x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The electricity of the NBA has failed to dazzle

The slog of 82 games for each team in the NBA's regular season is a mystery, but sometimes it is worth taking notice.

LeBron James makes a drive to the basket against the Chicago Bulls earlier this month. Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images
LeBron James makes a drive to the basket against the Chicago Bulls earlier this month. Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

Among the world's glaring cases of squandered electricity would be the National Basketball Association.

In 30 North American cities on 82 nights and days from late October all the way into April, it flips on the lights in its arenas and leaves them on for hours.

It does this while every person with two brain cells to rub together finds 82 games excessive.

It does this while the slog could be halved and prove just as legitimate.

It does this while the excessive number of games cheapens each one.

It makes you wonder how teams can play hard every night and makes you wonder whether teams should play hard every night.

In 1998/99, a labour dispute and lockout pared the season to 50 games and forged a trivial form of bliss. Games mattered.

It grew plausible to wish for a labour dispute and lockout each season, perhaps with an annual opening ceremony featuring dancing attorneys and a skit depicting squabbles between players and owners.

Why 82? Nobody really knows, but there is a chance the answer might have something to do with money.

People do attend the 82. Some do so routinely.

Some do so as part of conducting business. Some do so to bring along their children and plunge more deeply into family debt.

Some in Los Angeles do so to compare plastic surgeries.

Some do out of everyday boredom.

Some revel in the mind-boggling athletic feats that occur every night and, really, almost every quarter.

And some go out of concern for the outcomes of all 82, and it is these fellow humans who deserve our earnest wishes for their eventual well-being.

Even many sport-lovers brush through the 82 cursorily - eyeing this here, missing that there - awaiting the April-to-June playoffs that actually do have meaning.

Yet every so often in a frisky world comes a fine reason to lend rapt attention during the banality of the 82, and just such a black-swan moment has graced the last two weeks.

The reviled Miami Heat, the slapped-together basketball version of Spanish football's Galacticos at Real Madrid, have set about losing five of six games in garish ways to fellow high-profile teams, a pinnacle coming Sunday night when a home loss to Chicago screamed with more last-second failure and left the coach referring to "a couple of guys crying in the locker room".

Now, you might know that last July, the super-duperstar LeBron James left gritty Cleveland for shiny Miami to join up with long-term Heat star Dwyane Wade and fellow fresh signing Chris Bosh for a supposedly dynastic three-man force in a sport that just so happens to play five a side.

You might know that on the Friday night of July 9, the Heat held a welcoming ceremony in the arena - more squandered electricity - and that 13,000 people attended, and that they entered with free tickets in a colossal failure of capitalism.

You might know that at this manufactured "event," the trio rose to the stage on a platform amid smoke and fireworks - still more squandered electricity.

You might know James then spoke of winning multiple titles and said: "We're going to make the world know ..." succumbing to the tiresome American tendency to believe that the whole world is watching when, especially in sport, the whole world almost never is.

(A protest sign during the teachers-union dispute in Wisconsin: "Governor Walker: The Whole World Is Watching." No, it isn't, you myopic mass. The whole world is watching Libya, just for starters.)

You can see how this kind of razzmatazz with a record of 0-0 might lead to some glee when, amid the 82-game eternity, the Heat lose at Chicago after leading by 11, at home to New York after leading by 15, at home to Orlando after leading by 24, by 30 at San Antonio after losing a first quarter 36-12, and by one at home to Chicago after another fruitless final possession.

"The Miami Heat are doing exactly what everyone wanted, losing games," Wade said glumly and hilariously to reporters on Sunday night.

"The world is better now because the Heat is losing."

The world is not better, of course, but the day is a tad more tolerable.

To savour a comeuppance, or to relearn the value of team over individuals on a team that stands 43-20 but glares with flaws, it suddenly could be riveting to check to see how the Heat did tonight against Portland, or even to wake at 4am on Friday morning to follow the Heat versus the twice-defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

It almost makes it worth flipping on the lights for games 64 and 65.