NBA's real nightmare: Spurs and Pacers in the Finals
MAY 30, 2013 12:34p ET
It doesn’t. At all.
Not unless it’s hoping for a viewing audience that consists of Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and six crickets.
Under commissioner David Stern, the NBA has always been about bright lights, big cities, major stars and overstating its popularity.
How else do you explain the league claiming every June that the championship series is among “the highest-rated ever” -- despite the fact the majority of us couldn’t identify a soul who watched it if we absolutely had to do so in a court of law?
Oh, Stern and his comrades sort of smirked during 2011-12 lockout, when they talked about “competitive balance” and every team from every market getting the opportunity to be just as popular as the Los Angeles Lakers.
But competitive balance is one thing. The Pacers going all the way is quite another.
Stern is no dummy. You don’t get a job like his without understanding how to make money, and perhaps tilting things in the favor of organizations that give you the best opportunity to do just that.
Now, is Stern a cheater? Not in the strictest sense. Is the NBA fixed? Not at all.
Will league officials and their television cronies get plastered and curse if the Spurs and Pacers are playing each other in early June? Probably.
And could you blame them?
Most fans either love or hate LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the fairly shady Miami Heat. All that matters to NBA and TV execs is those things make for good drama. Passion, one way or the other, sells.
It’s the gray area of the Spurs and Pacers that’s troubling to the people with Nielsen ratings and dollar signs for eyes.
For the sake of lunacy, let’s say the Pacers upset the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
What becomes the major storyline in the Finals?
The fact the Spurs once traded starting guard George Hill to the Pacers?
The matchup of Spurs big man Tim Duncan and Pacers center Roy Hibbert down low?
The glitz and glamour of San Antonio and Indianapolis?
Yawn, yawn and double yawn.
While Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich have won four titles since 1999 (and guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili three apiece), the Spurs still haven’t garnered enough interest to detest.
They’re just sort of really good, really old news, really boring. Not to the real basketball fans, of course -- but the NBA under Stern has never really cared about real fans.
It wants the eyes and ears of the folks who couldn’t tell you if a basketball is inflated or stuffed with turkey feathers, and wants those folks every bit as much as those who actually care about pro basketball. That makes sense, and explains why every arena turns into something resembling a Britney Spears concert on game night.
The Spurs and Pacers aren’t Britney Spears. They’re a 92-year old Willie Nelson banging on a garbage can and belching.
That’s not exactly what the NBA is hoping for on center stage.
Again, this doesn’t mean referees are under strict orders to show favoritism to the Heat. They’re not. LeBron is good enough these days to not require any help.
But are Stern and the major players of broadcast revenue raising their arms to the basketball heavens and lighting holy candles for James and the Heat to advance?
You know it.
And chances are, so are the people with an interest in actually watching the Finals.
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