NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge

After Mike retired for the second time, there was a very distinct lull in the NBA, particularly regarding viewership and fan interest. Since then, many players–AI, Kobe, Vince Carter and others–have come along that prompted people to say things like, “This guy’s gonna’ be the next Michael Jordan.” I never really saw it in any of those guys and, while I don’t see it in any players entering the game today, I do see guys that may be able to have a similar impact on the sport to that of Mike, Bird and Magic.

I don’t know the stats, but I’m guessing viewership is on the rise, thanks to Melo and Bron and their abilities as showmen and athletes. As I watched the game tonight, I realized that these kids could have a tremendous impact on the popularity of the NBA and maybe even eventually on how the game is played. Of course there was a good bit of showboating tonight, but there was also a lot of team play (at least on the offensive end of the floor) and I saw guys working together to create spectacular plays almost every trip down the floor. I had to keep reminding myself that these guys are rookies and sophomores and a few of them aren’t even 20 years old.

It’s hard to imagine how good this group of guys might be in five years. I think Kobe and KG are the current poster-children for young kids being successful in the NBA, but I think there will soon be a changing of the guard as some of these new guys start taking over. Kobe can score, but his defense is weak and his team-play has always been suspect (flashback to his run of consecutive 40-point games last year where it was obvious he didn’t care as much about winning as he did about padding his stats). Bron can score, but he can also pass the ball with almost anyone in the league right now. What’s more is that I think in the next few years, he’ll emerge as one of the better defensive players in the league; I think his size, court sense and speed make it virtually inevitable.

I’m excited to see how these new kids affect the game and I hope the NBA starts getting some more primetime viewership. I miss all the hype that Jordan brought to the game and I hope the rookies can revive some of that.