Despite disparity, new NBA season worth watching

Media days have kicked off across the NBA the past couple of days, which are not only the ceremonial starts to every team’s respective training camps, but it’s also a formal introduction for the league’s hottest teams heading into the new season.

The defending champion Miami Heat welcomed veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen and had him pose for portraits with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, as did the Los Angeles Lakers with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash onto Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol’s team.

The Oklahoma City Thunder got some hype for keeping its young, star-studded core in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Other than Jay-Z unveiling the new-look Brooklyn Nets, those are the three teams NBA fans will hear all about league-wide until the season tips off on Oct. 30. Coincidentally, they’re the only three teams that have a major chance of winning the NBA Championship next June. The Boston Celtics, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers could all potentially pull off some postseason upsets, but for now they are flying under everyone’s radar.

This has fans from the 24 other NBA teams crying foul for such unfairness and have many asking, “Where’s the parity in the NBA?”

Parity? There’s hardly any parity in the NBA’s history.

Actually, the NBA has been successful as a sports league and still gets viewers because of the lack of it.

All throughout basketball history, there were usually three-to-four different teams that made super teams (whether through trade, free agent signings or draft picks) ruled any given era, not just the past couple of years.

Boston ruled the 1950s and 1960s with Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havilcek. In the ‘80s, Celtics and Lakers forged the greatest era of their historic rivalry, and the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” won back-to-back titles. The Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dominated the ‘90s, with the Houston Rockets owning the middle of the decade behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Lakers and the Spurs traded off titles in all but three years in the 2000s.

If it weren’t for disparity, those iconic dynasties in the past would have likely never existed.

It’s tough for people in cities with non-contending teams to accept this trend, especially for Phoenix Suns fans (although, a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat really isn’t terrible at all). The high amount of teams in the league has always been a problem for the NBA since it rapidly expanded in the ‘90s, and some cities just can’t support winning franchises, whether it’d be financially or even culturally. There are simply too many teams in the wrong city, and the new collective bargaining agreement that ended last summer’s lockout won’t fix that problem by itself.

So sit back and watch a great season unfold this year. I’m not suggesting being a poor fan and hop on any of the three bandwagons without any valid reason but rather appreciate the current state of professional basketball. For having only three legitimate teams and only three probable sleepers, there are a lot of storylines to go around between them for the 2012-13 season.

Maybe the Heat is on its way to become a legitimate dynasty behind James. Or, maybe the Lakers can give Bryant his sixth championship ring to tie Jordan’s count, and Howard emerges as Los Angeles’s next iconic center. Will the Thunder win a title of its own, and prove to the basketball world that it doesn’t always take big-time free agents and blockbuster trades to assemble a winning team in today’s game?

We could very well be on our way to the next great era of powerhouses in basketball.

 

Reach the columnist at jnacion@asu.edu