As a lyricist, Lil' Kim was light years ahead of her time.
When the Brooklynite released her debut album "Hard Core" in
1996, it was unlike anything we'd heard before. Here was this woman
rapping unapologetically about sex, her own prowess in that arena
and what she demands. Every bar she dropped oozed confidence,
seduction and sex-positive empowerment. Kim was the Queen Bee. Her
aura, style, grace and swagger backed up her provocative lyrics and
showed why she brought the "workers" to her hive.
Ironically, Kim didn’t embody that same confidence and bravado
off the stage. Sometimes, beauty and glamour hurt, and for Kim, her
scars were subcutaneous with a superficial edge. She listened to
men who were beneath her. She bought into their narratives of not
being enough. Her complexion wasn’t light enough. Her features
weren’t keen enough. For as long as she could remember, her
boyfriends kept cheating on her with those “European-looking”
women, “the long-hair type.” Even her father verbally humiliated
her. Former lovers. All of them taught Kim how to hate
She bought into the notion that she couldn’t compete “as is” — a
“regular around-the-way, black girl” with extraordinary charm and
charisma. After an ex broke her nose, Kim became addicted to
plastic surgery. She was trying to find liberation and acceptance
through reconstruction, only for her not to recognize her own face
when she looks at her reflection in the mirror.
The NBA, just like Lil' Kim, has a narrative of inadequacy
around it. There’s a notion that the league as we know it isn’t
enough — isn’t exciting enough, isn’t entertaining enough and in
need of a "makeover."
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the league is
discussing the addition of an
in-season tournament with $1 million per player in prize money.
This is also coming off the heels of exploratory talks about a
“Field Of Dreams” game. If the NBA implements these concepts and
variations, the league will run the risk of not recognizing its own
face and ruining what makes it great.
Usually, botox and nose jobs are considered “gateway’’
procedures in plastic surgery. A subtle tweak, nothing too
dramatic. The NBA had its version of such an enhancement with the
inaugural play-in tournament. Initially introduced in the NBA
Bubble to help sort out seeding in the restart after the shutdown,
the league brought it back this past season. The play-in was
intriguing since it put the last two playoff seeds up for grabs and
made the games more meaningful.
Adding the play-in, even though it can be considered as a
“gateway” enhancement, was fine and organic. It only enhances
intrigue in terms of the playoffs, giving off vibes of wildcard
matchups, which can potentially alter the trajectory of the
playoffs and make the games more exciting. Adding a midseason
tournament and “Field Of Dreams” game, on the other hand, is
gimmicky and unnecessary — extra enhancements that the league
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed his proposed
midseason tournament at a number of events in the last few years.
He reiterated that idea two months ago during the NBA Finals in his
annual state-of-the-league press conference. His logic for the
tournament is recouping lost revenue that stemmed from the pandemic
and having another “goal” for teams to shoot for. According
to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski via Bleacher Report, the concept looks
something like this:
“Original midseason tournament
proposals centered around a European soccer model event that would
tie into the NBA’s traditional schedule... An eight-team
single-elimination tournament that would be incentivized with $1
million per player payouts to the winning team. The NBA had
discussed a scenario of pool play embedded in the regular-season
schedule to determine the teams.”
A midseason tournament does nothing for the players. The only
goal that matters to them is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in
June and unveiling that championship banner on opening night. That
is what they are playing for... not some “Stern Cup.” Also,
this tournament does nothing for the fans. There is already a
play-in and the playoffs. A midseason cup is taking a page from
soccer by having multiple titles up for grabs. The premise is
exciting. The execution, however, is distracting.
If I wanted to be distracted by multiple cups and storylines
highlighting the promise of reaching said cups and titles, I’d
watch soccer. In the NBA, all that’s needed is a regular season —
regardless of the length and the playoffs following to determine a
champion. Why is there a need to make matters complicated? The
Larry O'Brien is enough, and it is what matters to both the players
and the fans. "The David" will never compare, no matter how much
money Commissioner Silver is willing to throw at creating it.
The "Field Of Dreams" game is also not needed. Again, another
enhancement only for the sake of it. To make matters worse, it’s a
copycat enhancement. In order to inspire and renew interest in the
league and the sport of baseball as a whole, MLB recently came up
with a “Field Of Dreams" game. Taking a page from the classic
sports film last month, the Chicago White Sox and the New York
Yankees played in Dyersville, Iowa. The game drew the highest
ratings for a regular-season telecast on FOX. Okay cool, but what
works for MLB may not work for the NBA.
For one, the interest in the NBA is already there regardless of
what the ratings say. Secondly, it worked for MLB because it leaned
into nostalgia; the NBA doesn’t need that. Thirdly, sometimes, it’s
not what you do, but how you do it. If the NBA leans into hooper
culture and sets up a game at Rucker Park or any other legendary
court or slab of blacktop in the country, it's easy to see how it
would work. But these gimmicks don’t drive the interest of the
game, and they never will.
It is the players that drive the interest of the NBA. Fans are
entranced by seeing their unmatched skill and athleticism night
after night in all of their vivid intimacy. You can see these
players do what they do. You can see their emotions. You can see
their grit, their swag and their grace running up and down the
court without the armor of their major sports counterparts. The
narratives, as tired and burdensome as they
are, serve a purpose. The players’ skill, athleticism and
charisma are just enough to draw you into their individual
storylines — not gimmicks with the hopes of a rating spike or a
The NBA is beautiful just the way it is, with perceived flaws
and all. If there are any enhancements that should be made, they'll
be superficial. The league can stand a field-of-16 playoff format
regardless of conference or rules that help defenses out in the
interest of balance, but nothing like what’s being proposed.
The league has what it needs to succeed: current and future
stars, and their storylines and their style, on and off the court.
Dedicated and invested fans regardless of team and individual
player. The ratings are what they are, and they can climb again —
but no matter what the ratings say or what people say, the NBA's
still got it going on.