Calamity, Corruption & Collusion: Repairing The Fantasy Of Amateur Basketball

University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller (via Arizona Daily Star)

Don’t blame Dwane Casey. 

Casey, the Toronto Raptors’ longest-serving and winningest head coach, who is enjoying a notably good season. He recently celebrated his 300th win with the franchise and is seen by many as as a top contender for the NBA’s Coach of the Year. But at one point, he was an assistant at University Of Kentucky, where he had played for and captained the National Champion Wildcats under Joe B. Hall. Then a Fed Ex envelope addressed to a recruit split open mysteriously revealing $1,000. Though the University and Casey both denied that they had any role in this incident, the NCAA banned Casey for five years and he would spend his basketball exile in Japan, where he coached for 6 seasons all the while expressing no remorse, and claiming it was a set-up. Coaches all over the country took umbrage and most immediately took the opportunity to remind their base that “we do it the right way,” even as their top players tooled around campus in new luxury autos, including one notable freshman who arrived in a drop-top Ferrari, fully loaded with a sticker price of 89K and not an eyebrow raised.

Maybe it was Chuck Taylor, the great basketball player of the early 1900’s who would, after his playing career ended prior to the existence of the NBA we know today, convince a sneaker company to put his name and a star on the side of their shoes. He would become synonymous with basketball and one of the most recognized names in America as he spent the next forty years criss-cross in America selling sneakers out of his car to teams, while simultaneously running  clinics on each campus. What we know today is that Chuck used these clinics to develop relationships with the top high school athletes and coaches. Taylor became the de facto agent for these high school All-Americans, and if your University wasn’t wearing Converse, and running Chuck Taylor clinics annually, you had no shot at the top players. But don’t blame Chuck, I just like get to play the begat game, and Chuck fathered Nike, Adidas, and ultimately the seven figure shoe deal that provides generational wealth for the athlete whose skills and personality are marketable to a global audience of “sneaker heads” hungrily buying these iconic shoes via the Internet, and lining up hours before the shoe is released to drop a paycheck for them.

Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Power Memorial High School (via Getty Images)

Pay to play, despite the phony outrage accompanying each new disclosure, isn’t new! We’ve all heard tales of families wooed by street agents when their teenager reaches 6’5″ in 7th grade. You’ve heard the rumors of certain schools who suddenly have a national ranking because of one amazing freshman who changes the arc of a mid-major school while everyone wonders why they chose Anonymous U. Think back to 1969, when a 7-foot phenom out of Power Memorial High School in NYC turned down a million-dollar offer from the ABA to sign the next day with UCLA. Yes, they had a incredible run of NCAA titles and the legendary John Wooden at the helm, but today we know that Sam Gilbert, a wealthy booster, matched the ABA offer to Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and had been doing so with other players throughout the course of the “dynasty” shepherded by the “Wizard of Westwood.” Not to single out UCLA, but just to point out the fallacy and fantasy of the “clean” and amazingly successful college program. Everyone is dirty. Believe it or not, they all cut corners, otherwise they wouldn’t recruit a player who they KNOW is only staying for a season, with no pretense of being a student-athlete. The entire team wouldn’t be wearing sneakers provided by one company in exchange for “promotional consideration” and coaches wouldn’t have contracts that are far more lucrative than the university’s president.

Meanwhile, the NBA sits atop this conspiracy. The collusion, calamity, and criminal acts committed along the way all have the same end goal. While we knew that the odds of all the manipulation, shenanigans, and flat out deceit that are perpetuated along the way are paying off at about a million to in, it hasn’t stopped it. In fact, the basketball community has mostly been able to turn their heads away as long they weren’t getting caught themselves. The NBA cannot. Their desperation to maintain control over the entry and distribution of talent into the league has been massaged, manipulated, and re-fashioned as they felt necessary to stay one step ahead of the courts. From the “hardship rule” of the 70’s to Moses Malone and Bill Willoughby coming straight out of high school, to today’s 2-round edition. The National Basketball Association has exhibited a deathly fear of a player challenging the draft’s legality, (highly unlikely, considering it would wend its way through the courts for years and an athlete would be finished by the time he won) and having their process abolished. What other professional cannot choose where they hone, or practice their craft? Engineer? Pharmacist? Sanitation Worker? Nurse? Nope. Their ability as a league to slot their picks and control their location and income is something most fans take for granted, but the league doesn’t. Not for a moment. The NBA owners, watching the cost of contracts skyrocket over the last 3 seasons to ridiculous levels, need desperately to control entry level costs. Which also drives the value of the first ten picks in the draft. It’s a complicated but simple machine that’s lead to where we are today. Kids, parents, coaches and hangers on committing criminal, selfish acts to preserve and further the NBA dream. Can it be fixed? Yup. I’ll do it now. Here at N THE ZONE NETWORK we play chess, not checkers.

