The 2000s saw the change of MJ-LBJ, “Malice at the Palace”

As Michael Jordan gave way to LeBron James and traditional forms of communication began to give way to the birth and growth of new media, the 2000s were about making transitions – on and off the court – for the NBA. and his fans.

The search for a superstar to succeed Jordan was certainly a central theme of this decade for the league, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this season. Likewise, there have been changes in the way teams have sought to add to their talent, whether by bringing youngsters on board, looking abroad or replenishing a cohort of elite players.

Also noteworthy is the fallout from the in-game brawl “The Malice at the Palace”, an event seen by some at the time as a reflection of a disconnect between players and spectators that the then commissioner , David Stern, sought to remedy.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban saw the league’s changes of the 2000s “driven by technological change and NBA business,” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

“It was the advent of the Internet. Satellite TV was still nascent and (the regional sports networks) were just getting started. We were able to show our games all over the world,” Cuban wrote. “When LeBron entered the league, he became a fixture on television. The combination of his genius and the increased availability of our games really had a huge impact and helped the NBA grow globally.

Consider the prism through which Cuban interprets much of this: He paid around $280 million to buy the Mavericks in 2000; the club is worth more than $2.5 billion now, according to Forbes.

This parallels the massive jump in NBA revenue under the leadership of Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver.

Prior to the 1998–99 lockout, the league’s total revenue was less than $2 billion; in the late 2000s, that figure was around $4 billion — and it topped $8 billion in the late 2010s.

Much of this was tied to television contracts and the launch of NBA TV, which debuted in late 1999. The league has successfully connected to social media, a phenomenon launched in that decade: Facebook debuted in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006. Instagram arrived in 2010, and the NBA boasted of surpassing 65 million followers in March 2022.

The early 2000s, Cuban said, “was also a time when almost every team in the NBA was losing money. Lots of money. And team values ​​were going down,” so efforts were made. “to allow us to take advantage of new platforms, create new revenue streams and try to make the game more appealing to fans. I give a lot of credit to David Stern and Adam. They were open to moving games of cable television. They didn’t reduce the number of games available on television, as requested by a partner; they increased them. They pushed our games to every country in the world. It threw the foundations for the growth of our business.

The NBA’s list of key events during the 2000s includes: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal closing the gap between Jordan and James with their Los Angeles Lakers hat-trick from 2000-2002; Bryant scoring 81 points in a game, the second-highest total in league history; Phil Jackson overtakes Red Auberbach with his record 10th championship as a manager; Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich leading the San Antonio Spurs to titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007; former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to prison for wire fraud and transmission of betting information; Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, a German, becomes the first European-born player to win the MVP award.

Nothing has attracted more attention or been seen as a threat to the success of the NBA, like the fight that spilled into the stands during a November 19, 2004 game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.

There were suspensions and court cases involving Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace and many more – and the whole episode changed the way those who were paid to play and those who paid to look saw each other.

“It allowed people to shoot a culture, shoot a league,” O’Neal said during an appearance on Jackson’s “All the Smoke” podcast last year, “and still not able to to have a conversation – a real, informed conversation – about what really happened. … The word “thug” has probably been said 1,000 times. A thousand times. All of a sudden, it’s about hip hop music we listen to. It’s about our cornrows. It’s about our tattoos.

And, O’Neal pointed out, none of that backlash or disdain accompanies the in-game fights that take place — and, indeed, are often glorified — during NHL or Major League Baseball games.

The NBA responded by changing security measures and, less than a year later, instituting a dress code in what some saw as an attempt to rebrand corporate partners and control players.

At the time, Philadelphia 76ers star guard Allen Iverson said, “I don’t think it’s going to improve the league’s image at all. … It’s a bit wrong. Everything is false. »

The new rules required players to wear casual attire and prohibited them from wearing visible chains when traveling to or from games.

The capture of Cuba today?

“I wish we hadn’t. It took away some of the personality that makes the NBA special. But I understood why we did it,” he said. “Our business was suffering, for many different reasons. Above all, we weren’t good at marketing back then. We threw away anything that tried to turn the tide.

A serious concern for the league – and its broadcast partners – in the early 2000s was how things would go without Jordan, as important and popular an athlete as there ever was, in any sport.

He left the Chicago Bulls after a sixth championship in 1998, then came out of retirement a second time in 2001 at age 38 and joined the Washington Wizards for two more seasons, both as a player and in the team’s front office. . With a basketball in his hands, he was an older version of himself, hardly the Jordan of old, and soon enough the search for a new “face of the league” was on.

Bryant seemed ready to take on that label early in the decade – he averaged 28.5 points for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000-01 – and eventually became a basketball icon despite an employee rape allegation. 19 year old from a hotel in Colorado in 2003.

It was the same year that Jordan ended his playing career for good and, in a symbolic and significant transfer, James entered the NBA as the first draft pick in a draft that also included Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Over time, as a star in the 2000s, 2010s and beyond, James would become the subject of intense debates about the “greatest of all time” that boiled down to: LBJ or MJ?

“To deal with the pressure of being Cleveland’s savior, of being the next guy to ‘be like Mike’ and the way he did it – with class, the way you’d like someone to represent the league,” two-time NBA All-Star forward Antawn Jamison, who played against Jordan and James, and was also a Cavs teammate of James, said of the young player in an essay he helped the PA.

Evidence of the NBA’s expansion of its player base in the 2000s: James wasn’t the first high schooler chosen No. 1 overall. Kwame Brown earned this honor in 2001, drafted by Jordan’s Wizards. In 2002, the Houston Rockets made Chinese Yao Ming the first non-American who had not played college basketball in the United States to be named No. 1, a symbol of the league’s desire to become more of an entity. world.

Another harbinger of what was to come: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen led the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008, precursor to the ‘Super Team’ phenomenon that James, eventual teammate Wade and others perpetuated in the following decade.

“The path to history,” James wrote on Twitter at the time, “starts now!”


Learn more about the NBA at 75:


More AP NBA: and

Comments are closed.