Adam Silver spoke about 6,200 words at his annual state-of the-league conference, which took place before Game 1 in the NBA Finals.
One stood out was Parity.
On Tuesday night, the NBA commissioner was more than a keen observer as the Phoenix Suns won their first finals match in 28 years. The Milwaukee Bucks lost their first finals match in 47 years. There were 19 players on the teams, with 18 making their finals debuts. It was something different and new, that’s for sure.
Silver believes that this is a great thing.
Silver stated that he sees this as the beginning of a transition in the league. “Not only post-COVID but by virtue of teams that were seen in conference finals, there was a real transition in terms the league of up-and coming new stars, up and coming franchises, more parity throughout league.”
Phoenix vs. Milwaukee. This is not New York vs. Los Angeles. It’s a marketing dream. It’s not Golden State. This team has a huge global following. It’s not LeBron James who has made the NBA Finals an annual event for the past decade.
It looked like they were two teams who belong in the NBA Finals. During the regular season, Phoenix was the second-best NBA team. To keep its season alive, Milwaukee had to win Game 7 in Round 2. No other NBA team has had a better regular season record than the Bucks over the past two, three, or four seasons.
These aren’t for the faint of heart. They are legit, and will continue to be so for many more years.
Perhaps it is time to expect new teams to go deep in the NBA playoffs.
Atlanta reached the Eastern Conference finals despite relying heavily upon rookies. Utah had the NBA’s most successful season this year and has its core set up for many years. James and the Los Angeles Lakers could be again great next season. The Warriors expect to contend when Klay Thomson reunites with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson returns to the team. But it’s not certain that the same faces will keep returning to the finals.
Silver stated, “Again, it wouldn’t be true to data to make too big a point around one year, especially one that may have — that was — so aberrational.” It does look like there’s a lot of competition in the league, which I think is a positive sign.
This matchup will have its critics, but they’ll be able to present sound arguments once the TV numbers are in. According to Nielsen, neither city in the finals is among the top 10 media markets; Phoenix is No. 11, Milwaukee No. 35. This, combined with an NBA title series taking place in July, means that ratings will not be setting any new records.
Give them some time. For a while, Phoenix’s Chris Paul was a big name. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antitookounmpo is another. Devin Booker, the Suns’ guard, is now a star. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix’s center, is already on his way. Booker and Khris Middleton, Bucks’ guards, are also part of the U.S. Olympic Team that will be going to Japan later in the month.
These guys aren’t longshots or no-names. They did a series of miracles in order to get there.
These are the most powerful teams in the NBA at the moment. These teams won those titles. While injuries played a part in the demise of some teams that had legitimate chances of reaching the finals, such as Utah, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and the Lakers, it’s not like Bucks or Suns had an easy ride or a free pass.
We must not forget Paul, who suffered a shoulder injury, was positive for COVID-19, and had an injured wrist. All of this happened during the playoffs. Antetokounmpo has a hyperextended left leg that could lead to him being sidelined, even if he wasn’t in the NBA Finals.
They showed their strength throughout the year. They proved it again in Game 1. Although the Suns won 118 to 105, it was not enough for either side.
Parity. Silver may be right. It looks like the NBA has gotten it.