Arizona freshman standout and potential #1 overall NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton (via USA Today)

Here’s your solution. Thank me later.

Eliminate the fantasy of the “amateur” NCAA basketball player. The NCAA and it’s member teams are raking billions of dollars off the play of these teenagers. It’s time to compensate them, thus eliminating the possibility and/or necessity of them being corrupted. Here’s the scale. Pretty simply, each athlete on scholarship would receive a monthly stipend based upon the cost of living. THAT plus their academic scholarship would allow for a comfortable collegiate life equal to that of their on-campus academic peers. When they’ve graduated or completed, whatever commitment the player made to the university, they would receive a check equal to the tuition average of every member school on the NCAA times the number of years they spend academically eligible in school. This guarantees that every school’s compensation is equal, eliminating any incentive to go where the payoff is better. This ensures and encourages the kids to work towards a degree, while being able to do so without financial pressure. Simple way to finance. Each member school donates 5% of their basketball revenue to a pool. When a school wins an NCAA tournament game, 10% of their winnings go into the pool. Do the math. You could build a league. No one is going broke in this machine. Time has come to stop pretending and fix what has been broken for years on end. The NCAA also will contribute. The TV contracts are ridiculously lucrative. Thus, we’re going to need this association of dedicated institutions to kick in 5% of the TV money, and a share of the commercials featuring these kids in their promos. That money can buy an island and start a league now and no one has missed a meal. But we’ve gotta compensate these kids above the street money.

Here’s where the true payoff comes. Now that we’ve figured out how to pay the elite, and those who we know are in it only for basketball, let’s address the true student-athlete. Each member school will be required to maintain 4 roster spots for walk-ons. Those kids for whom a scholarship was not offered, who may never play but are more reflective of what the collegiate athletics experience is alleged to be. However, once this kid makes the roster he’s compensated the same as the McDonald’s All American. Graduates and receives the same check from the same financial pool as the kid who’s going first in the draft. Now we’re making progress.

Sports agent Christian Dawkins (via NY Daily News)

Finally, it’s time for the NBA to right their wrongs. Step in and help fix what’s so horribly broken. Here’s what the league can do. Expand the draft from two rounds to 7. Why? Because we’re going to open a true developmental league. I’m not talking about that “G” League that’s going now. But every NBA team will have a farm team. They can choose their geographical location. But the team must underwrite it 100%. Stop whining. The NBA’s new TV deal is worth 29 billion dollars over 8 seasons. That’s 3.5 billion per team spread over the length of the contract. That’s more than enough to stock, maintain and develop a roster of 12 “minor leaguers” and actually utilize the opportunity to refresh their talent pool from within, and just maybe find and build a late round gem instead of whispering “go to Europe, call me in 2 years, work on …….” Each player will receive 100k per season plus insurance and housing. This will prevent kids from having to schlep around Europe, China, and other foreign outposts to keep their NBA dream alive. The deals will all be uniform. Two years at 100k each, team and player option for year 3. I don’t see how this isn’t successful. Now we’ve provided a landing spot for all the kids dedicated to getting better over the course of their college careers and beyond, lessened the need to be “one and done” and disrupted the narrative that a player who stays four years in college isn’t NBA material. You can graduate from your school, play two years in a “REAL” developmental league and still be just 24 years old and ready to contribute to an NBA franchise. This is progress. Will it eliminate all the problems, kill off the parasites? Probably not.

Here’s the final step.

Keep it real.

Create a real ZERO tolerance policy in NCAA.

It goes like this. If you get caught cheating, your basketball program is closed for three seasons. Period. That’s progress. This is my solution and I believe it is viable. Simple, yes, but that’s just what we need to create an umbrella that protects everyone, establishes an environment of healthy sports at the collegiate level and not a dumpster fill if used up broke 20 year olds wondering “what’s next for my life if the NBA can’t use me.”

