Barring some monumental upsets in the conference finals, the NBA finals will once again be between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. It will be the third straight year that they meet in the final, and there’s a real possibility that both teams could go undefeated before they meet in the final.
There’s been a lot of discussions online about how this is bad for the NBA and its product. The main argument is that it’s ruining the league’s product and destroying the so-called “parity” of the league.
First of all, the notion that the NBA had the parity problem figured out before this is laughable. Between 1996 and 2014, a total of 7 different teams won the NBA championships — the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs won 10 of those. In fact, of those seven teams, four of them won multiple titles. The NBA for its recent history has been a league constructed of a few “have’s” and a whole lot of “have not’s.”
There’s also the question of the product of the NBA. Is there really a problem with the product? The league just signed a massive TV deal with ESPN, last year’s game seven was one of the most-watched games ever, and each team improved their worth from the year previous — now 18 franchises in the NBA are worth 1 billion dollars or more. If there’s a problem with the product, it doesn’t seem to match up with the record revenue the league is generating.
As well, too much parity can make a league uninteresting and boring, especially to the casual fan. It’s arguably my biggest problem with the MLS. The strict salary cap system the league has in place has created a system where it’s a total crapshoot year to year where teams will finish and who will actually win the league.
Check out the standings right now. The team that was 2nd in the Western Conference in 2016 (Colorado) is last in the Western Conference right now. The team that was last in 2016 (Houston) is currently in first. Columbus, who were 9th in the Eastern Conference last year, are in 2nd in the East currently.
There’s so much fluctuation season to season that you might as well predict who will win the MLS Cup by throwing a dart and seeing which team it lands on. It’s a great example of if the parity concept is taken to the extreme and waters down the product.
Perhaps we’re seeing a change with the emergence of Toronto FC becoming a sort of “super team” for the MLS (if they can sustain their success for a few years). But every league needs those strong teams that a casual fan can latch on to and tune in if they feel like it — and hate on.
With super teams, you also get the possibility of huge underdog upsets. Look no further than Leicester City defying the odds by winning the Premier League title last season. It’s not a story if Real Salt Lake beat Houston, but it’s a huge story if Deportive La Coruna manages to beat Barcelona.
Parity is good and all, but at the end of the day what is best for the NBA and the product itself is that the best teams meet up for a chance to win the championship. The NBA arguably does this better than any other league, and a Warriors/Cavs NBA Final Round 3 will arguably be one of the most anticipated finals in recent memory. It’s not bad for the product at all — it can only make it stronger.