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Left Coast Bias: NBA Must Bounce Gunslinger to Preserve Product - Broadcasting & Cable

Left Coast Bias: NBA Must Bounce Gunslinger to Preserve Product

Gilbert Arenas is the last straw for an old-school NBA fan
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David Stern, you must throw gun-toting Gilbert Arenas out of the league and never let him play another NBA game. Mr. Commissioner, live up to your last name and toss his ass out for good. And if his buddy Javaris Crittenton is also guilty, send him packing as well.

As an old-school NBA fan, this to me is the last straw. It is time to make an example of Arenas, unless you want to ruin any mainstream momentum the league has rebuilt, or want to just cater to thugs and NRA members.

And I'll tell you who else would agree with me, though they probably wouldn't say so on the record (I didn't even bother trying): NBA television partners ESPN, Turner and all the regional networks. The NBA has always been a cyclical business, but when players start bringing guns to the gym, that's when the mainstream fans—the ones you need to be anything more than a regional sport—start turning off their sets.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, Arenas, a player for the Washington Wizards, recently brought four guns to his team's arena and stored them in a box in his locker. While details are sketchy, there have been reports he took them out, either as a joke or not, following an argument with Crittenton. And in one of the most preposterous excuses of all time, the guy claimed he had to store the guns in his locker so his kids wouldn't get near them at home.

Are you kidding? He needed a place to put his guns, so naturally he brought them to work. The guy has a $111 million contract. He could go buy a mansion with cash—hell, he could build a mansion made of cash—and store his beloved artillery there. Then, to make matters worse, the role model made light of it with jokes on Twitter and a pre-game routine in which he pretended to “shoot” his teammates with his fingers.

The NBA suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay on Jan. 6, saying he is not fit to take the court. Stern said that when a legal investigation is over, the player faces “a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse.” He'd be wise to follow through.

The NBA is at a crossroads as a league and a TV property. Pro hoops has had its ups and downs over the years, bouncing back from drug scandals, ref scandals and brawls in the stands. But in between were some halcyon days, like when Larry and Magic showed how the game should be played, and when Michael took it to new heights, literally.

Since then, the NBA has gradually lost me. And I'm not alone. The league transformed into a glorified series of one-on-one matchups in many (admittedly old) people's minds. While the athleticism got more dynamic and the dunks more acrobatic, basketball fundamentally grew worse.

Blame whatever you want; I blame kids no longer getting three or four years of solid college coaching to learn the game, and too many high school dunks shown on TV. But the bottom line is, for hard-core basketball fans, that the league's product suffered.

But in recent years, the league picked up some momentum, and ratings. With Kobe in Los Angeles, Kevin Garnett in Boston and LeBron James probably headed to New York next year, the TV product has bounced back.

But the image of players toting guns to the arena could grind all of that to a halt. So Stern must make a statement, and soon.

The NBA's commissioner has, to his credit, been gutsy recently, talking of legalized sports gambling, which is an inevitability in the U.S. Now he needs to show some (basket)balls and expel Gilbert Arenas, or you can bet all that TV money will not flow in forever.

E-mail comments to
ben.grossman@reedbusiness.com
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