I’m trying REAL HARD to believe in this league, but can you really blame me for questioning the integrity of the NBA?
Does it still bother me when I see the 2010, Game 7, NBA Finals box score, when the Lakers shot 37 free throws versus my beloved Celtics, who only shot 17?
Am I surprised? No.
Need more examples? Search on YouTube or Google for “rigged games,” or “rigged calls,” and if the league who owns that video hasn’t taken it down yet, then you will find plenty of instances where “Vegas” or “Agenda” and NOT “Integrity” decided those games.
So when I tell my buddies that if one game can be rigged, why don’t they believe me when I claim that one season can be rigged, too? If not, multiple seasons in a row. But maybe “rigged” is too strong a word for them. “Set up” may be a better way to phrase it.
More than any other sport, the NBA thrives when a superstar rises and remains at the top. That’s why ratings are so LOW when teams like the Spurs and Grizzlies face each other in the playoffs, and why ratings are so HIGH when LeBron (AHEM, I meant the Cavaliers) face Steph (AHEM, I meant the Warriors) in the playoffs. It’s the STAR that creates the ratings, NOT the TEAM.
The answer is simple: You stack the talent in the West, and keep LeBron in the East. That guarantees him a free pass to the Finals each year. It also guarantees higher ratings at the most pivotal time of the year, the playoffs. That’s when the league’s ad spots and ticket sales are at their highest.
This year the league may not be “rigged,” in terms of officiating, but the Eastern Conference is certainly set up QUITE CONVENIENTLY for LeBron James.
Since the Celtics became old in 2012 (Garnett and Pierce, specifically) LeBron has been able rest the final two months of the regular season, and for most of the playoffs, because no Eastern Conference team has been good enough to threaten him.
How few times would he make the Finals? Imagine him in the early rounds playing the Spurs, Warriors, Thunder, Mavericks (when they were good), Clippers, and even Memphis (when they were good)… How many times would he lose in the first or second round? And hence, we’d call him the Peyton Manning of the NBA; great regular season player, but an embarrassment in the playoffs.
I won’t accept the comparisons of LeBron to Jordan. I will, however, entertain the comparisons to Larry Bird, yet it’s hard to compare talent from decade to decade because I believe today the league is so top heavy, and in the 80s and 90s there was a variety and depth of talent in both leagues; intermingled with one outright dynasty, the Chicago Bulls.
LeBron’s greatness is the hardest to judge in today’s sports era because of the ease of path before him. I liken it to Tom Brady’s division titles; it’s not that impressive given that he’s playing the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills twice a year (and I’m Patriots fan). At least in Brady’s circumstance he has to play legitimate contenders in the playoffs.
But LeBron? He beat the Detroit Pistons… big whoop! He beat the Atlanta Hawks… yay? He beat the Toronto Raptors, the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame… HOCKEY!
I’m hopeful that Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals is the FIRST game all year that the league’s agenda is at rest. But I will never relinquish the feeling that, for the most part, the NBA is like our Presidential Election: The winner (or final two candidates) is determined before even one vote is cast.
All that being said, I’m trying REAL HARD to believe in this league again, but that’s difficult based on its history. And I’m trying REAL HARD to like LeBron for once in my life, but I just need him to do it with more obstacles before him, and without so much help from this set-up league.