NBA in the 75: 2000s saw MJ-LBJ Shift, ‘Evil at the Palace’ | Sports news

By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP National Writer

When Michael Jordan gave way to LeBron James, and as traditional forms of communication began to give way to the birth and growth of new media, the 2000s were all about making transitions – on and off the field – for the NBA and its fans.

The pursuit of a superstar to succeed Jordan was certainly a central theme in the decade for the league, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. Thus, there were also changes in how teams sought to add their talent, whether it was by bringing young people on board, looking abroad or gathering a group of elite players.

Also notable was the fallout from “The Malice at the Palace” fights in the game, an event that was considered by some at the time to be a reflection of an interruption between players and spectators that then-Commissioner David Stern was trying to remedy.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban saw the league’s shift in the 2000s “driven by changes in technology and the NBA’s business,” he wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

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“It was the advent of the internet. Satellite TV was still going on, and (regional sports networks) were really just going on. We were able to show our games globally,” Cuban wrote. “When LeBron entered the league, he became a TV TV to be seen. The combination of his brilliance and the expanded availability of our games really had a huge impact and helped the NBA grow globally. “

Consider the prism through which Cuban interprets much of this: He paid about $ 280 million to buy the Mavericks in 2000; the club is worth more than $ 2.5 billion now, according to Forbes.

That equates to the massive jump in NBA revenue led by Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver.

Prior to the 1998-99 lockout, total league-wide revenue was below $ 2 billion; by the end of the 2000s, that figure was about $ 4 billion – and it peaked at $ 8 billion in the late 2010s.

Much of it had to do with TV contracts and the start of NBA TV, which made its debut in late 1999. The league managed to link itself to social media, a phenomenon that was launched during that decade: Facebook made its debut in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006. Instagram joined in 2010, and the NBA boasted that it topped 65 million followers in March 2022.

In the early 2000s, Cuban said, “was also a time when almost all NBA teams lost money. A lot of money. And team values ​​were declining,” so an effort was made “to allow us to take advantage of the new platforms, create new revenue streams and try to make the game more engaging for fans.I give David Stern and Adam a lot of credit.They were open to moving games from broadcast TV to cable.They did not cut down on the number of available “TV games that a partner had asked for; they increased them. They pushed our games to every country in the world. It created the foundation for our business to grow.”

The list of key events for the NBA in the 2000s includes: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who build the bridge between Jordan and James with their Los Angeles Lakers’ three-turf from 2000-02; Bryant scored 81 points in a game, the second-highest total in league history; Phil Jackson passed Red Auberbach with his record 10th championship as a coach; Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich led the San Antonio Spurs to titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007; former NBA Referee Tim Donaghy is sentenced to prison for fraud and transfer of betting information; Mavericks striker Dirk Nowitzki, a German, becomes the first European-born player to win the MVP award.

Nothing caught as much attention or was perceived as such a major threat to NBA success as the match that toppled into the stands during a Nov. 19, 2004 game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons.

There were suspensions and lawsuits involving Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace and more – and the whole episode changed the way they were paid to play, and those who pay to watch each other.

“It allowed people to take pictures of a culture, take pictures of a league,” O’Neal said during an appearance on Jackson’s “All the Smoke” podcast last year, “and still not be able to lead a conversation – a real, trained conversation – about what actually happened …. The word ‘bully’ was thrown out there probably 1,000 times. A thousand times. All of a sudden it’s about the hip hop music we listen to. It’s about our cornrows “It’s about our tattoos.”

And, O’Neal pointed out, none of that kind of reaction or contempt accompanies the in-game matches that take place – and in fact are often glorified – during NHL or Major League Baseball matches.

The NBA responded by changing security measures and, less than a year later, introducing a dress code into what some saw as an attempt to present a new image to business partners and control players.

At the time, Philadelphia 76ers star guard Allen Iverson said, “I do not think it will help the image of the league at all. … It makes it kind of fake. It’s all fake.”

The new rules required players to wear business-casual attire and prevent them from wearing visible chains when going to or leaving games.

“I wish we had not done that. It took some of the personality that makes the NBA something special. But I understood why we did it, ”he said. “Our business suffered for many different reasons. For the most part, we were not good at marketing at the time. We threw everything out to try to reverse the trend.”

A serious concern for the league – and its broadcast partners – in the early 2000s was how things would go without Jordan, as significant and popular an athlete as ever has been, in any sport.

He left the Chicago Bulls after a sixth championship in 1998, then retired for the second time in 2001 at the age of 38 and joined the Washington Wizards for another two seasons, both as a player and in the team’s front office. With a basketball in his hands, he was an older version of himself, hardly the old Jordan, and soon enough, the hunt for a new “league face” was underway.

Bryant seemed ready to take on that brand when the decade began – he averaged 28.5 points for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000-01 – and eventually became a basketball icon despite a rape charge from a 19-year-old employee on a hotel in Colorado in 2003.

It was the same year that Jordan ended his playing career forever, and in a symbolic and significant handover, James entered the NBA as a top spot in a draft that also included Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Over time, as a prominent figure in the 2000s, 2010s and beyond, James would be the subject of intense “Greatest of All-Time” debates that boiled down to: LBJ or MJ?

“Dealing with the pressure of being Cleveland’s savior, being the next guy to ‘be like Mike’ and the way he’s done it – with class the way you would love someone to represent the league,” twice NBA All-Star striker Antawn Jamison, who played against Jordan and James and was also a Cavs teammate with James, said of the younger player in an essay he contributed to the AP.

Evidence of the NBA’s expansion of its pool of players in the 2000s: James was not the first high schooler to be selected as No. 1 overall. Kwame Brown was honored in 2001 by Jordan’s Wizards. In 2002, the Houston Rockets made China’s Yao Ming the first non-American not to play college basketball in the United States to become No. 1, a symbol of the league’s desire to become more of a worldwide entity.

One more warning of what was to come: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen led the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008, a precursor to the “Super Team” phenomenon, which James, his eventual teammate Wade and others immortalized in the following decade.

“The road to history,” James wrote on Twitter at the time, “starts now!”

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