Friday, April 25, 2008

brace yourself for more Spurs-Pistons

Now, I love basketball, and this has been a great season in the NBA. But no matter how great the playoff matchups line up (and in the Western Conference this year they are all doozies), the end result is usually a wee bit predictable. More than any other league -- even baseball in the 90s -- the NBA has a dynasty problem. Check out this list of the list of NBA champs from 1980 to the present:

Lakers, Celtics, Lakers, 76ers, Celtics, Lakers, Celtics, Lakers, Lakers, Pistons, Pistons, Bulls, Bulls, Bulls, Rockets, Rockets, Bulls, Bulls, Bulls, Spurs, Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, Spurs, Heat, Spurs.

Notice any trends? How about five franchises (Bulls, Piston, Spurs, Lakers, Celtics) have accounted for 24 of the past 28 championships. Throw in the Rockets, and that's six franchises winning 26 of 28. And if you go back in NBA history to the dominant eras of the Minneapolis Lakers and Russell-era Celtics, it just gets worse.

Why is this so? The best theory I think is that more than any other sport, the NBA has always been star-driven. It's been promoted that way and played that way. A single great player, or a handful of them, can take over a game in a way that is not possible in baseball or football. The only comparable thing in sports to having Michael Jordan on your team is in hockey, where a hot goalie can take a mediocre team all the way. The difference is that few goalies stay unbeatable for more than a one or two playoffs runs. Whereas Michael Jordan remained unbeatable for the last half of his career.

Granted, I'm an embittered Suns fan. When I was living in Chicago during the Jordan days, I wasn't complaining this way. But end result is that the NBA, even post-lockout, is more dynasty-heavy than other sports. Even with eleven 50-win teams this season, can we imagine anyone besides the Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, or Pistons taking the title? Um, I can't.

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