NBA Lockout: What Are We Going to Do Without Pro Basketball?

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Prospects for next season are looking dim. Our panel ponders what to watch instead of LeBron, Kobe, and co.

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Emma Carmichael (writer, Deadspin), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), talk about life without the NBA.


Hey, guys,

To paraphrase the pride of Hannibal, Missouri, what if they had a lockout and nobody came?

Oh, how the nation agonized over the slightest chance of a shortened NFL season. Oh, how we moaned and bewailed our cruel, cruel fate. Now, with the prospects of even having a 2011-2012 NBA season getting dimmer all the time, the only sound you'll hear is a collective national yawn.

And those next-season prospects surely are fading fast. This month, the league filed suit against the NBA Players Union, accusing them of not bargaining in good faith. Shortly afterward, union chief Billy Hunter called out NBA Commissioner David Stern—by expressing backhanded sympathy. Hunter claimed that Stern's negotiating options are limited by hardline new owners that are "holding his feet to the fire." Ouch.

Lordy, how the mighty have fallen. Remember back in the day, when shorts were short, and a pudgy young lawyer rode Bird, Magic and Michael to greatness? Stern's face was all set for carving, right next to Pete Rozelle and Kenesaw Mountain Landis on the Mount Rushmore of sports commissioners. These days, though, it's starting to look like Gary Bettman is the smart one.

We can all recite the NBA's problems by heart. Too many games in the regular season to eliminate too few teams, and guaranteed contracts that practically guarantee lackluster effort until the playoffs. My question is why no one has tried to bring this paper tiger down? New football leagues pop up every few years, either as off-season alternatives to the NFL, like Arena ball, or as rivals like the AFL, USFL, or XFL.

In basketball, nada. We've had an alphabet soup of underfunded minor leagues and/or alternatives like the CBA , IBL, and USBL go bust in this decade, and no serious challenge to the NBA's preeminence since the merger with the ABA. Isn't it about time there was one? And can they please bring back those sweet, sweet ABA red, white, and blue balls?

–Hampton

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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