Your thoughts are as always welcome, but that’s my theory and I’m all in with it…..

Follow me on Twitter @MtAiryPhil

Healing Philadelphia (The Miracle Of Dougie P. & Nick)

Nick Foles scoring on The Philly Special

@MtAiryPhil

In the beginning they were one. They came from the industrial hardscrabble streets of Kensington, from the heavily Italian enclaves of South Philadelphia, some walked up from the North Philadelphia communities of the “Valley,” Brewerytown and Nicetown, others arrived via the trolley’s that connected West Philly to Lehigh Avenue via Girard Avenue and the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. They gathered on Sundays to watch their Philadelphia Eagles at the old Baker Bowl in 1933, Municipal Stadium in 1935 and on to Connie Mack ’40, Franklin Field ’58, Veterans Stadium ’72 and finally their current sparkling state of the art home, Lincoln Financial Field in 2003. They were one, and they expected their team and the players who donned the Kelly Green and White to reflect the personality of the city. Tough and gritty, unyielding, never too tired or busy for a good fight win or lose. That the Eagles did. While not always aesthetically successful, (aside from the 48-49 consecutive NFL Titles and the 1960 team that conquered the young dynasty of the 60’s Packers), the Eagles were a celebration of mediocrity. Still the city gathered en masse to root as one for their Philadelphia Eagles.

I don’t know when the poison set in. I don’t know why the great divide. I can point to many reasons and we’ll examine those. Suffice it is to say, the fan base that turned on their TV’s Sunday night for Super Bowl LII, the faithful that traveled to the frostbitten mecca of Minneapolis and those Philly expatriates who viewed from afar were no longer the unified base that represented EAGLES football and swore undying allegiance. There were fractures, formed of years of just not being enough, unable to take that final step, to stand along side their NFC EAST DIVISION RIVALS on the grandest stage clutching Mr. Lombardi’s trophy. But this fan base needed healing, and for this surgery to be successful, and unification to occur, it was gonna take a championship. Nothing less would do.

What is this poison you ask?

It’s not always apparent. Difficult too to recognize the symptoms. Yeah, you’ll hear the delightful, often drunken recitation of the fight song, iconic in and of itself, sung with fervor at ANY event or venue in and around Philadelphia at any moment. It sounded of unity and never felt divisive, and nationally the Eagles fan base was viewed as a singular gang of things, not to be tarried with, but there was ALWAYS an underlying air of division borne of memories of past disaster, terrible draft picks, bad management, near bankruptcy, and the Andy Reid Era that begat Chip Kelly and bubbled over into a schism that would rival Game Of Thrones for it’s complexities.

There was the House of “Tradition.” Those Eagles lifer’s now creeping up on their 9th decade who remember Pete Pihos, the consecutive NFL Title shutouts and clung to the idea that this Eagles team and it’s players didn’t appreciate the opportunity the NFL afforded, seeing today’s players as ungrateful mercenaries bonded only by paychecks with the same signature.

There were the Rozelle Kids, those who watched the legendary Chuck Bednarik level Jim Taylor and deliver the NFL title to Franklin Field in the fall of 1960, still lamenting the trade that dispatched Hall Of Fame QB Sonny Jurgensen to the Washington Redskins and began a spiral of losing that would last over a decade and accompany the franchise to their beautiful new Veterans Stadium home, illuminated by “Snowball Santa” as the legend goes and a 42-3 Monday Night Football loss memorable only for the fact that the Eagles actually faced a 3rd and 49 and graced by fans circling the Vet carrying an inflatable dog bone to let the team know exactly how they felt about current roster.

Nick Foles and head coach Doug Pederson calling for “The Philly Special”

Then there was the Era Of Hope, those of us who met Dick Vermeil and his “rah rah” college coach enthusiasm that would infect the Delaware Valley and the locker room. That would carry a group of overachieving athletes to the brink of the world championship in 1980, only to experience that joyless Sunday in New Orleans that saw Ron Jaworski throw three beautiful passes (albeit to Oakland defenders) on the way to a heartbreaking defeat to a team they had defeated just weeks earlier. The Vermeil era would end with him crying “burnout” amidst an aging locker room and a roster mostly bereft of talent and not enough resources (due to trades for veterans) to replenish. This calamity would be further exacerbated by the near loss of the franchise to Arizona when the team’s owner and shepherd, Leonard Tose, would gamble away his fortune in Atlantic City and narrowly avoid legendary infamy when Norman Braman bought him out with a pledge to keep the team in South Philly.

