Superstar Treatment Ruining the NBA

As a small market team, the Utah Jazz organization and its fans understand the frustration of superstar treatment by the refs for the stars of the league. Kobe Bryan, Kevin Durrant, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook and others thrive because of their talent, but with the help of the refs, they are becoming unguardable and unstoppable. On Friday night the Jazz were visiting the Oklahoma Thunder and played a hard fought battle. In the midst of Utah going on a momentum swinging run, Earl Watson was dribbling down the court off of a OKC turnover when Russell Westbrook flew in, shouldered Watson to the floor, and got the ‘steal’. To anybody that isn’t blind, there was an obvious foul. If Vasquez out of New Orleans were the defender, the refs most certainly would have called the foul. If back-up point guard Eric Maynor were the defender, the refs would have blown the whistle. But because Russell Westbrook is Russell Westbrook, no call was made.

If there was a stat to prove superstar treatment in the NBA, I would be able to just post these and prove it. But because there is no stat, I’ve gathered 2 stats I think help prove that the elite in the league are getting preferential treatment. Here is a chart showing what I’ve found:

Name NBA Rank for MPG* NBA Rank for PFPG**
Kevin Durant 2nd 245th
Lebron James 11th 198th
Russel Westbrook 27th 71st
Kobe Bryant 15th 47th
* Minutes per game
** Personal Fouls per game

I think that most people can agree that each of these guys have been pegged as “Superstars”. They’ve also been pegged as good defenders. To be a good defender, you have to be physical. Being physical leads to fouls. It boggles my mind that these players are all tops in the league for minutes per game, yet ranked very low on personal fouls per game. I understand the logic that the coaches want their offensive weapons to do all they can to stay out of foul trouble, but these guys are all physical, in your face, defenders. How do they have so few fouls? (Also worth noting is that fact that these four are all in the top 11 for free throw attempts per game.)

Until the refs can be fair, I don’t see basketball being as enjoyable to watch. Teams such as the Spurs, Heat, and Lakers will remain dominant while the small market teams without all stars on their rosters will suffer. Games, momentum, and fans will be lost. Good news is that I think the NBA is noticing. Coach Pop is being fined for babying his stars and flopping is now illegal. Hopefully there will be ramifications for superstar treatment sometime in the near future and the NBA will become more and more enjoyable to watch.