The NBA that we all know and love today is a completely different beast than it was 40 years ago. Hand checking used to be a one of the best tools in a defenders utility belt for helping keep his man in front of him. The 3-point line was first being introduced, with teams maybe averaging only 1 or 2 shot attempts per game from that distance because they thought it was just a gimmick. Hell, a 1986 Western Conference Finals game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets was the last game that was ever shown on a tape delay. Nowadays, with social media, which the NBA has the highest follower count and interactions out of all the major sports, people know everything that goes on in the league 10 seconds after it happens (or maybe 5 minutes before if there’s a Woj Bomb). Every trade, every injury, every practice court scuffle, we know about it and have an unlimited number of options to read about it and discuss it with other fans. But for all the positive growth and fan engagement that the NBA has going for it, there is one single issue that seems to be taking over the narrative this season and especially these playoffs.
The NBA is finding itself in a situation where it seems as though almost nobody cares about the actual game of basketball anymore and instead focuses on the referees and the officiating. Your team lost a game by 3 points in the closing seconds because a ref “blew a call” and Star Player X didn’t get to go to the line for free throws? Must be the refs, who are either crooked or horrible at their jobs. Nevermind that before that one single possession, that you as a fan think should have gone differently so your team could win, that your team also had 14 turnovers and shot 37% from the field for the previous 47 minutes. It was the refs fault. We have become so enamored with the refs that as soon as the officiating crew is announced the day of a game, we already know who is going to win and who is going to lose because “that ref hates us.”
Going in to Game 2 of the Western Conference Semis between the Warriors and Rockets on Tuesday, I don’t think I saw a single article talking about what changes the Rockets needed to make in order to sneak out a win and steal home court. Not one mention of possible coaching adjustments or how the hell they were going to try and keep Durant from going off (hint, nobody can). Every single sports media outlet was talking about the memo to the league that Houston drafted and replaying clips of Harden whining about just wanting the game called fair (pot, kettle, black). Replays of Harden launching for a 3-pointer and not getting a whistled were shown while the talking heads tried to figure out exactly what an accurate definition of “landing zone” is. And all of this was BEFORE we found out that the dreaded DUN…..DUN…..DUN…...Scott Foster was going to be the lead official. When that news came out, it felt like your drunk uncle found the gas can and decided that that was exactly what the raging bonfire needed at that moment.
The whole point of this rant is to try and point out that we as NBA fans need to stop focusing so much on the officiating and the officials, no matter how much they can legitimately anger us, and go back to focusing on the beautiful game of basketball. I can’t speak for everybody, but when I first became a fan of the league it was because of seeing Clyde Drexler glide to the rim like a flying unicorn, not because I was amazed at the whistle blowing skill of Dick Bavetta. Fans now are quicker to jump on Twitter and complain about a bad call/non-call than they are to talk about an amazing play and that just kills me. Fans need to get back to caring about the game itself, because the beauty of the game is one of the more joyous things to observe.
The league has taken tremendous steps over the years, especially under Adam Silver, to be more transparent and open with why the zebras call what they do and not what they don’t. Trust them, they’ve earned it. They’ll fix it and make it better. It will never be perfect, because nothing ever is when the premise demands a loser to go along with a winner. But that doesn't mean it’s broken. There are only two teams playing out on the court, not three. So lay off the hashtags, put down the pitchforks, and go to the fridge to grab a beer cause we are probably pretty damn close to another amazing playoff game tipping off.
What is BlazerTag
A group of life long blazer fans that are dedicated to sharing our authentic thoughts about the team. This unfiltered group is all about sharing the highs and lows of being a Blazer fan. We commit to one podcast a week where we encourage our fans to drink along with us and join the fun!