If you are a basketball fan in Denver, Utah or Cleveland, you don't want to read this column.

If you believe parity is the Holy Grail for a sports league - that the NBA is better off with 30 mediocre teams than six great ones - you probably should head to NFL.com.

If you believe that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams have ruined the NBA by actually having the gall to try to dictate where they play, you don't want to hear what I have to say. But that doesn't mean it isn't true.

Superstar players are not wrecking the league. Rather, they are generating more widespread interest than the NBA has seen in years.

Amar'e Stoudemire's arrival in New York made the Knicks relevant again this season. Now, with Anthony getting his wish and joining Stoudemire as the second superstar in the biggest market, New York again is in the upper echelon of teams. That, of course, is great for the NBA.

"It was a dream come true for myself," Anthony said Wednesday about joining the Knicks.

Last weekend, while some observers at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles were wringing their hands over the game's demise, the game itself drew its highest rating since 2003, up 37 percent from last season.

The NBA season opener between the Heat and Celtics was the most-watched NBA regular-season game in history.

And more New Yorkers tuned into Anthony's first game as a Knick on Wednesday night than had watched any Knicks regular-season game in 16 years.

The truth is that fans really don't like parity as much as they like good basketball or a good storyline. And right now, the NBA has plenty of both.

There are six teams - the Celtics, Heat, Lakers, Spurs, Bulls and Mavericks - good enough to contend for a title. And a few more, such as the Knicks, who have megastar power and are on the ascension.

Even Williams, who forced his way out of Utah, might not be finished flexing his trade-demand muscles. Williams said he will not sign a contract extension with the Nets this summer and gave no indication about what he will do in the future.

"I want to see what happens as next season unfolds," said Williams, who is scheduled to become a free agent in the summer of 2012. "I can't really give any assurances or say that I'll be here when I don't know what the future holds."

Unlike the NFL, in which you can't really see a player's face when he is on the field, the NBA has always been about individual personality and style. And today's game has plenty of that. The list of players who are worth paying to see - Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Stoudemire, Anthony, James, Williams and, well, you get the idea - is longer than it has been in recent memory.

There is nothing wrong with the game. In fact, the overall NBA product is as good as it has been in years. The problem is that the economy is not, and that means there are a lot of teams out there losing money, or not making as much as they used to.

More than a few owners over-extended themselves in buying their teams. And they are looking for big givebacks from the players in the upcoming labor negotiations.

This is the true reason the NBA isn't backing away from this selfish-players-are-ruining-the-NBA narrative. Rarely do you hear the truth, that the formation of star-studded teams such as the Heat and the Knicks likely will result in a huge spike in merchandise sales, the profits of which go to all teams. Instead, there is a lot of fear-mongering about how players are abandoning small-market teams such as Denver and Utah.

Of course, the negotiating style of today's NBA superstars isn't doing a whole lot to help their cause. NBA fans over the age of 25 - those of us who can remember a time before reality television - were a little repulsed by the self-absorbed way James stuck it to Cleveland on national television. (Younger fans, incidentally, were not.)

James and his generation, however, are far from the first players in the league to try to dictate where they play. There is a long line of superstars - among them Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal, each of whom went to Los Angeles - who took their game to more of a glam locale. And there will be plenty more to do it in the future.

This is just business as usual, done in a new way. And it likely wouldn't be so noticeable if the economy weren't so bad and the NBA hadn't over-extended itself by expanding to 30 teams.

Parity for 30 teams? How is that possible? Why would anyone want it? What I want from the NBA in the regular season is to watch a game like tonight's between Miami and the Knicks, a game that features five All-Stars on one court. I don't know how that can be bad for the game.


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months