This article was written in response to Dan Shaughnessy’s column for Sports Illustrated .
Certainly, the Massachusetts-native Red Sox/Celtics beat writer feels that this is a “dream NBA Finals matchup.” ESPN’s Bill Plaschke and JA Adande, who both hail from LA, probably feel that way as well. However, for loyal fans that support their local team, as opposed to hopping on the Boston or LA bandwagon, this is getting old.
Shaughnessy is correct in assuming that NBA Commissioner David Stern likes this matchup. “The NBA playoffs this spring have been peppered with sweeps and snores,” he writes. “There simply have not been enough contested series or close games.”
However, Stern finds this matchup favorable because it is saving his league—it is hardly generating increased interest in professional basketball among people outside of a few major cities.
In the first round of the Eastern Conference the Cavaliers (1) beat the Bulls (8) in five, the Magic (2) swept the Bobcats (7), and the Celtics (4) needed only five to eliminate the Heat (5). The only contested series was the three-six series featuring the Hawks and the Bucks which took seven games.
Among the eight teams that qualified for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, only two sold out every game in the regular season.
The Hawks (3), Bucks (6), and Bobcats (7) had less than 90 percent attendance at their home games. The Heat were just barely above, at 90.5 percent. All three teams ranked in the lower half of the NBA in attendance.
If people in Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Charlotte believed their team was able to win a championship, they would attend games.
Citizens of Atlanta have been non-responsive to the efforts of recently fired coach Mike Woodson.
In 2004, Woodson’s first year in Atlanta, the team was 13-69 and irrelevant in the city. Three years later they were in the playoffs. The last two years they have been in the Conference Semifinals with a winning record. Still they remain in the bottom half of the league in attendance.
Sports enthusiasts in Atlanta may have a reputation of being fair-weathered, but people in Wisconsin avidly support the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers regardless of how the team is doing.
The most legendary Packer may be in a Viking uniform and turncoat Bud Selig probably has his fingers tied behind his back, hoping that Prince Fielder will be in a Red Sox uniform next year, but fans in Wisconsin continue to love their teams unconditionally.
The only exception in the state is the Bucks, who ranked 24th in attendance this year.
Located near two legendary college basketball programs in Duke University and the University of Northern Carolina, the Charlotte Bobcats are seen as a second option in the basketball hotbed that is the Carolinas.
Ranking 22 in attendance, the Michael-Jordan-directed Bobcats have rows of empty seats at their home games. Like in Indiana, where the Pacers rank behind the Timberwolves and 76ers in attendance, the repeated dominance of the same teams in the NBA has turned loyal basketball fans in the away from the professional game.
In the Conference Semifinals Boston upset the Cavaliers, potentially chasing LeBron James away from his hometown fans. If “The King” leaves Cleveland, the Cavs will become one of many irrelevant teams in the NBA.
Orlando faced Boston after sweeping Atlanta. Had they advanced past the Celtics it would mark the second straight year that the Magic and Lakers played in the finals.
Although monotonous in nature, it would at least given hope to fans in Orlando, who probably feel as though their team is not receiving the respect it deserves.
The Western Conference was more competitive than the East and the bracket consisted of more popular teams. However, the outcome of the tournament still has many negative implications for the league.
Unlike in the East, the first round of the Western Conference finals was much more entertaining. There were no sweeps and all series went six games. NBA fans got to see the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder rattle the perennial favorite Lakers and a 2-7 upset between two Texas-based teams as often-overlooked San Antonio defeated Dallas.
The Conference Semifinals, on the other hand, was laughable.
The Lakers and Suns swept their opponents, the Spurs and the Jazz. In the Conference Championship the Suns, led by aging Steve Nash and Grant Hill, were considered incredibly outmatched by many sportswriters (including Shaughnessy) and written off as lucky to be there.
The positives of the Western Conference playoffs eventually became overshadowed by the destructive consequences.
It is reported that the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, is considering opting out of his contract in order to play elsewhere next season, potentially emptying the American Airlines Center next year.
Carlos Boozer was part of trade talks all season and being on the losing end of a sweep probably means he will be leaving Utah.
The Jazz are the only professional sports team in Utah, so their attendance probably will not drop as dramatically, but their fans have to believe that their team has become an annual also —run dating back to the Jordan days.
Perhaps most unfortunate is that basketball fanatics in Washington, a state that has produced a bounty of NBA players and passionately supports the Huskies, continue to see what the defunct Sonics could have been.
The storyline of this season could have been ageless Steve Nash, a South-African-born player who is a proponent for soccer at the time of a world cup, a Santa Clara graduate who could have brought attention to an up-and-coming program that is building a cast of student-athletes rather than one-and-dones, and a player who has stayed in Phoenix when he could have left for free agency after this year.
Instead, it is either Kobe Bryant, a man who wanted out of LA only a few years ago or Kevin Garnett, a former Timberwolf who was never able to win in a city that still loves him dearly.
A “dream NBA finals” is hardly the right interpretation.
NBA Attendance Records used in this record were found on ESPN.com. This article is a response to a column written by Dan Shaughnessy of Sports Illustrated.