Forget LA, forget Boston, forget Golden State, forget LeBron, and forget anyone that’s not on the Denver Nuggets or Miami Heat for just a second.
If you happen to be on ESPN, Fox Sports 1, or any one of the other major sports networks in the United States of America, or if you are a casual that relies on the big names for entertainment and ratings for pleasure, that may be hard to do for several reasons.
It’s not the Lakers and the Celtics final that was widely hoped for. It’s not the Warriors, LeBron, KD, or any of the potential high-revenue sources; it’s someone else. Ultimately, it’s not your ratings bonanza; it’s someone else.
The Nuggets and Heat, despite only playing five NBA Finals Games, proved the NBA exists beyond just the big-name superstars.
It’s a group of individuals in Denver coming together, led by an unselfish star in Nikola Jokic and his running mate Jamal Murray that are making their own headlines, and now they stand alone as kings of the NBA. Even Charles Barkley can celebrate knowing his guarantee came correct.
Also, credit must go to the valiant losers in the Miami Heat. This was a team with a star in Jimmy Butler and a bunch of other castoffs that came alive during this postseason run and knocked off several high-profile teams, including Jalen Brunson and the upstart New York Knicks, who would have likely stolen much of the headlines if they made it this far.
The Finals was a rough bout, but Miami played as hard as it could and didn’t have enough left in the tank to close it out. A valiant effort to make history fell short, but they must be commended.
What’s frustrating to many has been the coverage of the NBA Finals and, at several points, the lack of attention and respect given to both teams. There were several instances even before the finals began.
Right after Denver swept LA in the conference finals, Lakers star LeBron James did his best Aaron Rodgers impersonation and began the retirement talk, shifting the narrative away from the Nuggets’ one shining moment, their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst even went so far as to praise the Lakers for being swept. When does that ever happen?
Even JJ Reddick was fed up with the Laker love-fest and proceeded to call folks out on it. Kudos to him for doing so.
James may retire, but that moment, in all honesty, that move that took the headlines away from Denver was unfair and, frankly, might have been a strategic move by James to deviate from the fact that his team was swept.
Fans like Shannon Sharpe would be offended by reading such a statement about James like this. Why Sharpe specifically? Because, after all, like Kwame Brown said, albeit a bit hilariously, Sharpe is a LeBron “fanboy.” There’s some evidence to it, given the Grizzlies’ game situation when Sharpe wanted to get into it with the Grizzlies players.
That’s not the point, however. What matters is that Denver did what it did to ensure a small market team would have the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage the NBA has to offer, which is the NBA Finals.
On the other side of the bracket, after Miami went up 3-0 against Boston, the Celtics roared back to even the series at 7, and there was buzz that the Celtics could do what the 2004 Red Sox did and win four straight games. There was also talk about the Heat ending up like the 2004 Yankees.
The Denver Nuggets won the NBA Championship but also showed that great team basketball still exists in the league.
It didn’t happen. No Lakers, No Celtics, No Big Name eye appeal, none of the rating generators that television executives may have preferred. It would be two “boring” teams many wouldn’t have predicted to meet in the championship at the beginning of the year.
So, where do we go from here? Well, it’s doubtful something like this will happen again, mainly because the stars are what folks want to see. Here’s the deal. No one in this generation wants that. They want to see great players win, regardless of where they play. The competition matters to the fans.
Additionally, it would be wise to point out that the last three NBA Finals MVPs, including Steph Curry in 2022, won the award with the team that drafted them (Giannis in 21, Steph in 22, and now Jokic in 23)—homegrown talent matters. Build from the ground up.
Yes, the Warriors added Kevin Durant, but Curry, Klay Thomspon, and Draymond Green were all drafted by Golden State, so they get their dues. The Bucks drafted the Greek Freak, and they built around him to win it all, and finally, the Joker got it with Denver.
What’s this all mean? Old-school philosophies still work. It doesn’t take stacking the deck to win it all. Sometimes, the traditional method matters and good teams can come from anywhere. Ratings and personal agendas don’t matter to the viewers. They want good basketball no matter where it is.