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The NBA's Troubles Exposed

After Team USA's failure in Athens, a globalizing NBA must now restore America's place at the top of international basketball
Kenneth Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Cigar of the Year, Jan/Feb 2005

(continued from page 4)

Yet with Stern decrees triumphing over chaos, there's no reason to think that the league can't leap past this incident. It won't be easy, but talent still abounds among the circuit's players.

"Look, I think we have a lot of great players in the league now," Granik says. "There is a lot of interest about how McGrady is going to do on Houston with Yao [Ming], and before that in Shaq and Kobe. And then James and Anthony look like they can be scorers. Getting Michael Jordan you can't anticipate; he was a unique talent. But there are a lot of new players in the game, and remember, these players are only the age Jordan was when he was a sophomore in college. I think the stars are there and will continue to be there. As for the Celtics and Lakers—that was a particular high-water mark in the NBA, because year after year you had a great competition between them. That's something that happens by chance because of where players land and how teams are put together. We've had some good rivalries recently with San Antonio and Los Angeles [Lakers], but whether it achieves that status I don't know. Baseball has one now in the Red Sox and the Yankees. Those things don't last forever. But eventually you see other ones develop."

Stu Jackson agrees with the sanguine prognosis. "There is strength in numbers; there are great young players in this league: Duncan, Garnett, Iverson, McGrady, Bryant—the list goes on and on." Detroit was a throw-back champion, beating the favored Lakers. "I think Detroit was terrific and I don't think there was any basketball fan around the world who didn't appreciate the way they won the championship—with grit and teamwork. One can argue that this is the way basketball is supposed to be played."

No doubt. But for fans of the old NBA game—and the Olympics—the previous act will be a tough one to follow.

Kenneth Shouler, who lives in Harrison, New York, was managing editor of and a writer for Total Basketball: The Ultimate Basketball Encyclopedia (Toronto: Sports Media Group, 2004).

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