Commissioner, National Basketball Association
Congratulations on your impending retirement in 2014. After thirty years as NBA Commissioner, I’m sure you will be looking for exciting new challenges. Well, here’s some great news! On behalf of jazz aficionados everywhere, I’m pleased to offer you the position, Commissioner of Jazz.
More than you ever dreamed of, yes? I mean, how many of these Commish jobs does one guy get offered in a lifetime? Listen, Dave – may I call you Dave? Haven’t we been best friends forever? — It seems like only yesterday that you stepped onto the NBA scene. Remember the whispers? The league was too black? There were too many drugs? The media was ignoring you? Your NBA Finals were shown on tape delay after midnight? Thirty years later, you are an international marketing phenomenon.
Dave, Commissioner of Jazz is the perfect sequel!
We’ve got talented performers of all ages, colors, ethnicities, just waiting for you to work your marketing magic! In fact, we’re hoping you’ll consider taking the job immediately. Here’s a few things you could do right here in LA:
- We need a brand new jazz facility. A gleaming palace, David, like Jazz at Lincoln Center, or at least a spanking new club like Yoshi’s in the Bay Area. You can do this, using your powers of persuasion and influence. During your tenure in the NBA, sparkling new arenas sprouted up everywhere. One note of caution: you cannot threaten to move the franchise to Oklahoma City. That ain’t gonna work here. But I’m sure you’ll work your wizardry somehow
- We’re ignored by the media, David. Even when Esperanza Spalding wins a major Grammy, we’re lucky to get five minutes on the broadcast. Our local newspaper barely acknowledges that we exist. Our once-decent radio station has now become the Jazz Museum. The average age of the musicians they play is Dead. We want Prime Time, Dave! We want Esperanza hosting SNL!
Now Dave, I hear you asking yourself, why should I take on this new position immediately and forego my NBA Farewell Tour? And won’t I have to take a stiff pay cut? Here’s a few of the many perks you’d enjoy as the Jazz Czar:
- No more ingrate players whining about salary and dress codes and technical fouls. You’ll be appreciated here, Dave! We’ll put up a statue of you, right next to the glorious new arena you build in LA.
- Gender equality. Women don’t need their own league here, David. Well, that may be overstating the case a little. But just think, Diana Krall, Roberta Gambarini, Esperanza, Diane Reeves. Honestly, David. NBA: sweaty locker rooms. Jazz: front row seats for Tierney Sutton. You decide.
- Free Admission to any Jazz Club in America, at your specially maintained table. Just tell them Mike sent you.
- Our “Championship Events” take place in the world’s most beautiful places: Monterey, Newport, Montreux, New Orleans. As opposed to – ahem – Oklahoma City, Cleveland and San Antonio.
- Special Bonus: You can stop pretending you like hip hop.
David, the timing couldn’t be better. In the NBA, you benefitted from rising young stars like Magic and Larry, Michael and LeBron. Well, we’ve got rising stars here too, from Esperanza to Robert Glaspar to Christian Scott. And the great thing is, our veteran all-stars, like Pat Metheny and Terence Blanchard, the Marsalis family, Sonny, Wayne, Herbie, Monty Alexander and others, don’t retire in their thirties – they just keep getting better. All they need is your savvy and genius, Mr. Commissioner. Under your leadership, Jazz can recapture the fancy of the American public, like it did with Satchmo and Dizzy, Trane and Bird and Miles.
And it will be all your doing, Dave! I’m sure that will make up for the modest stipend that we will be offering.
So please think it over, Dave. These positions only come up once or twice in a lifetime. It’s a glorious opportunity.
Katz of the Day
I know a lot of your are thinking, Mike, you wrote an NBA murder mystery (Murder Off The Glass, now available as an E-book –thanks for asking!), so what do you make of the Lakers’ Metta World Peace and his flying elbow? For those of you non-hoops heads (you’re still reading?) the Lakers’ forward, formally known as Ron Artest, flung a vicious elbow while preening after a dunk shot, just missing the temple of Oklahoma City Thunder forward James Harden. Harden left the game with a concussion and hasn’t been cleared to play again as of this writing. MWP was ejected and was just handed a seven game suspension by NBA commissioner David Stern.
Once the ugliness of the episode was visible to everyone on the planet, MWP was apologetic in his own narcissistic way. He professed regret that Harden was injured. He didn’t mean to do it. The idea that a 33 year-old celebrating a basket by beating his chest and violently flinging his elbows might be considered aberrant behavior is surely contained in a thought bubble floating far, far above his level of comprehension.
Basketball fans’ condemnation of such behavior depends, of course, on our distance from it. We Chicago folk ought to know. Dennis Rodman was Public Enemy #1 when he was leading the Piston’s Bad Boys to their annual mugging of the Bulls, more so when he joined his teammates in the unsportsmanlike refusal to shake hands after the Bulls finally vanquished them in 1991. Once he joined the Bulls, it was a different story. Oh, sure, he took the occasional cheap shot, or kicked a cameraman in the head. But he was mostly an adorable nut case, embraced by Bulls fans as long as he didn’t get himself kicked out of anything important. The eventuality that his life would spiral downward when there was no more basketball to be played wasn’t much of a worry to anyone then, and doesn’t seem to be much on anyone’s mind now.
The NBA has a different perspective, and you can’t blame them. If the current players can’t remember when the league played its championship games on tape delay opposite Johnny Carson, David Stern certainly can. That’s where he came in. The public perception of the NBA then was too black, too drug-infested, too violent. Then came Magic and Bird and Michael Jordan, the Dream Team, Kobe and Shaq. Stern was a marketing genius, but even as his league attained rock star status, memories remained long. MWP’s elbow to the head of Harden brought vivid reminders of the punch from Kermit Washington that shattered Rudy Tomjanovich’s face during an on-court fracas in 1977. And MWP’s participation in the “Malice in the Palace” near-riot in 2004, which found him brawling in the stands and led to an 86 game suspension, hasn’t been erased by his name change.
The NBA takes some flack from sportswriters for wanting its players to get a couple of years of college under their belts before entering the league. The NCAA, of course, is rife with hypocrisy and the NBA surely benefits from the training and publicity the players get as college participants. But the NBA would also like to see some level of maturity from its incipient stars before they are immersed in the media fishbowl. They’d like to see some semblance of discipline and dedication to team play before the kids come in with guaranteed money and big shoe contracts.
Would any of that have made the slightest different to Metta World Peace? He played two years at St. Johns, so clearly not. He undoubtedly has some psychological problems – he famously thanked his therapist after helping the Lakers win the NBA crown two years ago and auctioned off his ring to support mental health. He’s capable of being charming and generous. As Phil Jackson pointed out, his personality is far different from Dennis Rodman. But he seems to function in a world oblivious to consequences.
Is seven games enough of a consequence? What if the Lakers, who had come to depend on his recent improved play, stumble in the first round? Might they take advantage of a new league salary cap “amnesty” and release him? Of course, he would still get all his money. He just wouldn’t be playing for the Lakers anymore.
Out of sight, out of mind.