In the 1990’s, the NBA expanded by adding four new teams (I still contend that the expansion was a bad idea, but that’s just me). The league was losing money, and there were concerns that it needed to expand to increase its checks. The league was also dealing with rising television contracts, rising player salaries, and rising youth participation in the game.
Yao Ming was the most dominant center in the game his first two years in the NBA, and the Rockets were the toast of the league. But when they beat the New York Knicks in the 1997 NBA Finals, he injured his shoulder, and the Rockets imploded. The NBA was forced to make some rule changes, including eliminating the illegal defense rule that they hoped would stop the low scoring games they were used to.
The NBA, like most professional sports leagues, is a business: the goal is to draw as many viewers as possible to their games and pay as few dollars as possible for those viewers. This has led to a lot of controversy in recent years as the NBA has changed its rules to favor more scoring and as the league has expanded its pipe line to place games on more TV channels.
Between the 1980s and the 2000s, the NBA’s popularity skyrocketed. The league grew in popularity on a global scale it had never seen before. It was the NBA’s most profitable era at the time.
When a league’s popularity grows, it must make a determined effort to maintain and enhance its popularity. This may occur in a variety of ways. The NBA experienced expansion as a result of its expansion.
More teams were added to the NBA as part of the expansion process in order to increase competitiveness and provide a more engaging watching experience for fans.
This may not always work out as planned for leagues. Because expansions necessitated the addition of additional players to complete rosters, the NBA’s rosters had to thin down. In the 1990s, jazz commentator Ron Boone hinted about something similar.
“The skill level now is nothing like what it was eight years ago, and this is clearly due to growth.”
In one sense, it would provide fairness to the league since the league’s top players would be distributed across the league, providing each club a fair opportunity to compete. On the other side, this meant that athletes who previously had little chance of succeeding would suddenly be able to secure a place on a team.
Jerry Sloan, the Jazz’s head coach in the 1990s, also talked about the dilution. He mentioned how, in the past, winning teams had to have a strong squad from top to bottom. However, after the expansion, all that was required to win was a few excellent players.
“When you look at the big picture, it’s a little muddled. You can win the championship with only three outstanding players on your squad. Previously, you needed four or five great players, as well as some decent players to surround them.”
Some clubs, on the other hand, would have to settle with substandard players in order to fill up their squads. Aside from that, there’s the issue of marketplaces to consider. When it comes to attracting major players to the organization, large market franchises like the Knicks, Lakers, and Heat always had an edge.
Smaller markets, on the other hand, had to hope for a revolutionary star throughout the drafting process. As a result, forming a team became a problem. Because the expansion would only result in more small-market clubs, major stars would have to be more picky about where they choose to play.
By 1996, the NBA had grown considerably, allowing for the addition of additional clubs. However, the expansion left many league rosters very bare. Because of the growth, the NBA only had a few of strong teams, as Richard Evans noted in 1996.
“This season, there are no great NBA teams. There are a few decent clubs – Chicago, Orlando, and Houston come to mind – but none that stand out. What is the cause behind this? Expansion.
This isn’t a unique point of view. People all across the league are claiming that the NBA has diluted its product in its haste to capitalize on a growing fan base.
The most compelling proof may be found in Chicago. The Bulls are on pace for a 70-win season, prompting some to refer to them as a “great club.”
The Bulls were on pace to shatter the NBA record for most victories in a season at the time (69). Thanks to Dennis Rodman, who was enjoying his time under Phil Jackson, the Bulls were having a successful season. In subsequent years, Rodman claimed that Jackson declared him the greatest player he had ever coached.
Rodman was underwhelmed by their achievement. This was due to the fact that the league was so spread out that many teams could be defeated without the Chicago Bulls having to put up any effort.
“This league is so filtered and watered down that we can very much defeat anybody with our eyes closed.”
The Bulls of 1995-96 were a well-oiled machine. Rodman and Michael Jordan had immediate chemistry, and their friendship continues to this day, with Rodman even visiting Jordan on occasion.
Rodman’s chemistry won him Michael Jordan’s confidence, which was unusual for most of his colleagues. Rodman, on the other hand, demonstrated why he deserved to be trusted. The pair went on to win three NBA titles in a row, together with fellow great Scottie Pippen.
But, based on what Rodman says, he doesn’t take too much pleasure in their amazing 72-10 season since he believes the league was too weak at the time, and they didn’t have any real competition.
Regardless, their 72-10 season was remarkable, and the Golden State Warriors broke it 20 years later when they went 73-9.
Rodman is unlikely to have seen the Warriors or any other NBA team at the time, since he has previously said that he does not watch contemporary NBA games due to teams’ reliance on three-point shooting.
There are counter-arguments on both sides. With additional clubs, stars who have been confined to a supporting position will have the chance to become more prominent players and further their careers.
Then there are others who think that as the skill pool in the NBA shrank, most teams grew weaker. Rodman is unmistakably a supporter of the latter.
The NBA, however, has reaped the benefits of its growth, as it is now one of the world’s largest basketball centers, employing a large number of players and employees throughout the nation.
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