"NBA Cares" Sermon Sounds Profound, Makes No Sense

Ed CohenCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 15:  Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics and Chris Duhan of the Chicago Bulls help build a home in with NBA Cares during NBA All-Star Weekend on February 15, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Have you seen the “NBA Cares” commercial in which children and NBA stars solemnly declare that basketball is more than a game, that it’s filled with lessons for life?

The message is that virtues like discipline, teamwork, and hard work help you succeed not only on the court but in life.

Fair enough.

But then comes this assertion:

“[Basketball] teaches that even when there’s no chance to win” (visual of Tim Duncan walking off the court dejectedly), “there’s still an opportunity to be a hero” (visual of a player hoisting a box labeled “Feed the Children”).

Help me here.

A metaphorical adage has dual meanings—literal and figurative. Example: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Literally, people put grease on wheels that squeak to make them stop squeaking. But the figurative and more profound message is that you have to speak up to get attention or get what you need or want.

Now, back to “Even when there’s no chance to win, there’s still an opportunity to be a hero.”

From a charity standpoint, I get it. Society may never eliminate poverty altogether, but as individuals we can still act heroically by helping battle it. But from a basketball standpoint, the assertion is ludicrous.

When there is no chance to win a basketball game—say your team is down by 20 points with 30 seconds to play—where’s the opportunity to be a hero?

By hot-dogging it on dunks to entertain the remaining fans? By going all out against the other team’s bench-warmers to boost your scoring average?

Players can and do show good sportsmanship in end-of-game situations by dribbling out the clock when they have an insurmountable lead. But those are not the players with "no chance to win," they're the ones who already have the game won. Besides, this hardly qualifies as heroism.

Thank you, NBA Cares, for urging us to be better people. Next time maybe put a little more thought into the message.