HORSE is over, so now what? Here are some creative ideas for the NBA during the coronavirus hiatus

The strange, surreal HORSE Challenge ended on Thursday, bringing the number of televised, NBA-produced events on the horizon back to zero. Saturday marks what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 playoffs. 

Thankfully, we’ll soon be able to watch a 10-hour documentary about Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls. Aside from “The Last Dance” and Friday’s WNBA Draft, though, there is a total vacuum of new, basketball-related programming during this pandemic. That vacuum cannot be filled by players talking on Instagram Live.

Can the NBA get creative and capitalize on its audience being at home, thirsty for something that resembles professional sports? Is there a way to get past the logistical hurdles involved in broadcasting any kind of competition and deliver something worth watching? Can the league or the players learn anything from what other entertainers are doing? Our writers have suggestions:

Colin Ward-Henninger: It’s becoming increasingly clear that simulating basketball competition, whether through video games or shooting on backyard hoops, isn’t filling the audience’s sports craving. So let’s go in a slightly different direction. This quarantine gives us more access to players and coaches than we normally get, and as we’ve seen through Instagram Live sessions and Twitter Q&As, they’re more than willing to talk basketball. NBA players, as much as any other sport, seem to learn things from current and former players. So here’s the proposal:

A player goes to whatever court is available to him and shows off a move he learned from another player, either current or retired. The player goes through the move while being recorded by a (hopefully high-quality) camera. Whether it’s a jab step, a spin move or a crossover dribble, the player explains how to do it, and gives a delightfully entertaining story about how he learned it from the other player. This process only takes about five minutes or so, as not to bore the audience, then it goes to the player who was named by the previous player, and they do the same thing. It’s a little hard to explain, but here’s a simple example:

Giannis Antetokounmpo demonstrates his devastating spin move, goes into detail about footwork, court position, etc., and says he learned it from Dwyane Wade. Then the camera would go to Wade, who thanks Giannis and shows off a post-up move he learned from LeBron James when they were on the Heat together. Then it would go to LeBron, etc. until we fill a half hour or an hour.

It would be entertaining for fans because they’d get to hear from players about basketball memories and the relationships they have with other players, and it would also be educational, for kids and grown folks alike, to see how some of the greats break down their best moves.

James Herbert: The NBA could try to follow HORSE with a dunk contest or a 3-point shootout, provided they could get players in (separate) gyms, but this doesn’t have to be all about finding ways for bored-at-home athletes to compete against each other. I liked LeBron’s idea of breaking down his most memorable moments for a viewing audience, and I’d like it even more if it were produced professionally, with the participation of others involved. Why not do the same thing with Vince Carter, whose career might have ended suddenly five weeks ago? 

I’d be much more interested in all the nostalgia we’re seeing on TV if these broadcasts also brought something new to the table. Turner Sports employs Steve Nash; let’s see him and Mike D’Antoni watch a playoff game from the 7SOL era and curse themselves out for not playing faster and shooting more 3s. Every championship-winning team in recent history should have a virtual reunion, and attendance should be compulsory for the stars: The 2008 Celtics can’t keep Ray Allen out. 

Beyond the strictly basketball-related stuff, we need a special about NBA players’ pets. I’m sure Klay Thompson, Luka Doncic and Norman Powell would be thrilled to participate. Thompson should also be forced to do a 30-minute Zoom interview once a week for a show called “Klaying Around.” He will not know the identity of the interviewer until it begins each time — one week it could be Mychal Thompson, the next it could be Steve Kerr or up-and-coming comedian Blake Griffin.

And Griffin should roast the entire league.

Brad Botkin: One of my favorite things to watch, under quarantine or otherwise, is when the MLB Network goes through iconic games with the players who participated in them, blending nostalgic highlights with authentic commentary from both players and reporters. 

So I’m with James and Colin on this. Tapping deeper into the gold mine of genuine player talk is something that can be pretty easily produced and would be highly entertaining, not to mention informative. 

I’m thinking about LeBron James going through some of his best games ever. The 45-15-5 masterpiece in Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals; Games 5, 6 and 7 of the 2016 Finals; Game 7 of the 2013 Finals. 

What was being said in the huddles? What was he thinking on certain possessions. LeBron pointing out little details of those games that go beyond the highlights would be a master class. You could do this with any number of players from any number of games and/or series. 

I also like the idea of players looking back at old drafts and re-picking the order with the benefit of hindsight. Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo have been doing these for The Ringer and they’re so fun to listen to, but hearing who players would pick, and where they would pick them, would be awesome. 

The players would have to be honest and not worry about whose feelings they were going to hurt, but I don’t think that would be too big a problem. Guys are pretty candid these days when put in a comfortable situation talking to people they trust and respect. We get all kinds of soundbites coming from various podcasts already, and the league has already dipped its toe in the idea of players making their fellow-player evaluations known with the All-Star draft. 

Whatever it does to continue trying to fill television slots with entertaining content, I believe the NBA would be best served to go the route of candid conversations. People want information about the players and games they remember most. People are drooling for this Jordan documentary. They are drooling during the HORSE competition, as well, but that’s because they’re asleep. The basketball activities are low-hanging fruit but they just aren’t going to translate or resonate, in my opinion, even with better production. 

Source link