For the second consecutive season, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will square off in the NBA Finals. For the fourth consecutive season, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have led the crew from South Beach to the precipice of NBA glory.
As the stage is set for what should be a phenomenal championship bout, some fans have chosen to look at the NBA with urine-colored glasses.
After seven months of needless running around, the two best teams are in the NBA Finals. How predictable…the NBA has nothing on March Madness or the NHL.
Of course, this is true. March Madness gives us upsets, Cinderella stories, and awesome highlight reels. (The cynical me will refrain from also including bracket controversies, coaching scandals, and cheating schools…this isn’t the time or place.) The NHL is so random, seeding almost doesn’t even matter – the team with the hottest goalie will almost invariably reach the Stanley Cup Final. The NFL has given us several Wild Card Super Bowl winners over the past 10 years. Even soccer is more highly dependent on form over class – just look at Champions League winners compared to their placement in their own leagues over the last several years.
Professional basketball shares almost nothing in common with those sports. Since 2008, only the 2011 Mavericks (thanks to Dirk Nowitzki’s midseason injury), 2010 Celtics (older team that dealt with various injuries), and 2009 Magic (hot shooting) made the NBA Finals without being one of the top two seeds in their conference. The NBA playoffs simply aren’t for those who want unpredictability and surprise.
And yet, it’s precisely that predictability which makes the NBA better than those other sports. The seven-game series, 99 percent of the time, will truly determine which team was better.
I’m a born and raised Indiana boy. I know the importance of Hoosiers and I’m just as excited as anyone else when an underdog goes out there and “wins one for the Gipper.” As a coach, I have on numerous occasions given my players the famous, “They might beat us nine times out of 10, but this game is No. 10 today!” speech. Upsets are entertaining and Cinderella-stories are inspiring, but the NBA truly represents the American Dream: “If you work hard enough and become better than everyone else at your craft, you can truly reach success.”
For those that view sports solely for entertainment, the NBA playoffs will never come close to matching the “one-and-done” format of March Madness or the
Bowl system of college football exciting NFL postseason. But the NBA playoffs actually give us answered questions.
For the next 30 years, people that care about such things will argue over who really was the best team in college basketball in 2014. Can UConn really be the best team with box scores like this? If Wichita State hadn’t been gypped by the selection committee, wouldn’t the Shockers have gone further? Kansas, with a healthy Joel Embiid, was more dominant than anyone else, right? Kentucky had the most talent and proved it in the tournament, didn’t they? We will never know who the best team in college basketball was last season.
Oh sure, UConn has a championship banner, but in reality, that’s really nothing more than a trophy from a big tournament the Huskies won. Throughout the regular season, they showed very little that would have indicated they were even a top 10 team in college basketball, but a run of six great games gave them the title “Best College Team.” This entire system is futilely flawed and obnoxious.
The NBA, on the other hand, truly lets the teams settle it. You might not think Miami deserved to beat the Spurs last year and they were just a Ray Allen miracle shot from losing, but that discounts the other three games they won and Tony Parker’s Hail Mary in Game 1.
We know that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were better than Karl Malone and John Stockton. We know that MJ was better than Barkley and Drexler. We know that Dirk’s Mavericks were better than LeBron’s Heat in 2011. We know that LeBron was better than Durant in 2012.
If knowledge is power, the NBA is the most powerful league on earth.