As many of you know, I'm not really a NBA fan. I never thought that the league exhibited what makes the NFL and NHL so likeable, which is parity. Nothing really shocking ever happens in the playoffs, where in the NHL it seems to happen nearly every time we watch a playoff game. And in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals, one of the markers of futility, made a superbowl. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves ever make an NBA Finals? At the rate this NBA is going, probably not. But with the successes of the Memphis Grizzlies, it got me thinking: Is the NBA finally getting to be more equal? And is it too late?
The Grizzlies have never won a playoff game, and it has been a relatively uneventful existence, from Vancouver to Memphis. But they are on the verge of eliminating the Spurs: a team that has been one of the league's best since the late 1990's. And the Indiana Pacers, lead by a coach that came in midway through the season, gave the Chicago Bulls hell for 4 games. The New Orleans Hornets are owned by the NBA, but that hasn't stopped them from putting the Lakers through the ringer. Normally, 8 and 7 seeds are rolled over, and as Lebron James said, it's like "Just finishing our breakfast". But this year, breakfast has become a large dinner for some higher seeds... and they have had their hands full. Outside of the Warriors ousting the Mavs in 2007, this is the most trouble 1 seeds have had in the first round since it was expanded to a 7 game series. That's a good thing for a guy like me who likes parity. But, is it enough? The answer is: No.
In history, only three 1 seeds have been knocked out in the first round by an 8 seed since the playoffs expanded in 1983-84. The NHL has had that many in the last 5 years. Would we ever see an 8 seed play a 7 in the Conference Finals in the NBA? Doubtful, but we saw it last year in the NHL. The point is, the NBA has as many small market teams as the NHL, but they are not as likely to succeed. Things like the Big 3 don't happen in hockey, and even though the two sports are very different, parity should still be exhibited. College Basketball can do it, why not the NBA?
To put this in perspective, just think of this: If you are a fan of a bad team in the NHL, the likelihood is you won't have success, but there is a glimmer of hope that you will. If the same applies in the NBA, your team is pretty much doomed to another year in the basement and the future is put in the hands of a ping pong ball. The same goes in the playoffs in both leagues.
The NBA is destined for a lockout that could wipe out the 2011-2012 season. The NHL's popularity is booming, and is only going to get bigger. Lebron James talked about contraction in the NBA because of the discrepancy between the very good and the very bad. The NHL is not contracting the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, or Florida Panthers-- though they may want to-- anytime soon. The NHL has recovered from its disaster in 2004-05. The NBA may take longer to recover, and it will look different after that. Even though the NBA is driven by star power, other teams should have the chance to succeed, and in that, the issues with teams like Sacramento wouldn't exist.
It may be too late for the NBA to start exhibiting parity, but the signs are a good thing. The lockout could change that. It's not fun watching the same 6 teams compete for the title every year; let's have another hat thrown in the ring.
It's been too long, and those teams desrve justice.