Two thousand and ten is the dawn of a new decade and the coming teen years of the 21st century appear to be loaded with greatness (LeBron James) and conflict (multiple potential season-ending collective bargaining agreements). So, let’s take a trip to the future after these years of calamity and see what the world of sports is like in the post-apocalyptic date of 2020.
LeBron James will become the most highly regarded basketball player ever.
Yes, LeBron James will overtake Michael Jordan as the best player ever. He may not win scoring titles, but his ability to make his teammates infinitely better and to simply win is uncanny. He has made a hustle player like Anderson Varejao a league-wide recognizable name (and helped him sign a contract worth $42.5 million over six years) and has already been to the NBA Finals as the best player on a team woefully lacking in talent.
No matter where he goes he will succeed. He has already succeeded in surpassing the level of regard where he is defined by comparison to another player. He is not the next Jordan, Magic, or Larry. He is already LeBron, a genetic hybrid of the best attributes of the best players in NBA history. King James will take his rightful place as the number one player in history after he wins a few titles, something that seems inevitable at this point.
Soccer will finally catch on…sort of.
Yes, after multiple youth movements, soccer will catch on as a major sport in the United States. However. this sport’s popularity will not be championed by white suburban athletes whose parents steer them toward the sport because of the extravagant cost of baseball and football or those parents who simply fear that the collisions on the football field will result in broken bones tearing through the skin or life-altering concussions.
No, the massive migration from the countries south of our border will finally force the MLS through. Also, advertisers will have figured out that while you cannot run commercials during games, ads can be presented at the top or bottom of the screen in news ticker fashion.
The sport will only sort of catch on though because it will only attain NHL-style popularity. This means soccer will have a very dedicated fan base that does not necessarily prescribe to the many mainstream American sports. Part of the reason for this ceiling is that soccer and football fans will never end their bickering. Affluent soccer fans will complain about clock stoppages and pads while football fans will complain about flopping and the lack of scoring. The two will keep this feud going Hatfield-McCoy style and this will keep both sides from opening their eyes and realizing they are fighting over something as silly as the validity of two sports simply because they share the same name.
College Football will continue to fight the push for a playoff system.
Another decade of botched championships will do nothing to end the reign of the bowl game. The BCS will be re-imagined a couple of times to try and become a fairer system, but the reliance on polls will invariably favor the SEC and Big 12, eventually forcing any successful football program to consider changing conferences (Boise State will be in the Big 12 by 2015). Even multiple presidential edicts and orders will fail to sway college football’s reliance on the bowl game and the millions of dollars in revenue from the sponsorship deals.
Dick Vitale will try to legally marry the ACC.
Vitale’s love of diaper dandies from Duke and UNC will be the only remaining coherent thought as old age ravishes his brain. It may be cancer or Alzheimer’s, but eventually he will lose his ability to talk at an appropriate volume and to speak in anything but hyperbole. He will announce his intentions during the coverage of the Final Four in March, but no one will take him seriously until he continues to mention it while offering commentary during the NBA draft in June.
The NBA will bounce back.
The NBA has been struggling to bolster its fan base for over a decade now, but that desperate battle to attract fans will finally end in the 2010s. It will not be David Stern’s attempt to market the game of basketball to the suburbs or the minor rule changes that are meant to increase scoring by freeing up play on the perimeter that will finally win over the fans that have been absent since Michael Jordan left…the second time. No, NBA ticket sales will bounce back because the NFL owners will not be able to reconcile their differences with the NFL players association. The millions of distraught fans will be split equally between the two remaining leagues, old school fans of the running game will become avid NHL fans and fans of the new pass-oriented offenses will take to the NBA.