Is the NBA going soft these days?

The National Basketball Association is my favorite professional sports league to follow. However, I must plead to the NBA, ownership groups and the players: Unless you are unable to play, play. It’s for the love of the game.

With a continuously growing fan base, NBA teams have become worth a lot more than what they were just a decade ago. The average team is now worth $2.2 billion according to Business Insider. Three-time NBA champion LeBron James has an estimated 2016-2017 salary of $30,963,450 and, on top of that, another $44 million yearly from endorsements. It would be a fair assumption to assume I am about to harp on the amount NBA players make a year, but that is not the case. What is the case is that I am annoyed that NBA players have increasingly been taking “nights off” for rest and still pocketing money as if they have earned it during their nights off.

There are many San Antonio Spurs fans at Baylor, however, I must say my issue with NBA players taking “nights off” began not far from the San Antonio River Walk at the AT&T Center. It all started when head coach Greg Popovich decided that it was best to sit his three best players — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — at the same time for certain games throughout the NBA season. The Spurs have won five NBA championships under Popovich, so it is easy to see how other NBA teams and a casual NBA fan can see rest as formula of success.

But to me, the fact remains the same: The NBA is an entertainment business, and without its fans, the league is nothing. I happened to run across this situation when one of my favorite players, LeBron James, came to town to play the Dallas Mavericks. It wasn’t even an hour before the game’s start when it was announced that their star player wouldn’t be dressing up that night. This demonstrates exactly why this situation has become so unfair to the fans. NBA ticket prices vary, but for the most part they are often lucrative. A regular NBA fan can only afford a handful of games a year up in the nose-bleeds. Also, the NBA and its teams, which includes players, owe it to the TV networks who program the game. I understand LeBron James averages the second-highest number of total minutes played this season, but in that case, I would argue to play James less on any given night but do not allow him to make a fashion statement, sit on the end of the bench, be a team cheerleader and rip off a loyal fan who just paid $120 per ticket to sit 20 rows back behind your team’s bench.

The fans deserve better. Former NBA greats have complained about this generation’s brand of basketball, claiming it lacks toughness. It is true NBA players would play with torn ligaments, strains, sprains and fractures in the ’80s and ’90s, but that’s not my point. My point is, with the advancement in technology it has become clear when a player is injured and when a player is not, and for that reason, unless you’re hurt, play the game. It’s what you’re paid to do.