it.
Now, I’m not saying that these players are doing a disservice to the fans by not performing in the event. While the All-Star Game is okay to watch, it’s not important to me at all.
Off the top of my head, I couldn’t even tell you who won the last All-Star game, but I do remember it being fun to watch. In fact, now that I think about it, I cannot tell you which team won any All-Star Game, ever.
This is coming from someone who can recite every NBA championship from the ’80s onwards like I’m singing the alphabet.
Instead, to not perform in the event or calling the contractual participation a “slap in the face” – talking to you, LeBron – is actually a disservice to the league. And that should matter.
“Okay, here’s the guy protesting on behalf of a multi-billion dollar organisation.”
Well, whether you like it or not, the league has lost a lot of money this year and that’s what the All-Star Game brings in, and is built for – coin. That’s what it’s always been about and that’s what it’s always going to be about.
I can already hear Reverend Lovejoy screaming, “Oh, but what about the fans?!”
Hate to break it to you, but the All-Star Game is as much about the fans as Nike is about encouraging the acceptance of plus-sized models. Money is just what drives things and there has never been a more important time for it than now.
Here is a league that provides its privileged players with ‘generational wealth’. That means if you pick any All-Star, like Rudy Gobert for example, understand that his grandchildren – who are not even born yet – will see more wealth than I ever will.
Hell, he makes more money from a quarter of basketball than I have ever made in my life.
This is a league that puts their players on eternal pedestals where they are loved and adored by millions. A league that has provided players to live the elite life that so many kids dream about for playing a sport they love.
And they did work hard to get to this position, but I don’t think they necessarily deserve this much fortune.
They get it because as player mobility skyrockets while team loyalty continues to shrink, the product of the NBA has never been more clear.
It’s the players. Or more specifically, the star players.
The stars bring in viewership.
The stars bring in ticket sales.
So the stars make the moolah.
Yes, they work incredibly hard and no, their lives are not perfect, but a lot of their wealth is contingent on the way the league operates.
So, complain as much as you want – it’s only human – but if any player pulls out, that’s just a bad look.
Be grateful, because “there are bigger problems than this”.