See where I’m going with this? Enough scars yet?

Well, this patient is going to get sicker and the symptoms more dramatically visible as the team would move into the era fondly known (by some) as “Buddy Ball.” Nothing Philadelphia had experienced in sports had prepared us for James David Ryan. Blustery, boisterous, and braggadocios, Buddy arrived to take over a moribund talentless roster that he would mold into arguably the NFL’S best defense of it’s time, accompanied by the mercurial talent of Randall Cunningham at QB, yet this team would not win a playoff game despite all the accolades Buddy would receive, and he would be ignominiously sacked in ’92 for Rich Kotite and the spirit would begin anew and with the birth of sports talk radio, create a further and deepening fissure among the fans that had begun to wonder, “will it ever be our turn” and now had an outlet to place blame, excoriate management almost daily and vocally, and finally, denigrate each other for their thoughts, ideas, and reasons why we hadn’t reached the promised land of Mr. Lombardi’s trophy and the accompanying parade.

These factions were dug in now, and the pain and division would deepen as a procession of great players abandoned ship in the 90’s led by Hall Of Fame DE Reggie White, perennial All-Pro’s Seth Joyner and Keith Jackson, and lesser lights yet major contributors like Clyde Simmons, Eric Allen and Keith Byars made their departures without either compensation or replacement.

There was a light at the end of the ’90’s tunnel however, his name was Andrew Walter Reid, and he arrived along with the new QB Messiah, Donovan McNabb, to breathe life into this city. Andy Reid would ignite the fuse of the football fury with repeated forays deep into the NFL playoffs, yet would start the worst fire among the fans with his seeming unwillingness to yield to the obvious, his intractable nature and style would create the biggest and most visible wound in Eagles Nation to date. I won’t tell you how it ended. You already know if you’re reading this.

Pain and suffering.

Sleepless nights after burning and inexplicable, very often unexplainable losses versus lesser opponents, most of them at home that often left the city stunned and defeated as yet another dagger was driven deeply into our collective sports psyche, hearts, and minds. Some will say that the loss in Jacksonville at SUPER BOWL 39 was the backbreaker, the moment the fan base went into total divide as the EAGLES stood frozen in time and memory watching the clock ticking away on a season and game that seemed destined to bring home the title so thirsted for by the faithful.

I won’t go into the debacle that was the brief yet memorable reign of Chip Kelly. By now you’ve probably thrown you’re IPAD, chucked the newspaper, cancelled your subscription, and are wondering why I’m reminding you of the pain of this journey to Super Bowl LII and the miracle of Nicky Football, the football David who slew Goliath, squashed the dynasty of BELICHICK and BRADY, destroyed the Evil Empire of The House Of Kraft.

Yes, there was a healing Sunday night. Dougie P and “The Prodigal Son” Nick Foles performed a surgery unseen before in the history of this world. They reunited a fractured, wounded, often left for dead city of Eagles fans and their communities. There is no way to devalue what Doug Pederson and a stand-in QB accomplished in Minnesota. Today, we are one. No more sleepless nights. No more taunting by fans of the other NFC EAST franchises. Stand down, all of youse! Today, we are one. Doug Pederson and Nick Foles healed 58 years of suffering with 3 hours of unmatched tenacity, daring, and fearlessness that can’t be quantified in words.

But you can feel it. The city feels it. We can breathe. Today we are one. Again.

I don’t believe we’ll ever sink again to the depths that Dougie P and Nicky Football rescued us from. Hopefully not, that took nearly 60 years to accomplish. All I know for sure is that today, we are one. Wishes do come true. Even in Philadelphia, where for 58 years, our football dreams came to die. Thank you Doug. Thank you Nick. Thanks to my compadres amongst the faithful who rode this thing we live “til the wheels fell off” and beyond. Welcome to the recovery room. The surgery was successful. Let the healing begin.

