By Nishan Wilde
8 in a row and 10 out of 12.
6 in a row.
5 out of 10.
At first glance, these numbers seem like batting averages or shooting percentages. If they were, they would be pretty impressive. However, these numbers are even more striking as the realization sets in that they represent the number of times a single NBA team has won the championship. The legendary Celtics of the '50's and '60's won 8 straight titles and 10 out 12 from 1957 to 1969 under Red Auerbach. With Michael Jordan at the helm, the Chicago Bulls won the championship 6 straight times and won every finals in which they appeared. During the 1980's, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the rest of the Lakers won 5 championships and appeared in 3 more finals.
Simply put, during these eras in basketball history, you pretty much knew what was going to happen in the playoffs. The Celtics were going to stifle their opponents with unpenetrable defense, the Lakers were going to employ their unstoppable "showtime" tactics, and the Bulls were going to let Jordan loose. Even though each of these teams exhibited sublime poise and talent, the playoffs were only exciting for the fans of the aformentioned teams. As close as the opposition got to winning, fans around the country knew who was going to eventually win the championship. The lack of anticipation and suspense created a less exciting atmosphere for basketball fans.
However, as of late, the NBA playoffs have been more up in the air. Aside from a few years dominated by the Lakers and the Spurs, the playoffs have been less of a forgone conclusion, attracting more and more viewers each year. During this decade alone, 4 different teams have already won the championship, inlcuding two teams (the Pistons and the Heat) who haven't won the championship in a long time.
I tend to compare these two eras in NBA history to watching movies. The earlier years, dominated by the former NBA titans, were tantamount to watching the same movie over and over again. Even though the movie is a classic, it gets a little boring. Knowing what happens in the final scene takes away from the experience. However, seeing teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers make the playoffs and upset some of the better teams in the league is like watching a twisted Steven King film. You are amazed and surprised when it happens, and you still can't believe it long after it ends. In short, lack of knowledge is preferable to knowing the outcome. Does that mean that it would be good for the league for the Bulls, Lakers and Celtics never to win the championship again? No. In fact, when they do, we feel a sense of nostalgia, much like a watching a classic we had seemingly forgotten about. Nevertheless, variety is the spice of life and when new teams do well in the NBA playoffs, it makes for a more exciting summer.
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