Times are tough for hoops junkies, even more so for those of us expected to continue writing even as the most compelling stories in basketball are Delonte West’s incoherent Twitter rants and Kevin Durant’s scoring outbursts in pro-am games. Recently, I’ve taken to re-reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball for the umpteenth time in hopes of filling the gaping void in my soul with some sort of basketball-related content. Even though I can practically recite the book by heart at this point, one bit of information in The Legend of Keyser Söze chapter struck me differently this time around (probably because I am so desperate for something to write about that I will not hesitate to pick at the proverbial scraps.)
On page 638, Simmons defines his criteria for the best single season team of all-time, that which most closely resembles ruthlessness of the aforementioned Keyzer Söze. His third point focuses on a team’s ability to stay hungry for victory even after winning the title in the previous year(s). He writes, “Show some pride. Protect your title. Make us feel like you’d rather die than lose your championship belt. What’s the point in winning a title if you’re not going to defend it?”
Now let me stop you before you go thinking that I am suggesting the NBA should switch to championship belt rather than the current prize (though the irony of Jason Terry justifying his preemptively-tattooed championship trophy only to have the prize switched might be worth it.) Mark Cuban’s proposition to move away from the traditional championship rings was met with criticism from his own players, and I’m sure they would feel the same about replacing the iconic Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Rather, I am suggesting that in order to fight complacency in reigning champions, the O’Brien Trophy be prominently displayed behind their bench for the duration of their playoff run. This instills an added sense of pride; not only is the team competing for the NBA’s greatest prize, but it is physically theirs to lose. It would have a similar effect for opponents. If the challenge of facing the defending champs were not enough motivation, there is the potential joy of looking on as a weeping former champion – surely Kobe Bryant in a 2011 scenario – clings to the trophy while suit-clad men pry his fingers away and pack the trophy into a stainless steel suitcase to be whisked away.
Which brings me to the fine print of this concept…
1) Though the trophy is to be displayed behind the incumbent champion’s bench, it is not under any circumstances to be touched by any of the players until they are crowned NBA champions
2) The trophy is to be handled by either a) The exact guys in white gloves and suits that handle the Stanley Cup, or, in the event of scheduling conflicts b) exact replicas of the guys in white gloves and suits that handle the Stanley Cup
3) If the reigning champions lose a playoff series the trophy is, as I indicated above, taken into NBA custody until a) it is presented to the eventual champion, or b) it is displayed at midcourt during Game 7 of the Finals
4) The trophy is not to appear during the regular season unless the reigning champions are on the verge of elimination from playoff contention. (This rule has unbelievable potential. If the defending champs must win and also have a conference foe lose in order to avoid elimination, there is the possibility the rival’s contest could go final while the champs are still mid-game. This, of course, would leave the Stanley Cup holder guys no choice but to package up the trophy and make their exit, signaling the dramatic conclusion of their quest to repeat.)
So here’s how this is gonna work, David Stern. I let you implement my idea without bestowing unto me the wealth of riches that I deserve for such an awesome innovation. In return, you accept the next Player’s Association collective bargaining proposal and guarantee me a full 2011-12 season. Good doing business with you.