OK, can someone explain to me how this year’s NBA Finals are getting television ratings not seen since the Bulls-Jazz series of 20 years ago?
It’s not that it’s bad basketball or anything like that. Hardly. It’s two of the best teams ever assembled facing off against each other, with LeBron James trying to add to his legacy and Kevin Durant trying to capture that elusive first championship.
But if you’re a fan of any of the other 28 NBA franchises, I can’t see how Warriors vs. Cavaliers Version 3.0 is anything but completely frustrating.
The NBA, thanks to these “super teams,” looks an awful lot like Major League Baseball did during the glory years of the Yankees and Red Sox. If you’re a bandwagon fan, it’s all well and good. A lot of Warriors and Cavs fans are perfectly content while their old Bulls, Lakers and Heat jerseys gather dust somewhere.
(They’re also the same “fans” who contributed to the uptick of Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Cubs bumper stickers in recent years. Just watch Houston Astros and Washington Nationals gear fly off the shelves come November.)
But for those fans who are loyal to one team through thick and thin? This is really rewarding for the fans who stuck with the Warriors through their awful years, and those who remember a morbidly obese Shawn Kemp plodding up and down the court wearing those hideous late-1990s light blue and black Cavs jerseys.
It’s awful for everyone whose chosen team isn’t Golden State or Cleveland. Never before has it seemed so hopeless. Even if you’re a fan of a good team like the Rockets, Jazz, Celtics or Raptors, you know full well that your squad isn’t winning a championship anytime soon unless LeBron decides to take his talents to Salt Lake (fat chance) or Durant decides Toronto is where he’d like to be.
It’s even more frustrating if you root for a team like Utah, Milwaukee, Denver or Minnesota, where a big-name free agent will never sign because those markets are perceived as “boring.” The most that the vast majority of fans can ever hope for in today’s NBA is a 50-win season and a second-round playoff exit.
That lack of parity is not a good thing. Over the past 15 years, 17 of MLB’s 30 teams have played in the World Series. In that same span, 17 of 30 NHL franchises have played in the Stanley Cup Final and 18 of 32 NFL teams have reached the Super Bowl. By comparison, only 11 NBA teams have reached the finals since 2002. Only four — San Antonio, Miami, Cleveland and Golden State — have been there in the past five seasons.
So, while it seems like casual fans are eating up the latest showdown between LeBron James and Stephen Curry, they might be getting too much of a good thing.
Those of us who aren’t Cavs or Warriors fans are getting fed up.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. Back when Michael Jordan’s Bulls were playing the Jazz of John Stockton and Karl Malone in the Finals, his team of choice was going 11-71. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.