Eight ways the NBA can duplicate the excitement of March Madness

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March madness has been my favorite time of year for…well, a very long time. This year I’m finding out a lot of other people feel the exact same way. Or at least they’re expressing it more in social media. I’m hearing more “March madness is the best days on the sports calendar,” a lot lately.

Why can’t the NBA come even remotely close to capturing the fun, excitement and interest of March madness? We know the immediate answer, gambling and NCAA Tournament pools. But we’ll go beyond the brackets here.

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1. Shorten the season

Unless it’s a Kate Upton swimsuit video or Allison Brie in a cheerleader uniform mud wrestling with Gillian Jacobs video (yes such a wonderful thing exists) I don’t want to watch 82 of ANYTHING! Make the season 45-50 games like during the lockout years. That’s why everyone I talk to (mostly media people) like college basketball a zillion times better than the NBA: the immediacy, the urgency.

Maybe we’re just all tired from covering so many games. Remember, three hours of fun at the arena for you is actually a 6-7 hour workday for us. And all of us know that the NBA regular season is actually an exhibition season. Only the playoffs matter.

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Even though basketball is my 1a. or 1b. favorite sport, I have way more fun covering the NBA Draft or Chicago Bulls Media Day than I do a random Bulls game. That’s a problem because I should be way more into both the Bulls and the NBA. The product is superior to the college game. And Tom Thibodeau motivates his players to play harder than anyone in sports.

2. Shorten the playoffs

Referring to point one, Twitter has shortened all of our attention spans. People don’t read anymore. Baseball is losing interest because 162 games is just ridiculous and why should anyone care about any one given game when there’s 161 more? Same thing with the 82 game NBA season. And these best of sevens should be best of three; best of five for the finals. Sorry that modern life and new millenium technology has dumbed me down so much that I have serious commitment issues regarding your sport. I’m far from the only one.

It also doesn’t help that EVERY NBA game will see the point spread around five points in the final five minutes, despite margins of 25 points in the first half. So you really do need to watch only the last five minutes.

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3. Shorten the endings of the games

Why are the last three minutes of each game extended to the point that they take as long in real time as the first 45 minutes? Okay I’m exaggerating. And I already know the answer to that- Nielsen numbers peak in crunch time.

4. Get rid of the annoying arena sound effects and horrible cliche pop music

We’ll hear Black Eyed Peas and Pharrell’s “Happy” enough in our lives. Just by being alive we’ll hear “Blurred Lines” way more than we need to. Why do we need to hear it at the arena too? And of course the irritating snippets and noises during live game play. I’m not saying they need to emulate March Madness and bring in marching bands, but at least colleges know to stop the music when the ball is in play.

Do NBA personnel really believe that our attention spans are that small? We have to be bombarded with juvenile chants and slogans. Our excitement needs to be primed by 3rd grade level stimuli? And to be fair college marching bands specialize in bad shopworn pop music too. (Although I’m being redundant, most pop music is redundant and shopworn)

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5. Conspiracy theories seem quite legit. And too legit to quit.

How many media members hypothesize that the NBA Finals are fixed? Too many.

This past year’s Finals was the worst of all. And these television talking heads are not wrong either. It’s not just bloggers outside the loop who believe the league is fixed. Insiders believe too. Same with NASCAR. That’s a problem- having loads of people believe the outcome is scripted and predetermined.

During the Finals last year, you should have seen all the search terms re: the Finals being fixed. Lots of search generated traffic. Where Tim Donaghy told me exclusively how the NBA allegedly instructs their referees to fix games. And it’s basically his word versus their word, and it’s up to you to decide who to believe.

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6. Re-work the draft, revise the lottery

All the talk right now is about whether or not we should have a minimum age requirement, and whether that rule should be extended from one year out of school to two years out. That’s a debate for another time and space. The biggest issue with the lottery is not the guys getting a shipload of money at a very young age. It’s the fact that the lottery is counter-intuitive to succeeding. The NBA already knows this and they’re already working on how to fix this broken system.

7. Make it less about the individuals; this is a team sport

The cliche “in college basketball people cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, in the NBA they cheer for the name on the back,” is somewhat true. Individuals market and brand the game. But to use another cliche “at the end of the day,” it’s still a team sport. Baseball, only on the offensive side, is an individual sport masquerading as a team sport. The NBA is a team sport marketed as an individual sport.

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8. Get less corporate

I know it’s where the money is. Well, figure something out. Use more “stealth marketing” on me. Don’t make it obvious that you’re shilling. Darren Rovell, a corporation disguised as a person, appeals to a lot of people. He repulses a lot of people too.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent commentator on national talk radio. The former NBC Chicago and Washington Times contributor has also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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