Vote ‘No’ For NBA Parity

2 07 2011

A question was asked last week by one member of the Dan Patrick Show about whether the NBA is better off with star-studded teams. This debate is nothing new; the argument for ‘superteams’ versus parity is a spirited one. I think that, by nature, people want superteams, even though they try to convince themselves that sports leagues are better served by parity.

This thought, to me, is rooted in the belief that most people are good, at heart. Therefore, they want every team to have a chance – for fairness. And this is a result of the desire for most sports fans to cheer for an underdog. Most people like underdogs, including reporters, because it offers a fresh story. But I think most us who are realistic understand that parity isn’t always the best route for a league to take. It makes sense in football because there are so few games; each one is critical and it’s easier for a team to come out of the blue to surprise other teams.

In basketball, talent levels out whatever momentum an under-manned team might hold for a certain period of time. Plus, let’s face it: an underdog story has only so long of a lifespan. People eventually get bored with one story. They want to be entertained, which is part and parcel why sports fans become fans in the first place. That’s why star-studded teams benefit the NBA more than a league full of parity.

I’ll finish with the following point: what do NBA fans typically think of when they reminisce about the league’s supposed golden age of the ’80s? Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, Magic, Bird, Isiah, Jordan, right? Superstar teams and superstar players. Do fans now even realize that the Dallas Mavericks made the playoffs five years in a row from 1983-88, including one appearance in the Western Conference Finals? Do they understand that the Milwaukee Bucks – a team not considered to have a rich history – made the playoffs every year of the 1980s, won 50-plus games seven consecutive seasons from 1980-87 and made the Eastern Conference Finals three times in four seasons from 1983-86, at the height of the Bird-McHale Celtics dynasty? Hell no; I didn’t even know all those Bucks accomplishments until I looked them up for this post.

Long-term, people care almost exclusively about the superstar teams. Perhaps this new digital/social media era will change how fans think of teams 10, 20 years from now. I’m willing to bet it won’t make a big difference. Sports fans want the superstar teams to root for and against, which is why all those NBA stars should continue to talk their way into playing with each other.

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