I’m thinking of a league where there has been a total of eight champions over the last 31 seasons, it is dominated by a handful of players and one team is trying it’s best to win less than 10 games.
Yes, I’m talking about the NBA. The 2014-15 season tipped off last week, and the league has many fans anxiously waiting to see what big storylines will play out this season.
Last season, fans saw one of the game’s biggest stars, Derrick Rose, prove that he may be better off swinging clubs for a living than trying to relive the magic he displayed at Memphis University. They saw one franchises in one of the nation’s biggest markets, become seemingly ripped to shreds by its owner during the post-season. And let us not forget, the San Antonio Spurs proved that LeBron James and the Miami Heat would get their 5 or 6 or 7 guaranteed championships, whatever it was.
Give credit to such fans, as the NBA continues to gain ground on the MLB as the second most popular North American professional sport. Their loyalty has shown the league that nothing needs to be changed.
Highlights of James and the rest of the league own ESPN programs such as SportsCenter. Many call out the network for this, but the fans keep watching. As long as the ratings are there, these networks won’t change their programming, and the league will not change its direction.
But is this a good thing?
The drop off between playoff and non-playoff teams in the NBA is a lot further than any other professional sport. An astounding seven teams last year had winning percentages under .400. For the purpose of equal comparison, the NHL, which plays the same amount of games a year (82), has had a total of six teams under the .400 mark in the last two years combined.
Is this lack of parity in the NBA a bad thing? I argue that it is. Can franchises really sustain success if they do not have a big star?
The NBA has had five franchises relocate during the 21st century (the New Orleans franchise’s temporary location change was not considered due to Hurricane Katrina). The other three major North American professional sports have combined for only two relocations.
The effect of this can be seen in the NBA today. Teams are desperate to get the next James type player, who can single-handedly turn around their franchise, bring in ticket sales and boost revenue. Teams are willing to bite the bullet for a season, “Tanking” for a player. It even appears as if the Philadelphia 76ers are willing to do that for a second consecutive season.
How does the league fix this? That is where it gets tricky. They have to give players like James and Kevin Durant credit for being able to do what they do. Most people do not think the rules should be changed, so when a player with that type of talent enters the league, he will almost definitely dominate.
Nothing is changing for now, however. The league is thriving, and whether you like it or not, if you are watching the games or buying apparel, you are supporting the league and the product it is putting on the court night in and night out.
This season will teach us a lot, and maybe it will contribute to the idea that the NBA needs to find more parity.