When NBA Stars Decide to Rest, The Fans Lose Big Time
The Boston Celtics lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers this past week 114-91. LeBron James played 38 minutes and score 36 points, grabbed nearly 10 rebounds and had 6 assists. Another great performance by one of this generation’s most outstanding players. I didn’t attend that game, nor will I pay to go see another NBA game for the foreseeable future. And here is my reasoning:
A management or coach’s decision to rest a certain player during a regular season game in 2014, which I paid full price for, has left a bad taste in my mouth and an empty hole in my wallet. This game happened on March 19, 2014. But, let’s go back 5 months prior to the game when I purchased seven tickets, yes seven tickets for myself, Rachel, her two sons, and my three sons to go an NBA game. And not just any NBA game, a Boston Celtics vs the Miami Heat NBA game. The Miami Heat who had a lineup featuring one LeBron James. A lot of work and money went into those tickets, which were a Christmas present to the boys, Rachel, and myself. Schedules needed to be coordinated, work commitments had to be adjusted, and then of course, there is the hundreds of dollars spent on those tickets. But, I was happy to purchase them and to get the opportunity to watch one of this generation’s best players in his prime.
Driving up to Boston, I was so excited for me and the boys and Rachel to experience this. An NBA game at the Boston Garden, even though the Celtics were completely out of the playoff picture. It was still certain to be a memorable night. Especially since the boys were wearing Miami Heat hats, jerseys, and were basically going to see LeBron James and 9 other guys on the court. The anticipation grew and grew as we drove through the city of Boston to the TD Bank Boston Garden. And then, an ESPN alert popped up on one of the boy’s phones. “LeBron James to sit tonight due to back spasms.”
The 7 of us had literally just parked and exited my Tahoe when the ding on my son’s phone went off. I made him read it aloud again, thinking there must be some mistake. He read the exact same line “LeBron James to sit tonight due to back spasms.” Here is a player who just the previous night had played 41 minutes against his former team, the Cleveland Cavs, and had scored 43 points. In doing some research, I found that James played two nights after the Celtics game, March 21. In that game, he played 38 minutes and nearly recorded a triple double (more than 10 points, rebounds, and assists.) Needless to say, I was completely deflated in that parking lot, just across the street from the Boston Garden. The decision was made that James would rest this meaningless contest vs the last place Boston Celtics. “They can try to spin it all they want”, I said, “he was pulled to rest up for the playoffs.”
The 7 of us had traveled from RI, a nearly 1 1/2 hour drive in rush hour traffic. Two kids at one school, one at another, two at yet another school. The other parents (or exes as we divorcees call them) being flexible with their schedules to allow the 7 of us to go to the game. Hundreds of dollars spent on halfway decent seats with more budgeted into the night’s food and souvenir requests. All of this now just seemed like such a wasted effort. The player, for whom those tickets were purchased to watch play live in front of us, had decided or was told by management or his coach that he would rest that game. A meaningless game to the juggernaut Miami Heat against the hapless cellar dweller Boston Celtics. The decision to rest the player was announced less than one hour before game time. Probably so people would be at or nearly at the game when they found out, reducing the chance that they would abandon going to the game based on LeBron James not playing. The boys and Rachel took it very well. I was furious beyond imagine. I was disappointed, I’m not going to lie. After a few minutes of catching my breathe, we all got a bite to eat and heading to the game.
As the game progressed, I found myself cheering louder and louder for my Boston Celtics. For the first quarter, I stared angrily at the Heat bench where LeBron James was sitting, in nice suit and tie as opposed to his game uniform . With each Boston Celtic’s basket and rebound and assist, I yelled and laughed and turned my anger into pure joy. My lowly Boston Celtics were leading most of the game and I found it utterly entertaining that they would score a victory against the Miami Heat. I started to imagine that maybe this victory by the Celtics could be a starting point for something they could build on for the future. In the end, the Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat that night by a score of 101 – 96. Ironically, 3 years later, the Boston Celtics are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
I can’t imagine the toll 82 games, travelling from coast to coast, the stress of playing and performing takes on an NBA player, let alone a mega star like LeBron James. To play at such a high level for some many games, seasons is why James is our generation’s greatest player. And that is the reason why when James travels to Charlotte or Dallas or Oakland or Boston, fans pay good money to go and watch him, even though he plays for the opposing team. This is the exact reason why I bought those 7 tickets, so myself, Rachel and the boys could go see LeBron James play basketball. I don’t buy the “back spasms” excuse, he was told to rest and sit out a meaningless game against a meaningless opponent. And my take is, for us, in our section of 7 seats, it wasn’t a meaningless game. It meant something for us to attend that game. We went there for a purpose and that was taken away from us, without a second thought. And this is why, without a second thought, I will never pay to go see another NBA game, no matter who is playing for the Celtics or against them.
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