Professional Sports is about to finally march out of its Twilight Zone.
Let me explain.
The NBA has been in obscurity ever since the 60th pick rolled off of the draft board in late July. Not a peep has been heard from the NHL, as they crowned the Chicago Blackhawks hockey champions this summer. Football is finally back, but as many know, the preseason can be labeled as the most glorified tune-up known to man: the regular season is still a full month away. As for the MLB and its 162 game marathon campaign, “do-or-die” crucial games never come into fruition until mid-September most seasons.
So when the NBA schedule was released on Wednesday evening, basketball fans couldn’t help but to swivel their heads.
After the usual opening night and Christmas Day games were unveiled, many Sixers fans like myself sifted the internet longing to see Philly’s 82 game road map. A couple of games garnered my attention and second thoughts, as the Sixers open the season against the Boston Celtics and see two of their first five games matched up against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With such a long schedule and matchups against all other 29 teams guaranteed, however, the schedule didn’t offer many surprises other than deciding what games would be economically feasible to attend. That being said, one other small, yet important, detail did strike my attention.
For the second consecutive season, the Sixers have ZERO nationally televised games (games on ESPN, ABC, and TNT). As a consolation prize, the NBA did in fact throw two early season tilts with the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies onto NBA TV.
Don’t be shocked: the Sixers are 90 games under .500 the past two seasons combined. To the common fan, that is far from exciting product. To Sixers fans, however, absence from the national spotlight can be a punch in the gut. Think about it: the Sixers are an insanely storied franchise that boasts greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Allen Iverson: the list goes on and on. Historically, the Sixers match up extremely well with franchises like the Celtics and Lakers, who both still see themselves on national television on a somewhat-decent basis. To do a complete 180 degree plunge from worthy of praise to unworthy of air-time is a thought-provoking phenomenon.
Amidst losing and inquiries of “tanking”, I still believe that the Sixers deserved a least ONE nationally televised game for the 2015-16 NBA season. Before anyone looks at me cross-eyed, hear me out.
Here are four reasons why:
1. Jahlil Okafor
Finally: an early first round draft pick will start opening night for the Sixers. Coming off a national championship with the Duke Blue Devils, Okafor already has a recognizable ‘name’ that will presumably continue to expand in its popularity. The size of his hands and the innateness of his offensive skillset both have basketball junkies ranting and raving. Wouldn’t his presence alone be warranting of a game or two on ESPN, simply to see how he is developing on his NBA journey to potential stardom? Better yet: why not slate Okafor and the Sixers against another team with a high-prized draft pick, say either Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves or D’Angelo Russell and the Lakers? ESPN seems to already have shown the Wolves and Lakers some love, as they are scheduled to face each other on ESPN early on in the NBA season. Seeing young draftees battle with each other on national TV seems like an intriguing way to weed out the busts from the rising stars.
2. Philadelphia is a big market
Why are all national television networks infatuated with the Knicks and Lakers? One word: money. Both New York and Los Angeles are giant markets that always seem to have a natural ability to draw in viewers through television and ticket sales due to, for the most part, the ambiance of their respective home courts. With a market as big as Philadelphia’s, why not show the Sixers some love? If the Sixers begin to show more and more competitiveness through each and every game, the Wells Fargo Center, as proven, will fill up FAST. If TV networks are willing to trek to small markets like Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City once in a blue moon, why not slate a game in South Philly to see an up-and-coming roster do battle? Throw in a Friday night matinee against the Celtics, for example, and watch the WFC fill up in a blink of an eye. TV networks get their money, and the Sixers get some love: everybody wins.
3. Tanking is terminated
Many fans have waited two years to see the phrase above plastered out. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, unlike other off-seasons, has oddly shown that he may want to get this train rolling in Philly by picking up some W’s next season. For example, in my previous article I made mention of a report that said J.R. Smith turned down an offer from the Sixers. If the Sixers wanted to offer a vet like Smith a contract, this only goes to show that the Sixers want to start getting some immediate results on the court next season. In addition, Hinkie orchestrated a trade to pick up Nik Stauskas from the Kings about a month and a half ago. Stauskas is a guy Hinkie has always had high acclaim for, so finally prying him away from Sacramento hints that Hinkie’s plan may be ready to transition from secrecy to incremental success in 2015. All signs point to the Sixers being competitive next season (at least more competitive than the last 2 seasons) so giving them a few cracks on national television may just be the spark Philly needs to be the next up-and-coming feel good story.
4. The NBA season is 82 games
Although not even comparable to the essentially year long season baseball exhibits, the NBA season is LONG. Because the season is so long, many fans will have their opportunity to get their Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant fixes on a daily basis. Therefore, will it really hurt to give the Sixers ONE nationally televised game? The in-balance between nationally televised games for each side of the NBA totem pole is for the most part justified, but as the season wears down, it does become quite old seeing the same eight to 10 teams on TV week after week. Bottom line: the season is a trek, mix things up a little.
Sixers fans, looks like we are sticking to local TV and expensive packages to watch every game this season.
But no worries, the Sixers will be back in the national spotlight someday.