Here is what some of basketball’s founding fathers would say about the current N.B.A. lockout.
It’s too bad that the N.B.A. and its players have not yet been able to reach agreement on how to divide the money they generate, because having a lockout causes the blues for just about everyone involved with the game.
At the risk of being accused of “living in the past,” I would like to suggest that perhaps those parties involved — owners, players, and league officials alike — might be able to put their woes and disagreements in perspective by looking at how things once were in the glorious game of basketball.
Gulick, you may know, is the man who told James Naismith to “go invent a new game.” He was Naismith’s boss at the Y.M.C.A. Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game.
“Professionalism has ruined every branch of athletics to which it has come. When men commence to make money out of sport, it degenerates with most tremendous speed, so that those who love sport have come to set their faces like a flint against every tendency toward professionalism in athletics. It has in the past inevitably resulted in men of lower character going into the game, for, on the average, men of serious purposes in life do not care to go into that kind of thing.”
– Luther H. Gulick, 1904
Henderson, you may recall, is the man credited with being the first to introduce basketball to African Americans on a wide scale organized basis, in 1904. He authored “The Negro In Sport” in 1939, the first book of its kind, and was a life long champion for youth fitness and civil rights.
“Honest professional sport does exist, but, as a rule, when men put all their wits and strength into a contest to earn a livelihood, the ethics of the game usually is lowered; fair play generally is the lookout of the officials and not of the players; mean and unfair tactics are resorted to; spectators are hoodwinked; laying down, double-crossing and faking take the place of clean playing, and fairness of player to player and players to public become a secondary consideration.”
– Edwin B. Henderson, 1910
Hepbron, you probably remember, was one of the game’s first referees and was a rules pioneer who at one time the Secretary of the Amateur Athletic Union’s Basket Ball Committee, and was considered to be a foremost expert in the sport. He authored “How To Play Basket Ball,” the first book of its kind, in 1904. He is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game.
“Bad temper will often lose games.”
– George T. Hepbron, 1904
I’m not saying that basketball should revert entirely back to amateurism. I’m just pointing out that some of the sentiment of the above named gentlemen still applies today.
Namely, spectators sense the bitterness among the parties, so the bigger purpose of the sport seems lost, and then the public feels “hoodwinked,” which means that fans lose interest, which ultimately means that the game is harmed.
To owners, players, and league officials — do what you gotta do, but not without also keeping the bigger purpose of the game in mind.