Parity in the NBA is something of a hot topic. Fans complain when there isn’t any, and complain if they feel like there’s too much of it. Dominant teams are relished only by the fans of that team, and when there are no dominant teams, nomadic fans are annoyed that there is no obvious horse to back.
Now that the Warriors dynasty is likely over, it seems that the super team era is also over, as there is no team with an obvious “big three”, and likewise, no team that has the personnel to predictively dominate on a nightly basis. The Denver Nuggets are headed to the NBA Finals, and in all likelihood, they will be joined by the Miami Heat. Sure, the Denver Nuggets were comfortably the number one seed in the West, but they were in the Conference Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that started the season 2-10, and even with the strong finish, were only 4 games above .500.
Though many fans refuse to admit it, there is some intrigue in having a dominant super team rule over the league. Fans of said team tune in to see just how dominant they can be, and suddenly fans of other teams unite in their “hatred” for that team. At their peak, the Warriors had anti-fans who would watch their games with the hopes of witnessing their demise.
Parity in the NBA however, has its own advantages. This year, only 11 games separated the top-seeded Denver Nuggets and the 8th seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. Compare this to the 2016-17 season when the Golden State Warriors were a whooping 26 games ahead of the Portland Trailblazers. For additional irony, the 9th seed that year was none other than the Denver Nuggets.
Though currently the favorites to win the NBA title, the Denver Nuggets are from a sure bet. Either the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics could be a legitimate threat to their title hopes. And even if the Nuggets do win it all, it is far from a forgone conclusion that they would be favored to repeat next year. The Lakers are still a dangerous team, and could be a minor addition or two away from contention, the Suns are dangerous when healthy, and unless the Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks blow it all up, they will remain in the title conversation for some time.
The regular season also intrinsically has more meaning, with more competitive conferences, having home team advantage may be the difference between winning and losing a playoff series for some times. This means that random games in the middle of the season are more likely to be taken seriously in this new era of evenly distributed talent.
And while there has been some chatter of the Kyrie Irving being interested in the Lakers, which would potentially make them a super team, one has to wonder if the interest is mutual. The Lakers finally have two superstars and a reasonably deep squad. Sacrificing their depth for top heavy talent was a gamble that has not previously paid off for the franchise.
However, with the shift towards parity in the NBA, it seems that teams are focusing more on building well-rounded rosters rather than assembling a superstar trio. The success of teams like the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat demonstrates that a balanced approach can lead to competitive basketball and thrilling playoff runs.
One of the positive aspects of parity is that it creates a sense of unpredictability and excitement throughout the season. Fans are treated to closely contested matchups, where any team has a legitimate chance of pulling off an upset. This level of competition not only keeps fans engaged but also raises the overall quality of the game as teams push themselves to their limits.
Furthermore, parity allows for the emergence of new stars and storylines. In the past, super teams often overshadowed individual players, making it difficult for other talents to gain recognition. With more evenly distributed talent, rising stars have the opportunity to shine and make their mark on the league. This leads to a richer and more diverse narrative, captivating fans and generating new levels of enthusiasm.
From a league perspective, parity is beneficial for its long-term sustainability. When multiple teams have a realistic shot at winning the championship, it generates widespread interest and keeps fan bases engaged across different markets. This translates into higher viewership, ticket sales, and merchandise revenue. The NBA thrives when there is a healthy balance of power, fostering competitive rivalries and fostering the growth of the sport globally.
It’s important to note that while the era of dominant super teams may have come to an end, that doesn’t mean we won’t see teams rise to prominence and establish themselves as contenders for consecutive seasons. The landscape of the NBA is constantly evolving, and franchises like the Lakers, Celtics, and Bucks have a history of success and the resources to adapt and reload their rosters.
In conclusion, the current era of parity in the NBA brings both advantages and challenges. While some fans may long for the excitement of a dominant super team, the rise of well-rounded competitive teams creates a more unpredictable and engaging league. Parity ensures that every game and every team matters, from the regular season to the playoffs, making each season a thrilling journey filled with surprises and emerging stars. Ultimately, the NBA’s new era of parity sets the stage for a bright and captivating future for the sport and its fans.