@MtAiryPhil

“The Philly Special”

 

The King of Mt. Airy – 02-24-17

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@MtAiryPhil

PHILADELPHIA, PA

In the end, Sixers’ boss Bryan Colangelo was stuck. The thought of waking up Friday the 24th with both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor was just too heavy a burden. Who would face the fanbase and explain how this all went astray (again)? What message would it send to the players whom you’ve openly and very publicly shopped and showcased for the past month 76ers’ games?

That scenario, as horrific as it sounds to you and I, is exactly what Colangelo saw, and that’s the number one reason Nerlens Noel now plays for the Dallas Mavericks, Okafor remains a 76er, and this team STILL has a bagful of unanswered questions.

Let’s start with. That’s the best you could do? While Nerlens Noel has an expiring contract, it still allows the team who owns it to express a qualifying offer and match any potential free agent suitor that offers the (eye roll) Mavericks center. Then there’s this if that’s all you could get for Noel, and you felt that the better tender than any offer for Jahlil Okafor, we have the wrong leadership. Nothing could have driven Okafor’s trade value down further than the manner in which they handled the entire process. Colangelo, and to a slightly lesser extent, Brett Brown for his collusion on the whole insane circus, which culminated in Okafor being left off the team plane, and told a deal was imminent, then two days later flown halfway across the country because a deal was not. Jahlil Okafor has to take a hit here too. His lazy, disinterested approach to the defensive end of the NBA floor is a huge part of the reason teams weren’t knocking down the Sixers doors. Heartless at times, and blatantly invisible at most others, Okafor still possesses a huge set of offensive skills. Now the question is, does he grow a heart? Has the prospect of being traded lit any spark under a player one year removed from being the 3rd overall selection in the draft? Could be the Sixers just parked him until draft day, and with the prospect of Joel Embiid missing the next four games, they’ll allow him to display exactly why he is the player the 76ers chose not to move.

Back to the management though. They’re may not be a more mismanaged situation in any sports front office history. The debacle of the silly benchings, and banishment from the rotation of both Okafor and Noel was embarrassing to this franchise. The truth is too easy for Colangelo. He could have easily shaped this so that it appeared that he was moving Okafor only to free money to extend Noel. Instead, he drove the value of both players down through his inept and dopey press conferences where he played “I love you, I love you not” with both players over the past two months, and the openly and very publicly declared that Noel was the 76er who would stay, further burying any possibility of getting equal value for Jahlil Okafor.

Final question for the Sixers….

This REALLY the guy who is going to manage the assets you lost 200 games over the past three seasons to acquire?

Hit me up, Sixers fans. Even if you’re not a Sixer fan and just love basketball, I want to hear from you. Drop your COMMENTS below and find me on Twitter.

 

 

 

N The Zone Philly w/ The King of Mt. Airy 02-18-2017

FB_IMG_1458263571898New episode of N The Zone Philly available for you. In this edition, I talk more on “trusting the process” for the Sixers plus some possible moves for the Eagles. Also, plus I touch on some pop culture w/ the Mt. Airy Assassin on New Edition vs Straight Outta Compton flicks. Which was better? Who gained more money? More attention?

I welcome your comments below at this page and on our network Twitter. You can always find me on Twitter as well at @MtAiryPhil.

N The Zone Philly w/ The King of Mt. Airy 02-18-2017

N The Zone Philly Debut

FB_IMG_1458263571898N The Zone has landed it’s next flag in the great city of Philadelphia! I, Phil Allen (@MtAiryPhil) aka The King of Mt. Airy bring you N The Zone Philly! Whether it’s the beloved Sixers, Eagles, Phillies or Flyers, I will bring the HEAT to the fans! In this edition of the show, it’s “The Evolution of the Sixers.” The time is now for the Sixers to get back to playoff glory. Check out the show below.

N The Zone Philly Debut

You can also catch the show on I-Tunes and Player.FM!

Saric Just What The Doctor Ordered – The View From Mt. Airy 8-10-16

Dario+Saric+1200x800+on+Gasol+Getty

@MtAiryPhil

PHILADELPHIA, PA

Maybe you saw it. Maybe you didn’t.

Hey, you could have been one of the millions whose TV and attention was trained on the Olympic Air Rifle Finals. This was just a preliminary round basketball game between a Croatian team not targeted for Gold and a Spanish five we all know very well. But here in Philadelphia every eye was trained on Dario Saric, and to a lesser extent, new Sixers’ point guard Sergio Rodriguez.

