The NBA playoffs are unlike that of any other major American sport. At the beginning of each NBA season there is a consensus opinion of which teams will be in the finals, unlike
March Madness and the NFL.
There are obviously favorites in every sport, but I wouldn’t guarantee any one team’s appearance in the finals like I would the Warriors and the Cavs.
We have seen each of LeBron’s teams come out of the east and as of recently, the Warriors come out of the west, with the Spurs doing the same before them. In fact, since Orlando in 2009 there have been no real surprises to make it to the finals.
There are no Atlanta Falcon, Butler Bulldog, or VCU Shocker stories in the NBA; teams who are not normally title contenders that have one great season and make a legitimate run at a championship. The NBA over the past few years has had teams explode onto the scene like the Hawks, Pacers, Raptors, and Trail Blazers, yet none of these teams have had a realistic chance at winning it all. Every dynasty has to start at some point, but there just are not teams in the NBA who are good for only one playoff run or one season.
However, teams that explode onto the scene in the NFL have a realistic shot at winning the title. For example, Carolina, Atlanta, and the NY Giants are all teams who have either come close to winning or have won despite not ranking amongst the elite group of contenders like New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Denver and Seattle. Teams like Atlanta and NYG are rarely chosen, but have shown the ability to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile in the NBA, how many times has a team won, or even made a trip to the Finals that wasn’t in the perennial conversation at the beginning of the year?
Orlando in 2009, that’s it. If you research the past NBA finals you will be pressed to find another team like Orlando until the Knicks in 1999, who were an no. 8 seed. The “cinderella” story simply doesn’t happen in the NBA, with only two exceptions in the past 18 years.
Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals. Lakers clinch their 15th title in an easy series over Orlando.
The NBA does a good job of having the best team in May and June later become the NBA champion, and while this rewards teams for their excellence, it makes for a lack of excitement during the regular season and early playoff rounds, because most of it doesn’t matter.
In the NFL, a team only has to win 3 or 4 games to become Super Bowl champions, yet in the NBA a team needs to win four series and 16 games. Therefore, it is far easier to be lucky in the NFL than it is in the NBA. For NBA teams, it has been an easy run for two or three teams that are considered “legit” title contenders while the rest have almost no shot to win it all.
In the NFL, it is much harder. Everyone has an idea of what will happen, but title aspirations can still come down to just one game, rather than the seven you see in the NBA. With a little luck, a team just has to be top six (or so) in the NFL to feel like they have a shot to win it all.
Just this past season all these NFL teams felt they had a realistic shot of winning the title:
New England Patriots
Green Bay Packers
(New York Giants) – a pick by many
NBA Title Contenders:
San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors
“The NBA will have a Cavs/Warriors finals for the next four years.” -Colin Cowherd
The Reason Why
In the NBA, you need two or three stars to contend for a title. One draft pick can’t truly turn around an organization unless he is a top ten player of all time, like a Michael, LeBron or Kobe. Therefore, it is unlikely to see an organization be good for just one season because a team needs so much talent to be good that it is not just going to disappear the following season. Having one All-Star in the NBA will make a borderline playoff team without any realistic chance of winning the championship.
However in the NFL, one pro bowl caliber quarterback can immediately take a team to the Super Bowl. It is also possible for quarterbacks to have one incredible season, like Cam Newton two years ago and Matt Ryan last year. It can all depend on one player, so if they get injured or have a bad year the team can really suffer, making it harder to be a perennial contender for long stretches.
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.