That NBA tag line, "NBA Action. It's FAN-tastic" is one that I will always remember. To my childhood memory they kept that slogan for many a year (pretty much the entire 80's) and thus has been burned into my brain. There is likely no better way to describe the 2014 playoffs so far. A series of unbelievable games that has made the NBA more wide-open than it's been since the mid-90's.
Outside of one playoff series (Charlotte Bobcats vs Miami Heat) the road team has won at least one game in each of the remaining seven first round playoff series. Two series (Washington Wizards vs Chicago Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers vs Houston Rockets) the road team won BOTH opening games. This has to be an unprecedented year in the NBA. The only time I can think of a time this wide open, at least in the opening rounds) is the early to mid 90's. Yes, the Bulls and the Rockets won 5 titles between them, but the competition was so fierce that each series ... including the Bulls 1993 run to the finals (featuring a bruising battle with the New York Knicks in the ECF) was intense.
I consider early to mid-90's NBA basketball to be one of the fiercest and most competitive era's in NBA history. This is prior to the NBA over-expanding in 1995 and diluting the talent pool even more. Until this season when nearly every series is intense, knock down drag out fun. If you are watching the Portland/Houston series and aren't impressed then I'm willing to say you actually have no pulse and should see a doctor.
The NBA has many detractors. Lots of people who are bitter their league isn't as popular or people who are professional trolls seem to emphasize the NBA's flaws while ignoring it's virtues. I suppose that is an easy thing to do. Yet, this playoff season with have seen (so far ... VERY early) more competition and "parity" than we have seen in 20 years.
LaMarcus Aldridge has played, quite simply, out of his mind in Portland's series against the Rockets. He is aided by the fact that Houston seems allergic to proper defensive rotation, but aside from that you can't take away his beast like number so far. Blake Griffin went Tarzan against the Golden State Warriors in game 2 of Los Angeles Clippers vs Golden State Warriors.
Aside from the stars though, general competition seems to be fierce. Only a handful of blowouts, every game has pretty much been competitive and exciting all the way through. This is all you can ask for in ANY playoff scenario and it has been amazing to see so far. We wish, as Nuggets fans, that we could have been competitive enough despite the injuries to be in these playoffs. Yet, this makes me even more positive about the year to come. Maybe, just maybe things aren't as bleak in Nuggets nation as people have advanced. Maybe the NBA is getting things right?
There will never be NFL style "parity" utopia (where people hold hands and skip through the flowers and everyone gets a participation ribbon) in the NBA. Even with non-guaranteed contracts it would be hard because game-changing players are so hard to find. The NBA and all of basketball is very unique in this way. As I said on the CSG podcast with Chris Dempsey, the NBA is the most exclusive club in the world, and superstars are the elite of the elite. All we can ask for is Playoffs like this one THIS year. Where the best teams have to fight tooth and nail to get anywhere and if you play your card right...
NBA Action. Its FAAAAAAAAANtastic!