Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Golden era

So go ahead, hate on Kevin Durant this morning. Heap scorn upon the Golden State Warriors. Grind your molars and declare you are sick to death of them, that "superteams" are bad for the sport, that parity makes everything better because it gives more teams a clear and realistic chance to lay hands on the big trophy.

Now take a deep breath, and answer this question.

Who won the NBA title in 2004?

Unless you are a dedicated NBA nerd or hail from Detroit, you're probably drawing a blank. That's because the Pistons won that year, and only dedicated NBA nerds and people from Detroit can name more than three players from that team on a bet. And that's because they were no superteam, but a forgettable bunch that won 54 games in the regular season, were coached by Larry Brown and were led by Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

And, yes, I had to look all that up.

But these Warriors?

Thirteen years from now, I will not have to look up the fact they were led by Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. This is because they are led by Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. It is also because they won 73 games last year, and have won two of the last three NBA titles, and are a budding dynasty doubly blessed because they have, in LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the perfect foil all budding dynasties need to be truly memorable.

Bad for the sport?

Wrong. Great for the sport.

Twenty years from now, we'll look back on these Warriors the way we look at the Russell Celtics, the Bird Celtics, the Magic Lakers, the Jordan Bulls. We'll see this era as one of the more memorable eras in NBA history. No one will be fretting that there wasn't enough competitive balance, because no one was fretting about it when the Russell Celtics were winning 10 NBA titles and playing the Lakers in the finals in seven of those years in the '50s and '60s.

No. Instead, people were tuning in to see if this was the year West and Baylor finally got Russell 'n' them. Just as people tuned in this year to see who would win the rubber match between the Warriors and Cavs.

Bad for the sport?

So why was this the most anticipated NBA Finals in recent memory?

And why, moving forward, will we be waiting eagerly to see if the Cavs can even the score again next year, or if someone else rises up in the East to challenge the champs, or if the Spurs can re-tool and knock them off in the West?

The bare-wood truth is, superteams have always defined the greatest eras in any sport, because they evoke the sort of passion parity never will. When the Yankees were winning nine World Series and 14 of 16 American League pennants in the '50s and '60s, no one was abandoning baseball. They were tuning into the World Series to see if the Dodgers could finally beat those bleeping pinstriped devils, or if the Giants could, or if the Braves could.

Would that have been true if those Yankees weren't winning all those pennants and World Series? If parity existed, and a different pair of 88-win baseball teams were playing in the Series every year, would the general public have cared so much?

Of course not. Just as the general public wouldn't have cared so much had a couple of 54-win NBA teams squared off in the Finals.

Yes, that might have indicated there was more parity in the league. And the Finals might have gone seven games. And the first-round series might have been more competitive.

And we all would have yawned.

Because, frankly, no one cares if a first-round series is competitive. No one cares if a series goes seven games if, like those 2004 Pistons, it's two eminently forgettable teams playing.

No. What we want, as fans, are immortals. What we want, whether we want to admit it or not, is Warriors-Cavs IV.

Grind those molars all you want.    

No comments:

Post a Comment