Written by: Jordan Vitkauskas
The end of another decade in the NBA is almost here. We’ve seen a lifetime’s worth of noteworthy memories in the last ten seasons. Some are the Miami Heat big three, a title finally brought to the city of Cleveland and a seemingly unstoppable Warriors dynasty. We also saw the beginning of true player empowerment, franchise-altering trades (see – James Harden), and the introduction to load management. It’s truly been a whirlwind decade that will go down as one of the most influential in NBA history. Now we’ll take a look at five things I want to see in the next decade of basketball…
Less Fouls Called Each Game
A random one to begin. I’m sick of seeing tick-tack fouls called 25 feet from the basket every game. The league went from allowing players to be too physical after the 2003-04 season (see every Detroit Pistons game) to letting offenses do whatever they wanted without fear of hand checks and other forms of contact from defenses. It’s not a coincidence that Steve Nash started cranking out 18 & 10 a night while winning multiple undeserved MVPs in the first two years after the rules reinterpretations.
It has made the game more fun with higher scoring offenses. However, we’ve come too far to the other side. Some of the league’s best defensive players don’t get a chance to exhibit their hard work and discipline. I’m not saying we have to revert to the 1990s or early 2000s, but a nice median allowing teams to be somewhat physical with offensive players would be pleasant. I’ve grown tired of seeing James Harden going to the line 14 times a game.
A Decade Without A Lockout
We had one before the 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons, and both hurt the sport significantly. It caused players to come in out of shape or rusty. As a result, the subsequent product on television was not up to our expected standard. I won’t pretend to understand the politics and inner workings on the CBA fully. Still, just looking at today’s NBA, it’s obvious the players are making pretty substantial money. In turn, they’re also making the owners a boatload of cash. They always say sports is a business, but don’t let greed (on both sides) deprive the fans of seeing their favorite stars play the game they love. Check the egos at the door on both sides and come together for the fans. I beg of you.
Full Health for the League’s Current Stars
This one is unattainable given the unpredictable nature of sports, but I can dream, right? Today’s biggest stars have such a versatile skill set. They genuinely make for must-see television each night. The worst imaginable scenario is one of them losing many months or a full year of their prime due to a nasty slip, twist, or break (see – Kevin Durant/Steph Curry). Guys like Giannis, James Harden, Luka Dončić, and others have 8-12 years of their prime remaining. I would hate to see any of their legacies impacted for an extended period. We’ve seen guys like Derrick Rose, Gordon Hayward, and more either lose precious games in their prime or fail to reach their full potential due to consistent missed time.
There’s nothing worse than referring to an extremely talented player as a “what could have been.” These guys work extremely hard for hours on end to become the best. Let’s hope for even more advances in training and physical therapy so that we can enjoy every favorite player this next decade.
Bronny James Jr. and the Next Generation of Stars
This one feels weird to type. All I’ve known growing up is my generation of stars. I came up watching legends like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan. Slowly, my attention turned to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, and others. I saw them in the Finals and at the All-Star game each season and all felt normal. These past few seasons have been great, yet surreal to see the veterans above (save for LeBron/Durant) and so many others either retire or enter the backstage of their careers (looking at you Carmelo Anthony).
I’m thrilled to see today’s young sensations in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Dončić, and Trae Young develop and begin to lead their respective teams, but there’s an even younger group that will take shape in the 2020s. What makes it surreal is that this new cluster of players all have fathers who have either played during my time or are still active today. You’ve got Bronny James Jr., Zaire Wade, and Shareef O’Neal all rising on the high school and AAU circuit and should be in the NBA by 2023 or 2024.
It’s cool to see them continually growing and learning from their fathers. All three have the potential to be talented players in the league one day. It gives me a renewed joy to watch them evolve and also gives me new guys to cheer. I’ve never been a LeBron fan (not even now as he dons the Purple and Gold), but I’m pulling hard for Bronny to be one of the best of all-time.
A Los Angeles Lakers Title
Yes, I’m being selfish and asking for my team to win a title. Still, I’ve suffered enough these last six years watching management make poor decisions and continually produce an inferior product. From the Luol Deng/Timofey Mozgov signings to playing lineups featuring Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill, and others, it’s been downright miserable since I entered my last two years of high school in the fall of 2014. The 2010 title (while one of the three best moments of my life) feels like an eternity ago.
I prefer Los Angeles to win the title this season. It would mark the fourth time since pro basketball began that a decade started with a Lakers championship. They finally have the team to do it, with James and all-around stud Anthony Davis playing at a high level. Last season had a promising beginning, but I knew deep down there was no way that LeBron would stay healthy, or that the young guys would play well enough under the suddenly immense pressure and spotlight. If LeBron can pull this off, he’ll earn more points in my book than he ever has (which is very little to this point). Also, fans will adore Davis for being the best low-post player the Lakers have had since Shaq.
This season has seen me invested every single second and watching almost every minute of each game. It’s been a fun ride so far, but the goal is always a title, and I find myself thinking of playoff matchups daily. I haven’t wanted something this badly in sports for a long time. I don’t expect them to get 10-for-10 in the decade. Just bring home one.
*Feature image courtesy of HoopsHype.
*All stats are from Basketball-Reference, ESPN.com, or NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
*All statistics are updated as of 12/30/2019
*All video highlights are courtesy of YouTube.
*Shooting splits (i.e., 44/40/37) are in order of FG%/3PT%/FT%.