Vince McMahon is preparing to save football with the relaunched XFL this spring. Can he please consider fixing professional basketball while he’s at it?
Dear Mr. McMahon,
You probably don’t remember me. I used to work for you for, like, a month. Hope I still have the high score on the pinball machine on the second floor!
I’m sure you’re very busy swimming around a bank vault full of quarters or mooning passersby from the window of your office, but I wanted to briefly trouble you for a favor. I know the XFL is coming this spring to revolutionize the game of football yet again, but there’s another sport that needs your special attention and unparalleled creative vision. Yes, I’m talking about the NBA.
You probably noticed that NBA ratings are down. In fact, they’ve plummeted to such depths that they’re being beaten by some upstart wrestling company. I know, another wrestling company besides your own? Seems crazy, but it’s true! They have a ring and cameras and everything.
The NBA is struggling through a season filled with setbacks: the China controversy, the collapse of the Warriors’ dynasty, Kevin Durant’s injury absence, and Mark Jackson’s commentary. It’s grim, but I know you can save them. That’s why I propose you establish a rival league, the XNBA, to show Adam Silver and company how it’s done from the basketball capital of the world, Stamford, Connecticut. This won’t be an overnight success, though. You’ll have worse players, a less lucrative TV deal, and probably really ugly jerseys. But if the Clippers can land Kawhi Leonard, why can’t you hoist the NBA by its own petard?
A little bit of WWE flair is what the NBA needs to fix the damaged relationship between the league and its fans. The glitz, glamour, and drama of pro wrestling could paper over the deficiencies in a sport that’s starting to feel a bit antiquated.
To get the ball rolling, I’ve suggested some rule changes that will make the sport faster, more modern, and more exciting to a casual fan whose remote is broken and is too lazy to get up and change the channel.
A shorter shot clock
Twenty-four seconds can seem like an eternity when players like James Harden dribble incessantly, often with the expressed purpose of wasting time. Things like “strategy,” “long-term planning,” and “thought” aren’t necessary when you write an episode of Monday Night Raw, so why should that be a part of basketball? A 12-second shot clock will force teams to shoot quickly and shoot often. Imagine the breakneck, thrilling pace of a basketball game when players don’t have time to prepare.
No free throws
Yet more wasted time. Tedious Hack-a-Shaq-style intentional fouling grinds the game to a halt in crunch time. The aforementioned Mr. Harden — public enemy number one for the NBA’s ills — will flail his limbs in every direction to draw contact, knowing he will almost always get the call. Fans detest it. Players are frustrated by it. Drawing artificial contact for the sake of collecting free throws is strangling the game and turning it from a contest of skill and athletic prowess into a really bad interpretive dance performance.
It’s time to reassess the necessity of free throws in basketball. There’s precedent for this already. The NBA is experimenting with one free throw shot worth two points in the G League. Unfortunately, the Association is not bold enough to enact this rule immediately and would rather test it out in their minor league. One shot is fine, but why stop there? Why bother having a shot at all? If there’s a foul, just give the team that was fouled the points. That leads me to my next rule change.
Get rid of block and charge calls
The whole concept of fouls is boring. They stop the game dead in its tracks, giving the viewer time to consider whether or not they’re going to fix that remote. Don’t give them the opportunity! Sure, the league needs some rules, lest Draymond Green starts karate kicking people on every drive to the basket. I accept that this is basketball, not Rollerball. Still, the fewer stoppages of play, the better. That’s why I propose doing away with block and charge calls. Drop your elbow, and get in there. This will also extend the careers of players like Steven Adams. A win-win!
This rule is already in place in FIBA international play. Bring it to America. Let the guys fiddle with the ball on the cylinder as much as they want. Bat it away like in a volleyball game. It’ll be like a funny blooper reel all the time.
4-point circle and 5 points for a halfcourt shot
Stephen Curry changed the way NBA teams execute their offenses, encouraging players to stretch the floor and open up passing lanes for skilled wings to make runs to the hoop. Let’s keep stretching this thing until it snaps. The 4-point circle is used in the BIG3, so it obviously works. But again, why stop there? We know Curry can make a halfcourt shot. His range might be infinite. Give him an incentive to heave it from halfcourt by awarding a fifth point for a made basket. This will also come in handy with a 12-second shot clock. A lot of teams will have to shoot from there anyway.
Allow cheerleaders and players to date and put cameras in the locker room
Yes, I know you did this in the original XFL and it failed miserably. In fact, the entire XFL failed miserably the first time. Did that stop you from trying again? Of course not. When has failure ever stopped Vince McMahon? Did you give up on Roman Reigns when the crowd booed him out of the building for winning the Royal Rumble? Nope. You’re a genius, and you’re always right.
Why will this work the second time around? Because the NBA is already a circus of personal drama. I am certain some people spend more time scouring players’ social media accounts than they do watching actual games. Why not profit from it? Give the fans what they really want: the kind of salacious gossip, romantic intrigue, and knockdown screaming fights that make Vanderpump Rules the best show on television. Imagine the excitement generated from finding out Donovan Mitchell is going steady with a Utah Jazz cheerleader, or that Russell Westbrook borrowed James Harden’s good lotion from his bag without asking. The storylines practically write themselves (well, not really, so maybe you can hire me back to write them)!
So, there you have it, Vince. My humble proposal for how to save basketball from its crippling malaise. Together, we can do this…I’ll just need a six-figure salary and a Ford Mustang with Shaq’s face painted on the hood.
— Dave Schilling (DWS on the 2nd floor pinball leaderboard)