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Web Original / The Death of Basketball

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All is lost.

The Death of Basketball is a short story written by Jon Bois about the National Basketball Association, based on events simulated in NBA 2K14.

The NBA has been around for over half a century, and it seems like it will continue for a long time. But how exactly will it end? What if the players of a sport known for its spectacle got progressively worse? What if the sport was robbed of its spirit thanks to the loss of talent?

This is how the NBA people love was destroyed.

The story can be read here, while two companion videos, THE DEATH OF BASKETBALL and THIS IS THE END, were uploaded on YouTube.

In 2019, the idea was expanded in the first video of a new series called Fumble Dimension, this time done in NBA 2K19 and with the assistance of SB Nation's own Kofie Yeboah. This gave more of a story to the idea by creating an army of clones of one absolutely terrible man, Stupid Crap Face, slowly killing the game by infecting the league with him over and over and over again, and watching the games' good players valiantly fight to keep it relevant. The series later expanded to other sports, such as football, baseball, soccer, and golf.

The Death of Basketball contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Inverted; in real life, the Bobcats went back to their old name, the Hornets, after the 2014 season. In the simulation, because of restrictions within 2K14, they remain the Bobcats.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • The Nuggets, a team that didn't make the playoffs in 2014 in real life, won the championship over the Heat in the simulation.
    • The Cavaliers, a team that with a dark history outside of the LeBron years, makes the Finals six straight times, winning the last three. In contrast, the real life Cavs with LeBron "only" made it to four consecutive Finals, winning just one, then quickly collapsed when he left the team.
  • After the End: The Dark Era, after the retirement of the last normal players and Doomsday Players make up the entire league. It finally ends with the shuttering of the NBA in 2053 (which is when the game forcibly ends Association Mode).
  • Audience Participation: The Doomsday Players are named after people who sent Bois poems about how they think the NBA will end.
  • Award Snub: invoked Discussed when Manu Ginóbili is excluded from the Hall of Fame after his retirement. In real life, he entered the Hall at his first opportunity in 2022, with most analysts having considered him a shoo-in, but the 2K games find his individual accomplishments too meager.Background 
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The Knicks, who are known for being bad in real life, are the first team to give a Doomsday Player significant minutes and become even worse as a result.
      Unsurprisingly, the Knicks fall like a rock, ending up with a 9-72 record. They are the league's worst in both points scored (88.7) and allowed (107.1) per game. The basketball gods like to laugh, but they're going for the easiest jokes.
    • The Heat end up on the losing end of two very lopsided games and have a monumental collapse after starting 18-4 in the 2020-21 season.
  • Crutch Character:
    • Without LeBron James, the Heat don't make the playoffs in 2015. They avoid being an example of Adaptational Wimp, however, since the actual Heat did worse that season, garnering a 37-45 record to the sim Heat's 39-43.
    • The Spurs are the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention after Kevin Durant leaves them, leaving them with nothing but Doomsday Players.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In a game during the '23-'24 season, the Heat lose to the Raptors by a score of 55-126.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • At the '19-'20 season, the article surmises that the Doomsday Player phenomenon is rather similar to climate change: even while very much underway, it's subtle and only evident if one looks up the statistics of it. If one looks from game to game, they look pretty much like your usual basketball games, with points-per-season being pretty typical and individual players giving excellent performances. However, while the number of points overall is the same, the number of players that actually regularly score is going downhill fast, and all the top scorers are from before 2014. Additionally, wild swings occasionally happen that reveal just how quickly things are starting to collapse.
    • One paragraph from the '22-'23 season posits that Doomsday Players can't find jobs like plumbing or medical work because the NBA is desperate to fill their rosters, so they forcibly sign people unfit to play the game, akin to conscription.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Despite playing in the NBA for 21 years, Nerlens Noel never gets a ring, losing Game 7 of the Finals in his last season.
    • The Suns, Timberwolves, Kingsnote , Raptorsnote , and Clippers end up never winning a championship.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Six teams won their first championship in the Doomsday Era: the Nuggetsnote , Cavaliersnote , Grizzlies, Hawksnote , Pacers, and Bobcats. In the Dark Era, the Pelicans, Jazz, Magic, and Nets also won their first titlenote .
  • Epic Fail: The Doomsday Players' purpose is to suck so bad at basketball it kills the sport, with some games having a score of 2 to 0.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Barack Obama is the one who forces the league to continue, in spite of its diminishing talent.
  • Just Before the End: The Doomsday Era, which lasts from the 2013-2014 season to the 2032-2033 season, is when Doomsday Players start getting drafted and the actual good players of the league start to grow old and retire.
  • Madness Mantra: The words "All is lost" are repeated over and over again while being interspersed with GIFs showcasing the ineptitude of the Doomsday Players.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Even on the verge of the retirement, the oldest normal players in the league are much, much better than the best Doomsday players.
    [Anthony Davis] is 40 years old, and his overall rating of 72 is a far cry from the 95 rating he enjoyed a decade ago. He remains a god among men.
  • Padded Sumo Gameplay: By the Dark Era, offense has become so horrible that it takes twelve overtimes just for a single game to end. The final score was Nuggets 0, Magic 3.
  • President Evil: Barack Obama is still President long after his second term ended, with the implication that he abolished presidential terms so he could stay in power. "THE DEATH OF BASKETBALL" even calls him a tyrant.
  • Sucksessor: The Doomsday Players, who are given the worst attributes possible and are simply worse than any normal NBA player.
  • Take That!:
    • Bois takes the Hawks' first championship in Atlanta as most damning evidence of the Doomsday Era.
    • The final moments of "THIS IS THE END" are panning shots of the arenas of teams who never won a championship; the last shot is for the Clippers... before moving up to the rafters, where the Lakers' banners are kept.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • In an effort to avoid giving too many minutes to Doomsday players, several teams resort to digging up long-retired, mediocre journeymen like Kim English and Jeremy Pargo.
    • Don Nelson, who in Real Life last coached in 2010, comes out of retirement in 2022 to lead the Spurs.