It’s been two years since the 76ers’ trade on draft day of Elfrid Peyton to Orlando for the rights to Croatian forward Dario Saric as part of Sam Hinkie’s build for the future plan. He was described to Philadelphia basketball fans as one part Larry Bird, one part Dirk Nowitzki, and a little bit of Sixers all-timer Bobby Jones. Then the seemingly interminable wait began. Was he coming at all? Would he buy out that multi million dollar contract in Turkey to come in to the NBA and play for the slotted 1.3 million that comes with being the 12 pick in the draft, leaving millions on the table behind.

For two dreadful seasons, the 76ers faithful were teased as the team bottomed out, finishing the 2016 season with an abominable 10-72 record. The now rebellious 76ers’ fans began to see Saric as part and parcel of the problem, and just as much to blame for that disaster as those on the active roster, and an extension of the failure and embarrassment of the designed losing which grated horribly upon the psyche of a proud fan base as they endured record breaking losing including 27 consecutive losses that seemed to erase the memory of the franchise that was once so laden with Hall of Fame talent such as Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks and the legendary Doctor, Julius Winfield Erving.

The final 14 seconds versus Spain changed everything. Croatia led by a point after Saric made one of two free throws to give his side the lead. Spain sets up the final shot and it wasn’t a surprise to see them get the ball to 6-time NBA ALL STAR and 2-time NBA CHAMPION Pau Gasol. What was surprising was the anticipation, footwork and quickness of Dario Saric as he glided across the lane to reject Gasol and his jump hook at the buzzer preserving the win. Does that mean he’s NBA ready defensively or prepared to be a year one stopper? No. But it shows the intellect, instinct and desire that is coachable to the extent that you can expect Saric to be an immediately contributing rotation player. Combine that with the wealth of bigs and seeming scoring options that are currently on the young 76ers’ roster and you see the opportunities presented to Dario Saric as he embarks on his rookie season this fall. You could see it as he added 7 rebounds and 6 assists to the stat line versus Spain on an afternoon when his shot wasn’t falling (1-7 FG) for him, including a luscious no-look behind-the-back dish for a basket.

What the Doctor ordered on the last 76ers championship team was Bobby Jones. Long, lean sixth man, who left skin on every NBA hardwood and was able to run the floor, add a near double-double nightly, yet whose biggest contribution was always defensive energy and a dash of instincts and smarts that more than compensated for a big shot or flashy offense. Can Dario Saric be that player? I truly believe he can. Doc had Andrew, Moses, Mo and Bobby. Ben Simmons now has Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Sergio Rodriguez, Nerlens Noel, and now Dario Saric. Young and talented, with great expectations but all similarly unproven. But for one moment in Rio, Dario Saric was JUST what the Doctor ordered.
With the plethora of talent assembled in Philadelphia now, and the 76ers in possession of both the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers first round picks in the 2017 NBA draft (both lottery bound and unprotected), Dario Saric just has to be coachable, competitive, and learn the NBA game as a cog in the future of the franchise. Being Bobby Jones would be more than enough.

That’s the View from high atop Mt. Airy…….

The View From Mt. Airy 07-29-16

images@MtAiryPhil

PHILADELPHIA, PA

Legends of The Dome appeared to be wildly successful. Looked like a repass for a loved one who was loved by all and left here far too soon. Kudos to the many Rams all-timers who came out, mixed, mingled and reciprocated the love and adoration of the St. Louis faithful who gathered more than likely, for the final time, to express their love and respect for the “Greatest Show On Turf.”

That being said, it’s time for the Arch Angels to redirect their collective sports energies.

