Ted Green: Fixing the NBA's big credibility problem
Let's say -- hypothetically, of course -- that a Kobe-LeBron NBA Finals is so close, David Stern can taste it. And oy, does it taste good, like the to-die-for corned beef at his father's deli, sliced thin. It doesn't take a genius, or even a commissioner, to know how big Kobe vs. LeBron is going to be, and how much money it is going to make compared with any series without the two superheroes in it.
Let's also say, while we're at it, that Stern is the Master Puppeteer, pulling the strings. He is Paul Winchell, with Kobe and LeBron, who know something about puppets themselves, taking turns as Jerry Mahoney. What do they take us for, dummies?
So let's say it's all in place, the heart (and the league) wants what it wants, but there is this little fly in the ointment called the Orlando Magic, who lead LeBron's Cavs three games to two in the Eastern Finals, with a closeout game, Game 6, at home in their Magic Kingdom, a game they'll be favored to win. Heck, they're 15-7 against Cleveland over the last 22, so why wouldn't they win it?
Right, the Conspiracy.
Which in turn takes us to the NBA's Big Credibility Problem, which is that everyone is now talking and writing about -- right again! -- the Conspiracy. What kind of believability can any sport have if fans feel the outcomes are as real as WWE?
So here's how Stern gets past too many people thinking he's Vince McMahon's evil twin:
The NBA needs to find it's three fairest and best refs, the ones most of the coaches are actually happy to see at the table before tipoff. In other words, the three who don't have Tim Donaghy's number on speed dial. And then just let the Magic and Cavs play, more old-school style, with fewer whistles, fewer foul shots and generally much less of the officials' stamp on the game.
If the Magic is better, which the empirical evidence points to, they'll win and voila, conspiracy theory is vaporized. If the Cavs play an amazing game and win without zebra help, cool, then Kobe-LeBron was meant to be.
Problem solved, credibility restored.
Me, I love the TV puppets. They're funny and charming. I want to see them for seven games in the Finals. I also think Stern was the shooter on the Grassy Knoll. So selfishly, I'm picking the Cavs to somehow, some way (wink) beat the Magic in 7.
For the sake of the NBA, though, as for what's in the best interest of the league, to get rid of all this nasty talk about the fix being in, I would actually love to be wrong.
-- Ted Green
Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News.
Photos, from left: NBA Commissioner David Stern. Credit: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images. Kobe Bryant. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images. LeBron James. Credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images