The Fumble Dimension video contains examples of:

  • Artificial Brilliance: The Fumble Dimension had several efforts to break the league stymied by the game creating new players, and then drafting the best players alphabetically.
    • One of the problems was that Stupid Crap Face was a center, so all his clones were also centers. That caused the AI to create its own guards and small forwards, who had ratings in the 50s and 60s. This forces the simulation to go on for more in-game seasons because those players need to work their way out of the league before there can be a season made up entirely of 40 overall players in all positions.
    • Initially, the AI tried to prevent teams from drafting the clones by giving them the same injury.
    • Next, the AI gives playing time to G-League players and free agents in order to prevent the "40 overalls" from playing. Despite that, a clone makes the All-Rookie Team (even though he didn't play a game after suffering a spinal-cord injury). Later, a player who is playing out his European contract makes the All-Rookie team.
    • Eventually, due to the 40 overall army being all center players, the game eventually began making its own creator characters.
  • Defiant to the End: The game was basically determined to try and prevent to experiment from succeeding. Not only did Jon and Kofie burn through several consoles to even get it to work, and not only did the game keep crashing, but when pressed against the wall with an oncoming influx of a 40 overall army, it began making new players itself to try and prolong the inevitable.
    Jon: 2K had gone rogue, inventing its own players to draft instead of choosing our 5'4" creations. By the time we realized what it had done, the game-generated players were dominating the league, with nearly 200 of them seeing enough playing time to be PER eligible. Thankfully, Kofie managed to shut it down by tweaking the draft class to include all positions, not just centers, thereby taking away 2K's case for making up players of its own. But... our project was contaminated. The NBA was now full of young, decent players, and we had no choice but to wait for them to retire. This was not even close to done.
  • Dwindling Party: How many normal NBA players are left are kept track.
  • For Want of a Nail: One key quirk resulting from using NBA 2K19 resulted in the Fumble Dimension equivalent of "The Death of Basketball" being delayed by a few in-game decades: the game itself creating basketball player draftees as a borderline last-ditch effort to prolong the influx of the 40 overalls.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: A combination of Stupid Crap Face's presence and the already buggy 2K19 causes the game to crash frequently.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Fumble Dimension follows how the Golden State Warriors, three-time NBA champions in five years, were affected by Stupid Crap Face. They have an 0-82 season in the 2030s.
  • Wham Line: Just when it looks like things are about to snowball, what with a 40 overall joining the Warriors, Kofie makes an unfortunate discovery that spells a massive hurdle for their experiment.
    Kofie: Uh, meet Vin Glover. He just came and joined the Golden State Warriors and has a 56 overall. He also doesn't exist.

The day will come
when 'nothing but net'
will be said by fishermen alone
-Phil McCrevice