It's a shame what's happened to the NBA. All the teams stink except two (or maybe three or four). There's no, zero, nada competitive balance. Every year, almost, it's the same two teams in the Finals.
I mean, come on. Who isn't sick to death of the Lakers and the Celtics?
Oh, wait. You thought I was talking about the Cavs and the Warriors?
Silly you. I wasn't talking about LeBron and Kyrie vs. Steph and KD 'n' them. I was talking about West and Baylor vs. Russell and Havlicek 'n' them. They met in the Finals seven times between 1959 and 1969. The Celtics won 10 titles in that time. Everyone pretty much agrees it was one of the worst eras in NBA history.
OK, OK. So it was actually one of the storied eras in NBA history.
Which brings us to tonight, and Game 1 of Cavs-Warriors III. It comes against the backdrop of a lot of griping that the NBA's "competitive balance" is gone because of all those first-round blowouts. And we all know how important first-round playoff series are to the health of your league.
So no one knows how important they are. That's because they're not. No one cares about the first round of the NBA playoffs. No one.
What they care about are the Finals, and by that measure, the NBA is in fine fettle. No one, after all, is sick to death of the Cavs and Warriors. To the contrary, we can't wait for it. We've been talking about it for a week (or weeks, or months). The biggest names in basketball are colliding on the loftiest stage for the third straight time. At stake are reputations, legacies, the upper hand in the most compelling NBA rivalry since the Bird Celtics and the Magic Lakers in the 1980s.
Yet we're supposed to judge the health of the NBA by who beats whom, and by how much, in the preliminary rounds?
It's like judging the Thrilla in Manila by the undercard. It's like lamenting the state of women's tennis because Chrissie and Martina crushed everyone on the way to yet another epic Wimbledon final.
Yes, the Warriors are hogging all the stars. Yes, the Cavs are hogging the stars the Warriors didn't hog. So what? When, in every legendary rivalry, has that not been true?
Truth is, what we're living in now is one of the great eras in NBA history. That's because, as in every great era in every sport, a transcendent team has found its perfect transcendent foil.
For the Warriors, that's the Cavs. Or for the Cavs, that's the Warriors.
Either way, it's glorious. And rare.