The NBA seems to get more impressive every year. The dunk contest has been going on since the 70s and 80s, and yet players still create new acrobatic formulas to slam a round ball through a circular hoop. Every time Steph Curry makes a deep three, he follows it up with a deeper one (the most ever, every year, by the way). Kyrie’s handles put me in a spin cycle, and he still gets locked down by Avery Bradley. Yet, though surprises during games seem to be at an all-time high, the league could not be more definable, predictable, and, at times, boring.
The league is highlight driven, with every game winner, no-look pass, and vicious block broadcasted immediately via social media. The league is star driven, with almost religious followings of the greatest players, and with multi-million dollar shoe deals making the players some of the richest in global sports. The league is statistics driven, with the three ball becoming used more every year (statistics show three points is worth more than two), and players and teams actively searching for records and feats (i.e. 73 wins and averaging a triple-double). It doesn’t matter that the Warriors lost the finals, because they admittedly overexerted themselves chasing 73 wins, and it doesn’t matter that Russell Westbrook's team is mediocre after being a Klay Thompson godsent performance away from a finals appearance. The league is not driven by wins, because players such as Westbrook are receiving MVP hype even if LeBron continues to be the best player of our century every year (and win more). In fact, it’s often better to throw away a season and lose in order to gain a star player, which can take years (ask the 76ers). Stars stay put on their teams, and then attract others to come to them, leaving teams without stars in mediocrity (ask the Nuggets, or Heat, or Bucks).
The MLB, NFL, and NHL all require multiple coaches and dozens of players on a team. In the NBA, only one elite coach and three elite players with some role players are necessary to create a contender. So, when LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love came together, everyone knew they would be good, because that’s all it takes. One free agent signing and one trade turned Cleveland from a cellar dweller to a champion in under 4 years. The Spurs will be good for years because of their elite coach and numerous stars.
In the NFL, the best teams have to play the best teams the following year on their schedule. The grueling MLB schedule requires a five-man pitching rotation, multiple relievers, and more than nine fielders, meaning that there needs to be depth on a team; there is so much money bias in terms of markets in baseball, and yet the standings change every year radically more than basketball. The NHL needs four lines and three defensive pairings, backup goalies, and multiple coaches. The players and their pure skill levels dictate the NBA, while other sports need depth, some luck, and time to develop. The NBA D-League is a joke, because the players in the D-League rarely make an impact in the NBA, whereas undrafted players in the minor leagues of football, baseball, and hockey are able to make a difference.
These reasons are why the NBA seems boring to me. I know that there are only really three teams in the league that can win the championship this year (Warriors, Spurs, Cavaliers), because the playoff series run for seven games, not one (like in the far superior March Madness). It’s easy to upset an opponent once, not four times in a row. Throughout the NBA’s history, this fact has lead to only a handful of teams having a realistic shot at a title every year. The NBA is so unpredictable on a game-to-game basis, because highlights happen so often. Yet, the NBA is so predictable in the bigger picture. I know I will see a LeBron rematch against the Spurs or Warriors, and I’ve been waiting since the Celtics big 3 breakup to watch something else.
- Will Walkey