During a recent phone call with PTR Editor-in-Chief, J.R. Wilco, I made a hockey reference that inspired him to ask, "I’m sorry, what is that?" After discussing the finer points of football ice capades, we haughtily celebrated the NBA’s place ahead of hockey, at least among American sports fans. After all, when asked to rank their favorite sports, Americans rank the NBA ahead of hockey, and such up-and-comers as soccer, tennis, and golf. Congratulations, NBA, you may come after NFL Football, Major League Baseball, college football, and even NASCAR in the American psyche, but look at all of those other sports that garner way less attention. At least, they did before this week. In what should be the pinnacle of the season, the NBA Finals have languished in a series of uninspired performances and unsurprising blowouts. Meanwhile, the rest of the sports world has upped their game. Did every other sport have a more interesting, more viral, more relevant week than the NBA?
Soccer, maybe if you were played on U.S. soil more often, Americans would always be as excited about you as they have been about the Copa America this week. What’s that? There are Major League Soccer teams in twenty major cities? The U.S. has actually hosted the World Cup? I am not sure about all of that, but the U.S. men’s team advanced from their group to the quarterfinals.
Tennis, not since Andre Agassi revealed the secret behind his luxurious locks have sports fans made an audible gasp in the direction of the net posts. This week, the International Tennis Federation suspended Maria Sharapova for two years for using a banned substance. Did the punishment fit the crime? Can you believe Serena lost at the French Open? Wait, you’re telling me Agassi was wearing a wig that whole time?
Swimming, you also took a bold step this week. Over the last several years, you have succeeded in attracting our attention with shiny objects, specifically the 22 medals that hang around Michael Phelps’ neck. However, we would have spent the next two months until the Rio Olympics ignoring you in public had you not found yourself in the biggest scandal of the week—the case of the former Stanford swimmer v. the woman that he raped. Where the legal courts were lenient, the Court of Public Opinion was decisive. You sided with the populace, banning Mr. "Twenty Minutes of Action" from the sport of swimming. The only way that we could have had a bigger sports story this week would have been if football had taken a similar step, presenting every athlete who has sexually assaulted someone with a lifetime ban (Hi, Baylor).
Boxing and even good ol’ hockey overshadowed NBA basketball this week, as we mourned the passing of Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe. Only time will tell if LeBron James, "The King," and Stephen Curry have cultural impacts anywhere near as significant as "The Champ;" bold attitudes regarded with the same appreciation as "The Louisville Lip;" athleticism and longevity that come close to the all-around excellence of "Mr. Everything;" and fan bases that admire them as much as "Mr. Hockey."
But, we are here to talk about basketball. To be completely honest, I planned to write a parody piece about Draymond Green this week. Following his high drama, high personal opinion, and high kicking performance in the Western Conference Finals, I anticipated a literary masterpiece that would capture the most prominent character of this postseason. Draymond Green: Unapologetic. Draymond Green: Above the Law. Draymond Green: Second Round Draft Pick Hero, Just Ask Him. Even Green's recent suspension for Game 5 seems anticlimactic. Stan van Gundy can tell you what happens if you criticize The King. Now we know happens if you compromise his jewels.
Without dynamic, competitive games what can the NBA Finals do to recapture our interest? Here are a few suggestions, and I invite you to contribute your own.
- The star of last year’s NBA Finals has been unexpectedly quiet in these Finals. This can only mean one thing: Riley Curry is busy bulking up, training to fill in for her dad should his performance continue to lag. She will partner with Muggsy Bogues and Doris Burke to redefine "small ball."
- While serving his Game 5 suspension, Draymond Green will use his time off the court to establish the Draymond Green Foundation for Latent Aggression Interfering with Loins. He is now an advocate for testicular health and on-court pacifism.
- Kevin Love pauses to take one last look at the hallowed Quicken Loans Arena court before heading to the locker room. We look down to see his signature headband on the floor, and call after him. But, Kevin Love is not in the tunnel. Instead, a twelve-year-old boy with a mop of curly brown hair trudges down the hallway, engulfed in an oversized Kevin Love jersey. In other news, a Zoltar machine recently appeared at Cedar Point. These two incidents may or may not be related.
If the remaining games in the NBA Finals are as lackluster as the games that have already occurred, and none of the above happens, then all we have to look forward to is…the NBA Draft? The summer Olympics? Disney Pixar’s Finding Dory, in theatres next week? I guess there is always the Stanley Cup Finals, in which two of the five competitive games so far have been decided in overtime.