Saying the NBA is soft has become a common narrative among NBA pundits, players, and fans. The players are charged with being too friendly with each other, causing a decline in competition and rivalry, flopping too often and publicly complaining too much. Players are laughing with each other and shaking hands when they should be talking smack and throwing elbows. They should be taking lessons from Bill Laimbeer and not LeBron James.
There’s a new sheriff in town.
The new players in the NBA may not speak up against each other, but they certainly are not holding back on the old players, media, and social issues that they hold dear. The corporate structure of sports helps develop single file lines without speaking out of turn in order to protect the brand. The new NBA isn’t into that and the old NBA is struggling with it.
I not mad or upset at management cause Griff and staff have done a great job, I just feel we still need to improve in order to repeat…
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 24, 2017
Michael Jordan rode the fence when it came to social issues throughout his career while gently placing his opinion down without incident. Fans around the world were shocked out of their shorts when they heard his Hall of Fame speech.
Jordan had to wait until his legacy was solidified to speak his mind, and LeBron did too, but LeBron is still on the court and doing it, a feat that we haven’t seen accomplished yet with a mega star.
Republicans buy shoes, too.
Several stars have been outspoken recently. Steph Curry called our president an ass. LeBron called out Charles Barkley in a very personal way as a response to criticism. Phil Jackson has been cryptically tweeting at Carmelo Anthony things that should be said behind closed business doors. Kyle Lowry called presidential orders bullsh-t and then wouldn’t retract his curse. And this is just recently; there have been a host of stars that have opened up about what they believe in or publicly posted support for an organization in the last few seasons.
Michael Jordan opened the door to speaking the truth at his hall of fame speech and LeBron has propped the door open for the rest of the league. The NBA is still corporate America, but a new kind of corporate America where everyone gets their say without major backlash; a workplace where people are willing to put their opinions out on the line without major repercussion from a boss or coworkers.
We were friends then, but you wouldn’t know it by the way we competed on the court.
Old school NBA players are calling the new players soft; a microcosm of our current generational differences between boomers and millennials. But maybe it’s jealousy shrouded in anger and communicated as denigration. Holding your tongue is considered passive aggressive but the right thing to do, now it’s acceptable to wear your heart on your sleeve skipping passive and just getting right to the aggression and that can be difficult sometimes.
If the new NBA is considered soft, then being soft is hard to do.