No Fun League? Meet the National Boring Association

I was always under the assumption that flipping people off was not the same as cheering on your teammates, but according the NBA I am mistaken. Kyrie Irving was fined $50,000 for throwing the bird at fans during their first round playoff series with the Celtics, but the Mavericks’ bench matched that amount during game 7 of their series with the Suns, and then doubled it against the Warriors for, “continuing to violate league rules regarding team bench decorum.” If you only read the official statement by the league you would think that the Mavs’ bench was flipping off opposing players or fans, in reality, they were just too excited for playoff basketball. The Mavs as an organization were fined $25,000, $50,000, then $100,000 after their 3rd “offense” of having an excited team bench. The official statement reads: “On multiple occasions, several players and a member of the coaching staff stood for an extended period in the Mavericks’ team bench area, stood away from the team bench, and were on or encroaching upon the playing court during game action in Dallas’ 126-117 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on May 20 at Chase Center.” The NBA initially hit them with a $25,000 fine after Game 2 against the Suns for the same reason and the fines have doubled with each ensuing “violation.”

I was hoping to see Boban, Trey Burke, and Josh Green doing “The Angry Birds,” “The Human Hoop,” or my personal favorite, “The Human Scissors,” but I didn’t even get a “Katniss Everdeen” which has been done by every player who has hit a three in the last 7 years. If you’re unfamiliar, these were all celebrations brought to life by the infamous Monmouth Men’s basketball hype bench during the 2015-2016 season. What was likely part of the official scouting report, these bench celebrations were fully choreographed and put on display to foster the highest level of energy college basketball had seen to date. USA TODAY even published an article devoted to the celebrations which were later all clipped together by ESPN and posted on their official YouTube Channel to live on forever. The energy fostered by the dynamic bench set a standard for all benches across the country at almost every level. High school coaches were showing pictures and videos of dynamic benches during film sessions to give a visual lesson of selfless teammates. Some coaches even moved their tripods to the other side of the gym to make sure their own bench was being filmed to check the body language of those sitting. While the Monmouth antics were arguably over the top and even shifted the spotlight away from the players on the court, it proved that no job on a team was irrelevant as the energy driven Hawks won 28 games, a regular season conference title, and earn an automatic bid to the NIT and every one had fun.

I read once that sports are supposed to be fun. I haven’t seen much in practicality to support that notion but I still think it’s true, and as much as the NFL is lambasted as the “No Fun League” the NBA is trying to keep pace. The counterargument to the Mavericks’ fine that the league will fall on their sword with is of course that the NBA is protecting the players on the court from benches impeding play that may potentially cause injury or interruption. If you’ve watched the Mavs at all this season, they have one of the best benches in the league and their team, from top to bottom, has been competing with a renewed sense of purpose and passion that they lacked last season as Rick Carlisle and Luka looked exhausted and uninspired all the way through their 1st round exit. Now that there is life for the Mavs apparently there’s a problem, especially in playoff basketball. The conspiracy theorist in me would say that the Mavs have been targeted by the league starting with their 2nd Round duel because the big money matchup was Suns/Warriors in the conference finals, but despite the attempted deflation by the league president, Dallas couldn’t be stopped in Game 7 and ruined those plans. Even though the East winner is irrelevant from a monetary matchup perspective with Brooklyn gone, the NBA’s Golden Goose Warrior of Steph Curry must continue on. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the Mavericks’ vendor who tripped Steph in Game 3 received a Logan Roy-esque envelope of money and an NDA to never work a game again after the incident.

Regardless of the way you read the fine: NBA-The Protector of Players, NBA-Big Brother Conspiracy Island, or NBA-National Boring Association, it’s not a good look for the league. Mark Cuban and his band are winning more fans because of the fine while the NBA loses credibility and still isn’t actually protecting players. I wrote an earlier piece about the leagues lack of care player safety, and this move by the league only shows its hand yet again by vilifying team energy and chemistry. Cuban, being the king of social media trolling, tweeted, “Our bench is out of control!” with a clip of Draymond Green yelling expletives at officials for a foul called against him sitting right below. It serves as the perfect closing argument in the court of public opinion: Protect the brand at all costs even if it means punishing those who are doing nothing wrong and only protect those that move your agenda forward. No one can argue that the NBA is a business, but when act is treated like business as usual no one wins.


  • Kyle Spencer

    Not a jack-of-all trades just a master of none. Former Assistant Coach for 2x Middle School Soccer Championship team. Coached a few other things along the journey, but focusing on leading my family well and mentoring students.

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