The week's headlines didn't paint a pretty picture of our beloved sports institutions. The NFL is beset and besieged with bullying and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. MLB battles soap operatically with a player of whom they dare not speak his name (where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, indeed). The NHL brass talks of fighting, whether it is to be or not to be. And the HBO's Real Sports celebrated their 200th episode examining the cost and corruption of the Sochi Olympics.
Where can a sports fan turn to guiltlessly enjoy the hyper-commercialized and overproduced games of our youth? Just look at the week the NBA had.
On Monday the Sacramento Bee reported that Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, a native of India, has been actively working to make basketball "a household word" in the country of 1.2 billion people. The team's dancers, performed in India this summer, the team now has a Hindi-lauguage version of their website -- all part and parcel of the NBA's effort in India since 2008 where they have conducted over 500 grassroots events.
The Bee's Ailene Voison reported it's part of Ranadive's "vision of a global game -- ' NBA 3.0' -- combines technology, globalization and sports 'as agent of good in local communities.'"
On Tuesday a string of outlets notes the NBA, WNBA, Africacare, ExxonMobile launch of "Power Forward" a youth engagement initiative that will use basketball to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria. Hakeem Olajuwon and Swin Cash were on hand to usher in a curriculum that teachers leadership skills and builds health awareness throu8gha combination of classroom and athletic activities. The NBA's VP of Development in Africa Amadou Gallo Fall said "The NBA and WNBA are committed to working with our partners across Africa to use the power of basketball to positively impact social change."
"Basketball to positively impact social change." A bunch of self-serving corporate propaganda hooey you say?
Well, on Wednesday front page of the front page of the New York Times a photo ran of Filipino youth amid wreckage and ruin, playing basketball on a hoop which appears to be propped up by splintered wood. The caption and subcaption read: "Finding Fun Amid Their Troubles: Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, the Philippines. The sight of children playing is an encouraging sign is a recurring sign of resiliency after trauma..."
What were they "playing:?" Basketball. You think all that NBA global grassroots outreach is about preaching merchandise and luxury boxes? It's about equal opportunity. No matter what condition you live under, basketball is affordable, and accessible to anyone. Even if you've got no one you can play by yourself. It's that kind of sport. It works in disaster in the Philippines or in deprivation on the Rez. It's the global sport of the 21st century. The NBA deserves credit.