Small-market teams having success is not bad for the NBA. Having a fresh set of stars on the main stage is good for the NBA. Arguing that the lack of familiar teams and faces makes the 2021 NBA Playoffs “boring” is a bad take. Using NBA television ratings as a metric of entertainment value in 2021 is just lazy, and ratings have actually been up anyway, so the argument doesn’t even work.
Some people just hate fun, I guess.
The 2021 NBA Playoffs Don’t Care About Your Ratings Argument
You Don’t Need Major Markets to Have Fun
Taking a significant other to a five-star restaurant for $100+ steaks and fancy wine can be a great occasion. It’s classy, romantic, and shows a level of commitment to the person you’re interested in. It’s a standard in the realm of dating and dining. Well, unless you’re a vegetarian like me, but those steaks can always be subbed for some quinoa or something. Anyway, those occasions are nice and appreciated by all parties.
But you know what else can be fun? Shoving a $5 burger down your throat on the interstate going 10 over the speed limit because you’re late to a double-date at the movie theatre. Life doesn’t always have to be luxurious and pristine. It can be simple and fun. Like these NBA Playoffs.
Now, comparing the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers to a $5 hamburger seems a bit derogatory. Well, to the first three at least. But if you stick with me, you’ll see the beauty in that cheap sandwich.
Watching a team like the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics win the title feels right. It’s that steak dinner you get maybe once a year. It’s a special treat and is remembered fondly by everyone involved for years to come. It feels like a part of history. However, watching a team like the Suns or Bucks win their first title since the invention of the wheel (might have to double-check the dates there) can still give you the rush of instant dopamine without all the flash and spectacle.
The former feels so uptight and detailed with loads of pressure. You have to make sure that evening is perfect from start to finish. With the latter, though, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, no matter how it goes.
Out with the Old, In with the New (Superstars)
Are you hungry yet? I’m not. I’m still chugging down my ninth pot of coffee this morning. Gotta love that 4 A.M. shift, no? Maybe the site shouldn’t let me write editorial-style pieces like this…I digress. What was I talking about?
Oh, yeah. Superstars.
If you keep up with #NBATwitter (I suggest you do, it’s prime internet entertainment) you might not have any idea what makes a superstar. The definition ranges from an elite group of three or four players (think LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, etc.) to Khris Middleton if you’re Kendrick Perkins.
No matter how you classify the term, it’s safe to say Superstars are born in the spotlight. It’s hard to be a Superstar without a playoff appearance, though technically not impossible. But there’s just something about watching players rise to the moment in the heart of the playoffs to lift their team on a quest for a title. It’s just magic, man. It’s the best part of this sport. And for the first time in a long time, we’re going to get to see a new Superstar rise and give us a show we won’t soon forget.
If you’re as old as me (which most of NBA Twitter probably isn’t), you’ve become accustomed to seeing a shortlist of Superstars compete in the NBA Finals. LeBron James has been in 10 of them since 2007, with Steph Curry making it to five in that span as well. Even Kevin Durant has reached four (though he was injured in 2019) and Kawhi Leonard has made three. Heck, from 2011 to 2020, every Finals has featured at a least one (and up to three) of those players.
Now, that all changes.
A Star is Born
Technically speaking, there’s an outside chance that the Clippers overcome a 3-1 deficit and Leonard returns from injury to extend that streak, but even one of those things happening seems unlikely. Assuming (but you know what they say about that) the Clippers fall short of the NBA Finals, you’re left with four major names. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Trae Young. More likely than not, one of those four players will be the 2021 NBA Finals MVP. And it’s about darn time someone besides the “Big Four” (I don’t feel like typing all of their names again) takes home the award.
No matter who wins the award, it will change the narratives of the entire league moving forward. Will Antetokounmpo add a Finals MVP and a ring to his already stuffed trophy case? If so, is he the new heir to LeBron James’ throne? He certainly has a claim.
Will Devin Booker cement his place as the “next Kobe Bryant” as he was dubbed by Stephen A. Smith — though I don’t believe we need the “next Kobe” as much as we need the “first Booker”, but whatever, I don’t get paid the big bucks, so no one will listen to me — and insert himself into the Top Five conversation?
Can Chris Paul get in on the “greatest point guard of all-time” conversation with a ring and a Finals MVP this late in his career? It certainly wouldn’t hurt his case.
Could Trae Young finally hush all the “who won the trade” talk by winning a title in just his third season? No matter what happens, it’s going to be exponentially more fun than watching LeBron James face Steph Curry for the fifth time in eight years. It’ll be new. It’ll be fun.
Repeat Stuff, Repeat Stuff
NFL fans outside of Boston (and now Tampa Bay) are sick of seeing Tom Brady win titles. Fans of musical artist DaBaby are sick of hearing him rap over the same beat for the 700th time. (Insert a political joke about how Congress never gets anything done, amirite?). No, that’s not an editing error, I just have a strange sense of humor. Anyway, the point is watching the same players hog the spotlight gets old. And ratings be damned, it’s time NBA fans got to see something different.
These NBA Playoffs have been electric. After the strangeness of the NBA Bubble last year and the general awfulness of the recent pandemic, it’s amazing to see crowds back cheering for the small-market teams as they try to win an NBA Championship. Anyone out there complaining about the lack of stars or big-name teams is out of touch. Sports are about small-time people escaping the world for a few minutes to capture some magic courtesy of their favorite players. Give Milwaukee their moment. Let Phoenix shine for a change. Let Atlanta rise up in a championship (without blowing a 25 point lead). It’s good for the fans, and it’s good for the heart.
Who cares about a little number from the corporate overlords about how well their commercials about life insurance and the newest drug that can cause worse side effects than the disease itself are doing? Not me. And if you view basketball through the lens of those suits from the cable company, you’ll miss out on the most fun fans have had watching the best sport in the world in a long, long time.
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