This week, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted a really cool picture on Instagram, taking us back in time to the NBA we once knew and loved. The pic is from 1996 and features Palin with her sister Molly, having a blast at a Seattle SuperSonics game.
Palin wrote: ‘WayBack nearly 25 years go, @mollymccann3 & I visiting great Alaskan hunter @frankbrickowski @seattlesupersonics @okcthunder’.
Palin giving a shout out to her sister, family friend/former NBA player Frank Brickowski, the once-mighty Sonics, and the team the Sonics became, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The retro pic from the former GOP Vice Presidential candidate is clearly just a feel-good photo in celebration of the online tradition of #WayBackWednesday. But, Palin’s super shot of her and Molly in front of their SuperSonics circa 1996, shows us all so much more.
Look how things have changed in the NBA and for Palin since that photo was taken. The Sonics played the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals in ’96. Now, the team doesn’t exist. Palin was in her early thirties and a young mother of three children in ’96. She’s since made history as the only Republican woman to ever appear on a national ticket. Palin is the proud mother of five now and a grandmother of seven. Palin was the youngest to ever serve as governor of Alaska and the only woman to do so. She’s accomplished things she probably couldn’t even dream of back when the Sonics were still playing.
Palin was already a great patriot in 1996 and her love of America has only grown stronger decades later. As for the NBA, it’s a radically different story. The league has gone from an American institution to one of the most anti-American sports entities in the world.
Back in ’96 when Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp had the Sonics flying high, the NBA was very pro-USA. Michael Jordan’s Bulls captured the imagination of the entire country. The historic Olympic Dream Team of 1992 was still fresh in everyone’s minds, while Dream Team II, which Kemp was a member of, went on to dominate the FIBA World Championships. In 1996, Dream Team III rolled through the Olympic games in Atlanta. Payton was one of the stars. The USA and the NBA were synonymous with one another. Players stood proudly for each and every rendition of our national anthem, whether it was played before an NBA contest or at an Olympic game. The flag was everywhere. The biggest names in the sport represented America well. Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, you name it. They were all pro-USA.
Fans loved the original Dream Team and they loved the NBA. When the Sonics made the FInals in ’96, the NBA television ratings were impressively in the high teens for most of the six games. Those numbers became astronomical in the next two seasons. With the Bulls playing the Utah Jazz in both editions of the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, games put up ratings ranging from 20.9 to a lusty 35.8. Americans loved their basketball and basketball players loved America.
Fast forward to 2020. The NBA Finals featured the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. Judging by the ratings, you may have just found that out at this very moment. These Finals were the worst-rated ever, by far. Game 3 received a minuscule rating of 3.1. The best rating for the series came in Game 5. ‘Best’ is a relative term. That rating was only a 4.8.
An event that used to have over twenty million people watching on a given night, could only muster between 5.99 million and 8.96 million this time around. This is no coincidence.
In 1996, the NBA was about basketball. From Jordan and Pippen to Payton and Kemp to Karl Malone and John Stockton, people tuned in to enjoy the greatest basketball players in the world, playing in the greatest country in the world. Whether it was Reggie Miller or Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon, 1990s NBA action was rough, tough, and all-American. Now, the face of the league is a man who refers to President Trump as a ‘bum’.
LeBron James made that remark and many other disparaging comments about Trump over the past few years. No matter what new team James was latching himself on to, he made sure to speak out about issues, but almost always with little substance or facts on his side. James and virtually all of his fellow NBA players kneeled before our flag and our national anthem when the NBA season resumed this year after a huge hiatus due to the Chinese coronavirus. After kneeling in front of our flag, the players would play the games with slogans on their backs instead of their names. Most of those slogans were anti-police and anti-America. Even those that were pretty pedestrian had that far-left politically correct feel to them. From the time Palin took that picture to now, we went from jerseys that read ‘Drexler’ and ‘Rodman’ to ones emblazoned with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Say Their Names’.
Fans are noticing the NBA’s jump from fun to activism, and they clearly aren’t buying it. After the Lakers extinguished the Heat, four games to two, President Trump tweeted his thoughts on the championship round. ‘Viewership for the NBA Finals Finale Crash Nearly 70%,’ Trump said. The President included a link to an important Breitbart article, adding ‘Maybe they were watching in China, but I doubt it. Zero interest!’
He isn’t wrong. The 2020 NBA Finals brought in fewer viewers than 60 Minutes. Americans would rather watch sixty minutes of fake news than forty-eight minutes of nothing but three-point shooting from ultra-sensitive players on courts covered in political statements.
But, while NBA courts featured progressive ideals painted on their baselines, Americans made a beeline away from their TVs.
While the NBA takes a stand (or knee) against all things American, the league certainly loves China. LeBron James has no problem ripping our ‘bum’ president and our ‘racist’ country, but he remains silent on the atrocities happening each and every day in China. The NBA is in bed with China. It’s alarming on so many levels.
The NBA stands for National Basketball Association. National, meaning our nation. America. The league logo is red, white, and blue. But, little in the NBA nowadays looks very patriotic. How long until the logo itself is changed? After all, the iconic silhouette on the logo is modeled after Hall of Famer Jerry West. Won’t the left soon come for that very logo screaming ‘white privilege’? It wouldn’t surprise anyone.
The NFL is also big on kneeling in front of our flag and pushing liberal agendas. Their ratings, while not of NBA proportions, are also taking a hit.
This week during a campaign stop in Arizona, President Trump introduced former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon, who was in the crowd. Trump praised McMahon and several other Chicago Bears, including Mike Singletary and Mike Ditka. While today’s Bears are busy kneeling down, Trump reminded us of the great, proud Americans who used to play football.
The Palin picture does the same thing for hoops. We remember when NBA players loved and respected our flag. Interesting that the games were better than, too. Players today are soft, just like their politics. Imagine LeBron James if he had to go into the lane against someone like Dennis Rodman? He’d cry for days. While that tough brand of basketball will likely never return, there is a bright side. If Rodman, Palin, and other Trump supporters have their way, James will be crying for days come November. You know, after that ‘bum’ wins yet again.
Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @kevinscholla