NBA’s Exhibition

The return of this NBA season is a joke. I had thought nobody of media prominence shared my opinion until yesterday. One of my least liked sports commentators, Stephen A. Smith, said Kevin Durant would be making a mistake if he were to comeback when game play resumes because this season will always be marked with an asterisk. Agreed. It’ll likely count against any player who’s on the winning championship team, in terms of Hall of Fame balloting and their immediate legacy. If LeBron James were to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this season and manage to get six or seven rings before he retires, many pundits and fans wouldn’t count this one. Me included. Proponents could argue this season has some similarities to the lockout shortened seasons, but those seasons were continuous and had the same playoffs format.

It’s not completely a lost cause. First, come the future – in 50 to 100 years, I think this season will be as significant as any other season past and present because people have short memories. I doubt many will remember NBA’s COVID-19 hiatus and its impact on this season. Fans of that future will likely focus on stats rather than the context of them. Winning the championship might even hold equal weight in those infamous GOAT debates, assuming one of the privileged few players are on the winning team. It’s too bad that many of us won’t be around to contribute.

Second, talks about changing the format of the playoffs have been occurring for years. Western Conference teams have dominated the NBA over the last decade. Many believe that the Finals has not showcased the NBA’s top two teams playing for the championship, as its superstars moved west. Resuming this season is not only about money, it’s really the best time of any to try-out a new playoffs format. It doesn’t cost anything extra, and the politics were probably easier to navigate. Who knows, maybe the new format will change the NBA if it ends up being seen as a success. It’s definitely more scalable, an important element when the NBA really becomes a global league. The stars aligned for this exhibition of sorts.

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