How to fix the NBA: You heard it here first
Some people might say the NBA doesn’t need fixing, but those same people probably also thought Ned Stark was going to make it past season one of GOT, they would be wrong on both. (Oops, spoiler alert). I am not a huge NBA fan. In fact, over the years, I have probably said similar things about the NBA as Charles Barkley has said about Draymond Green. However, I do appreciate basketball and the players are amazingly talented and hard working people and that can be a joy to watch.
I like watching Russell Westbrook fly through the air and dunk with his baby-making kit draped over some tall European’s face, mostly because I can imagine how awesome that must feel… to be Westbrook, not the tall European. It’s fun to watch James Harden dribble through his legs for 20 seconds and then either blow past his defender or make a step back three all while only traveling one time (he is incredible, but traveling is real). The players are awesome but the NBA has it’s problems.
The first is competitive imbalance: the best teams are too good and the bad teams are too bad to the point where unusual things never happen. The team who wins the championship this season will not be a surprise.
The second problem is the first 3.75 quarters don’t feel fun and exciting like they matter much. They may matter more than it appears, but as a fan, every single play should feel like a Jason Bourne fight scene not an uncomfortable visit to a nursing home. When I turned on the 76ers-Celtics game two on Thursday, the 76ers were up by 22, then all of a sudden they were up by just five at half. It would have been foolish to think being up 22 points in the second quarter had any bearing on the outcome of the game. The Celtics won by five. In game three of the Cavs-Pacers series, the Cavs were up 17 at half and lost. Of course, when up by 17 points the Cavs usually win the game, but that is because they are probably just the better team not because 17 points is anywhere near an insurmountable deficit.
The first 3.75 quarters of an NBA game feel like a warm-up--the stadiums play music while the ball is live to keep the crowd engaged. Now the last five minutes of an NBA game, especially a playoff game, those are fun because the players are dunking, shooting, blocking and complaining as if the game depends on it --because it actually does! (Have you ever seen a play where no one complained? Me neither). So if the solution hasn’t slapped you in the face already like a CTE inducing helmet to helmet hit, then let me explain.
Every time two NBA teams square off, they play a best of nine (or 11) game series comprised of five minute games. This way, every second matters and the fans get to watch the best part of an NBA game at least five times. Occasionally you’ll have a “series” sweep and the fans will watch less basketball than the 48 minutes they currently get, but who wants to watch a 30 point blowout in the 4th quarter anyway? I was listening to an analyst say that if you want to beat the Warriors you have to beat them in the first quarter because they don’t play good first quarter defense. I laughed at that almost as hard as I laughed at Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem at the All Star game, not so much the anthem, but that someone in her camp told her it was a good idea. The Warriors don’t play good first quarter defense because they don’t have to, the game hasn’t really started yet for them because they know they’ll just come back later in the game. But if they played a bad first quarter in a best of nine of five minute games, they’d be down in at least a 2-0 series deficit, that is a much bigger deal.
I wouldn’t count on the NBA accepting my proposal anytime soon, but a guy can dream, right?