With NBA playoff time right around the corner, there is a clear issue that big news outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports refuse to bring up, and that's the pure lack of any rivalries. Throughout the NBA's history there has always been a big rivalry in the era: Russell vs Wilt, Bird vs Magic, Jordan vs whoever was dumb enough to cover him. And here we sit in 2014 without a single team or player who hate each other. And I'll tell you who's fault it is, David Sterns. This guy inherited a league built on tough defense and grit in the 80's, and turned it into the schoolgirl ballet that it is now. Stern built in rules so you could no longer touch the offensive player just so the box score numbers would be bigger than his nose. He established a dress code which turned the pre game and post game outfits into a hipsters paradise. And potentially his most outrageous rule change came when he decided he didn't want players peacocking a monster dunk or tear drop right in the opponents eye. So lets break down each one of these atrocities.
Lets start with the "Hands Off" rule changes that infuriate damn near everyone. Taking away hand checks and forearm use is Stern pretty much saying "Hey guys, stop being such meanies and play nice, just let either other shoot from wherever." This is when you would start to see some smoke in a rivalry. Back when you could get a little chippy during the game, players would get irritated and start calling either other out, essentially laying the ground work for hatred. Once this "no touching" rule was established, players didn't have a reason to get fired up. Instead it created an era of players who simply want to play with each other and dap it up after the game like some sort of broadway show. Puke. We have Paul George saying he idolizes Lebron, we have Chris Paul and Carmelo toasting each other at weddings, we have Erick Dampier losing to the Mavs in the Championship and still partying with them after!? Just ask yourself this, did you play harder against your most hated rival in high school or against your buddies in the schoolyard? Damn you Stern.
Next up is the dress code ruling. I have to be honest here, this really doesn't have anything to do with the lack of rivalries, but something just had to be said. Maybe its the fact that having Johnny Weir pick your pre and post game outfits doesn't exactly scream manliness and passion for the sport. For some reason I can't see Dr. J grabbing Larry Legends throat, then wearing lensless shades and assless chaps* to the podium.
Finally, the no taunting rule. This may be the worst ruling Mr Scrooge ever created. Tell me more offense is good, tell me the outfits are fine, but don't tell me that taunting doesn't wet your whistle. These are the acts that ignite a fan base and turn a likable player into a city legend. Brad Marchand putting water in the Sedins dish, Steve Smith and Talib ripping each others helmets off, Pedro telling Posada he's aiming for his head, then proceeding to use Donny Zimmers head as a medicine ball. THIS is what the NBA is missing. THIS is what Stern has taken away from us. Now we have a spaghetti spined commissioner in Adam Silver who will do whatever the players tell him to. When players can't get a little physical, the games fiery passion gets lobotomized in a sense. So Rest In Peace NBA rivalries, you were fun while you lasted.
*players do not wear assless chaps after the games...I don't think