Once upon a time, there was a wildly successful St. Louis sports franchise. They dominated their division, owned the Lakers, and are one of the few NBA franchises that can claim a win over the dynastic Boston Celtics in an NBA Final. The St. Louis Hawks, who landed in the Gateway City in 1955 after 4 last place finishes in Milwaukee (http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nba/stlhawks/stlhawks.html) and immediately turned around their fortunes behind a young Bob Pettit, who in the Hawks first season would win the 1st NBA MVP Trophy and lead them to the NBA Finals with a 33-39 regular season finish followed by an upset of the Lakers in the Western Division finals which was one of the most remarkable playoffs ever. The Hawks won Game 1 by a  single point. Lost Game 2 by 58 points, and won the decisive Game 3 by a single point. Total aggregate of -56 points but they moved on. The early Hawks would win consistently and would leave St.Louis for Atlanta in 1968 after winning the division with a 56-26 record under coach Richie Guerin and an imposing roster led by Paul Silas, Sweet Lou Hudson, Lenny Wilkens, Jumping Joe Caldwell and the Pride of Prairie View, Zelmo Beaty. For years I heard the story of failed attendance as the reason for their departure but upon further review that doesn’t resonate as truth. The Hawks didn’t break records, averaging just 6800 paid per game, but the ENTIRE league avg. in the Hawks final season was just 6,749 paid including the champion Celtics, whose paid attendance average was just 8,670 per game. Look it up. The New York Knickerbockers were the only team over 10k in average attendance in the ’67-68 season and I still can’t figure out the move to Atlanta, especially when you factor in that in the Hawks first season in Georgia, they would average just 4,427 per game and wouldn’t crack 6,000 per until their 6th season in the south. Why this walk down memory lane? Why this opening of a nearly 50-year old wound? Because if I’m a St. Louis sports fan, I’d be thinking its time we got our focus off the traitorous, despicable Rams and their carpetbagging owners who will soon find that not only is the grass NOT greener in the City Of Angels, but the bank account isn’t either. There is a reason why the Rams and Raiders left, and yes I know that TV pays the bills in today’s NFL, but empty seats resonate still. Goodbye.

Beat the NBA drum. Remind them of the storied tradition of the St. Louis Hawks. Show Adam Silver the St. Louis Blues history of drawing huge crowds in a market where everyone assumed the NHL had lost their collective minds expanding into, despite having never won a Stanley Cup. The Blues now have nearly half of a century of selling out the St. Louis Arena (CheckerDome), Kiel, oops I mean, Scottrade Center.

The infrastructure is there. Beautiful NBA ready arena. Lustful fanbase that has been simmering for years in the shadow of the Chicago Bull dynasty, and now looking over their shoulders and seeing the sold out crowds partying in OKC. It’s time St. Louis. Gather your elbows and begin to beat your NBA drum. The league will expand in the next the next four years under the billions and access to every market guaranteed by their historically wealthy 24 billion dollar, 9-year deal. The league wants always to expand by two, maintaining an even number of teams that makes scheduling and conferences sure numerically. Seattle gets the first franchise. Write it down. Until Kevin Johnson rode to the rescue of the city of Sacramento, the Kings were headed to the Emerald City 2 seasons ago. The city had broken ground on a new arena and the league was prepared to welcome back am amazing an supportive fanbase that had nothing to do with the Sonics departure to Oklahoma City in the first place. The city of Seattle still owns the rights to the colors, name, all trophies and records of the original franchise under the settlement allowing the ownership under Clay Bennett to jump ship in 2008. They are a lock to be the first city in any future NBA expansion.

That leaves St. Louis. The natural geographic location for the second team. What other choices are there. Adam Silver and the NBA don’t need Vegas in the way that the NHL does. NBA history has been littered with hints and instances of manipulation. I don’t think they want their product across the street from a sports book as a playoff Game 7 takes a left due to a referee’s whistle.

I’ve gotta believe the NFL thirsty  citizens would grab 10,000 NBA season tickets on day 1, even with the knowledge that the expansion product in year one would most likely be an assembly line of end of the benchers (think Nik Stauskas) and problem contracts and everybody’s NBA knuckleheads (think Nick Young). Sounds like fun to me.

St. Louis, from over here in the land of Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and the emergent Philadelphia 76ers, we’d welcome you back. Turn the page. Raise a collective middle finger to the pirates who stole your NFL team. Bury ’em. You had a great sendoff with the legends game.
Finally, you’ve got an owner in waiting. The two brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silva, who have made $800 million since signing away their rights to the St. Louis Spirits in the ABA contraction and merger which netted them $2 million and an NBA TV share in perpetuity (the best business deal ever made anywhere) that still reaps major benefits. Bring ’em to the table.
Times yours St. Louis. Can’t you hear the Scottrade Center in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals? Surely you can feel opening day. This one’s a natural. How about this? The St. Louis Sounds. Stop the NFL nightmares and begin the NBA dreams. Goodnight.

http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/01/09/nba-settles-perpetuity-deal-with-former-owners-of-aba-spirits/