Sunday, May 19, 2013

NBA Strikes Out With Small Market Conference Finals

After the Indiana Pacers received every ounce of favoritism from the referees in order to advance past the demoralized Knicks, it  has come down to four teams left to compete for American basketball's top prize, the NBA title. San Antonio and Memphis will kick off what is sure to be a competitive Western Conference Finals series this afternoon. Meanwhile, Indiana and Miami will square off in South Beach in game one the East Finals on Monday. Despite the teams being somewhat interesting to watch, the NBA will have a major problem trying to get people to maintain an interest in these games, considering that three out of the four teams represent small markets.

Following the 2011 lockout, NBA commissioner David Stern has worked hard to make the league more competitive, and with the help of the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) structure the league to be more small-market friendly, disallowing teams from exceeding the salary cap without paying an enormous luxury tax. One of the main causes of the labor negotiations that took place between the players, owners, and league office in 2011 was disgruntled ownership in smaller markets who felt that they had no chance to compete with the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, and Heat. Now, small market teams suddenly have hope, and we the fans have a glimpse at what the NBA could look like in the coming years. Suddenly, its possible to envision finals between Indiana and Memphis, Minnesota and Cleveland, and New Orleans and Charlotte.

Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson celebrates Indiana's game six victory over his hometown Knicks
Although this new-found parity around the league sounds great, it also suddenly means that we can look forward to more finals match-ups that lack interest from the most important markets in the NBA, those being L.A., New York, and Chicago. Without the interest from those markets, NBA ratings will be sure to sink faster than rocks. Suddenly, teams like the Pacers and Grizzlies can think about building championship contenders year-after-year that could potentially oust teams from bigger markets. What this suggests, is that the small market teams in the league are just as important as the large market teams, and this is simply not the case. If teams from New York and Los Angeles can spend more money to make themselves better, let them do it. Those are the cities that hold the key to the prosperity of the league, not Indianapolis and Memphis.

When small market teams complain that they have no ability to compete financially with big market teams, they must consider the fact that the big markets are what drive, not only professional basketball, but America's economy in general. When ratings for these games begin to flounder, Stern can only blame himself for giving in to the whining ownership of small-market teams that claimed they couldn't stay afloat with the, then current, structuring of the league. Instead of downsizing the league, and removing some of these irrelevant cities from the basketball map, he has handed over the reins to them, and now fans in America's biggest cities must sit back and watch teams from much smaller ones battle for hoops supremacy.