The NBA catches a lot of flak for its “superstar culture."

 

The big names get all the calls. The big names call the shots as to where certain guys land in free agency. And when officiating seemingly gets out of control (and it always does), this culture that the NBA has labored for decades to create, is blamed.

 

But there is a definite method to the NBA’s madness, as seen by their record cable ratings this spring.

Like it or not, “superstars” saved the league in the early 1980s. One particular “superstar” brought in a decade of booming ratings in the 1990s. And the league has been seeking one or two “superstars” to once again provide the NBA with monster numbers on TV.

 

Well, those two superstars are now delivering in the postseason and David Stern and Co. are just raking in the green.

 

Tonight, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are set to tip off the most “superstar driven” Finals since Magic Johnson faced Michael Jordan in 1991.

It's a TV producer's dream and there’s certainly no way ESPN could screw it up.

Right?

Well, not entirely.

The NBA used to have magical, epic, Academy Award-worthy intros when NBC had the TV rights in the 1990s, but they just haven’t been able to re-create the glory in recent years.

Cartoon Network, which moonlights as ESPN, only wishes they could pull something like this off:



This isn’t to say all of ESPN’s NBA production is crap. I’m a big fan of their “Finals montage,” which hopefully we will see once again tonight:









Some may find this stuff corny, but it's things like this truly adds to the moment for a sports fan. It sets the stage for unforgettable performance and links the past with the present.

ESPN obviously has its interest in other things as well as the NBA Finals (I'm sure those Euro2012 ratings in Oklahoma City are through the roof) and it's a fine explanation for not going full-tilt with their NBA production. But the small things count and it's why the NBA on NBC will always be king.

The theme music? No comparison. ESPN’s theme is just average when compared to John Tesh’s masterpiece (remember, Nelly made a remix of Roundball Rock back when Nelly was cool … what other sports theme can lay claim to once being the apple of a mainstream hip-hop artists’ eye?).



ESPN has been trying to make strides in the right direction. They mercifully jettisoned Stuart Scott from the studio crew, but then brought in rumor-monger Chris Broussard. A miniscule upgrade.



They decided against replacing Mark Jackson, who left to coach the Warriors, by instead just going with Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen (two of the best in the biz). Plus, we all know the three-man booth is just too much for a basketball game.



So the Worldwide Leader is taking baby steps. But it’s happening far too late.

They have had the TV rights to the NBA since 2003 and for a while treated telecasts with the same production values as its old 2 a.m. in July Strongman Competitions (huge fan of the truck/airplane pull!).





So will David Stern ever leave ESPN? Probably not. The network still doesn’t have any legit competitors in terms of providing 24/7 coverage. NBCSportsNetwork hasn’t exactly lit it up in the early-going and a FOX competitor is still up in the air. The current TV deal runs out in 2016. We can always hope.



The LA Kings win the F***ing Cup




Congrats to hockey hotbed Los Angeles for winning Lord Stanley's Cup in 2012. It was an improbable run for an eight seed, so much so that their own players couldn't believe it was f****ing happening. Not one, but two legit F-bombs in the span of 10 minutes on national TV. Only in the NHL. F*** YEAH!!!