I feel moved today and I'm going long so hang tight. When I first started this blog I did so by alerting Malone Zone readers to the fact that my value wasn't going to be in breaking the news but rather in interpreting the news through an urban lenz (no need to thank me for that service, y'all. Your peeping the blog is thanks enough). Lately, I've been gathering subtle clues from the media and from the NBA front office that seem to me to be signaling the beginning of the end of what's been called the 'Hip Hop NBA'...
Y'all know - the New Jack NBA culture ushered in by Allen Iverson and other young bucks, which features braids, tats, doo rags, 'shorts' that stop just above the ankles, baggy clothes at game day functions and that ubiqutious hip hop accessory - the ill mannered entourage (the one featuring broke, high school homeys who expect VIP perks at all NBA venues that feature their boy).
Just like in Cali where homeowners can get ridiculous chedder for their 1 BDR, no kitchen or bath fixer-upper in a seller's market, the Hip Hop NBA (HHNBA) crew could pretty much call the shots since they represented the NBA's bread and butter (aka the best basketball talent available). You could feel the northside NBA owners cringing at the culture shock as their no-crust, watercress sandwiches and bottles of 'still' water crossed paths with Fatburgers and Crunk Juice - oh the horror! Lovey - look at his grill! Well this *is* America, y'all and you have to know that America is undeniably a nation run by northsiders, either out in front or behind the scenes. So it's only natural that such power and influence would eventually find a workable solution to the Hip Hop NBA 'problem'.
The other day I read a tight article by Greg Boeck of USA Today that clearly outlines the plan (at least in my conspiratoral mind). He points to a growing pipeline of basketball talent that is far removed from the inner city b-ball havens like NYC's Rucker Park and Oaktown's Mosswood Park. This pipeline has feeders in cities like Treviso, Italy and Barcelona, Spain and it seems, based on the ever increasing number of foreign players (aka 'internationals') in the NBA (a record 18% this season, y'all) that the NBA owners have found the chunk of Kryptonite they've been looking for to dismantle whatever leverage the HHNBA crew thought they had.
To the point, Boeck's essay dropped the following insightful quote:
"NBA teams are realizing it's less risky to draft internationals because they're more coachable, more socialized, have no posses and have not been Americanized," says former college coach George Raveling, Nike's director of global basketball. Raveling's prediction: International players will comprise 50% of the NBA by 2010
"More socialized"? "No posses"? Ouch. You have to know that Old George is only vocalizing what a lot of old school, NBA owners have been thinking. It also can't be denied that the way basketball is taught and learned in Europe and other parts of the world is more pure, fundamental and team based than the freelance, rim bending, bicep kissing, 1 on 5, break-your-boy-down on national TV style favored by the HHNBA crew. I'll be the first to admit, the Euros have skillz and that alone should send a shiver down the spines of the HHNBA crew.
As Boeck points out (and we all watched in road crash fascination) that in recent international matchups featuring NBA stocked teams, those teams finished third at the last Summer Olympics and sixth in the 2002 World Games (granted many big names opted off the national teams but Stevie Wonder could see how team play equalized individual athleticism on the court). Particularly in the last Olympics it was clear that despite the presence of AI on the roster, Team USA had *No Answer* for the funk the foreign clubs were bringing.
Seems to me the tide is turning, y'all - remember that recent dust-up caused by NBA Commissioner David Stern when he instituted a strict dress code for the players? It wasn't like he dreamed that bad boy up all by himself. Among items banned were: T-shirts, sleeveless shirts, shorts, headgear (aka ballcaps with the tag still on and cocked to the side, doo rags, etc.), chains, pendants, medallions worn over clothes (aka no Flava Flav clocks, no pendants with spinning rims, no platinum, iced out, 9 inch Jesus pieces, etc.), no sunglasses indoors (cuz their future's no longer so bright they gotta wear shades). Now don't get it twisted, y'all. I'm not hatin' (truly) but I am a purist and all for looking professional when it's called for so I'm with D-Stern on this one.
It seems that since most NBA players are rich (at least until their entourages sponge it all away from them) they assume they can run the show however they choose. But Chris Rock broke down the actual factuals when he described the difference between being 'rich' and being wealthy'. C-Rock said that Shaq is rich, but the owner who signs his paycheck is wealthy. So the smart player should be wondering what he can do to either 1) become wealthy or 2) keep their owners happy so they can keep being rich. Seems to me that the HHNBA culture runs counter to either of those goals.
I believe it was that wise hip hop sage Kanye West who heard 'em say - 'Nothing's ever promised tomorrow today'. The Hip Hop NBA crew would do well to listen closely to that message and 'never send to know for whom the bell tolls it tolls for thee', homey - it tolls for thee.
Can I get a witness?