The NBA is over, as a serious sport. Oh, it can continue to decline, slowly but surely, but two events cement its end as anything other than a rap-fashion showcase. The first is Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom’s reality show on MTV, and the second is La La Vazquez and Carmelo Anthony’s reality show on VH1. [Note: until reading about this in the Wall Street Journal I was unaware of the existence of La La Vazquez.]
The two reality shows, appealing to tween girls (MTV’s audience) and teen-young adult women (VH1’s audience) pretty much cement the end of the NBA as a sport. As a platform for junk reality, fashion, and NBA-related rap thuggery, well that is a different matter. But the male-oriented aspects of basketball have either long died out (team work, coaching, selflessness) or are actively dying (athleticism, performance) in a cult of rap celebrity and posturing.
Yes, the NFL has had its reality shows: Hard Knocks (relating the tales of guys struggling to make the team during training camp, each season with a different team featured) comes to mind. But the focus is not on female-centered glamor, glitz, spending, and conspicuous consumption and fame. Football itself remains a game (though thuggery and a dominance of Black rap-influenced players threatens this) of teamwork, discipline, and coaching. For all the Superbowl hype, the influx of the Jessica Simpsons, and Giselle Bundchens and the like has been resented and mocked by fans. It remains a male preserve (though one threatened by over-thuggery and slipping into rap thug celebration).
With the NBA likely to slowly, but steadily decline in ratings, middle class White enthusiasm, and therefore, money, there are opportunities for other sports to gain a foothold. Hockey, never really capturing the imagination of White Middle class America, has an opportunity should the NFL go into a lockout and the NBA continue its rap-celebrity descent into irrelevance. The game of Hockey after all relies on strength, skill, teamwork, and endurance. It is played by mostly Middle class White guys (though the prevalence of foreigners is a problem) and has a fairly large league. Hockey season mostly overlaps that of the NBA, and partially that of the NFL. Rugby, and its appeal to teamwork and toughness, has possibilities as well.
But no sport can maintain a male audience while catering to female desires for “reality”-inspired tales of princesses and princes, able to whisk them away to a fantasy of Cinderella and the ball. The NBA has already trod down this road, and is unlikely to retrace it. The NBA is dead. Long live any other sport.