NBA lacking the element of surprise

AP Photo/Colin E Braley

Las Vegas has to worry about a very limited number of NBA teams when it comes to making odds at the beginning of every regular season. And if you’re ever considering a bet on one of the long shots, I’d like to request that you hand me the money instead.

I promise it will be better-spent that way.

The NBA has a problem right now — the casual fan is shrinking. The first round of this postseason has seen lower ratings than past years, and while the regular season got a in 2011-12 (possibly because a shorter season meant the games were more important than usual), many fans think the league is too predictable.

That includes me.

The preferable officiating that was present in the Michael Jordan days is still prevalent in today’s game with the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce. People know, when they tune in to watch a close game, that those guys are going to get a call down the stretch that gives their team a chance to win.

Pardon the sour grapes, because I know what will be the response from fans of those players. I’m a hater, I know.

But people who aren’t dedicated fans of the NBA are fading away entirely. Arenas are pitifully empty in many of the basketball towns, and even some teams that made the playoffs can’t sell out. Just this week, I’ve seen teams play in less-than-full arenas.

That shouldn’t be happening.

And you can call those cities “bad sports towns” or whatever you want, but the truth is this:

Most of the league’s franchises know they don’t have a shot, from the first tip-off of the season.

The last 32 years of basketball have taught us that the little guy doesn’t rise up very often. Here is a complete list of NBA Champions since 1980:

LA Lakers (10)
Chicago Bulls (6)
San Antonio Spurs (4)
Boston Celtics (4)
Detroit Pistons (3)
Houston Rockets (2)
Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks
Philadelphia 76ers

Nine teams in 32 years?

Now, it’s looking like the Heat against the Lakers/Spurs/Thunder in the NBA Finals. Between those four teams, there are 15 titles in the last 32 years, with the Thunder being the lone outsider in the championship chase. The casual fan that likes the underdog is relegated to root for the Thunder, because that’s all they have left.

What a thrilling league.

What the NBA needs is a meaningful regular season with far more parity. What they’re getting is a league that is composed of a few teams that are loading up with superstars and the remaining teams left in the cold to fight over the scraps.

You won’t be top dog if your league has a formula like that.

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Author:Sean Breslin Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! I’m an Atlanta native since near-birth, so I will blog a lot about Atlanta sports and food, as well as weather and news topics. Be sure to follow me on Twitter as well: .


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14 Comments on “NBA lacking the element of surprise”

  1. May 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Great stuff, buddy! And the heck of it is that of those 9 teams, the Lakers and Celtics are getting to be a bit “long of tooth.” They may be heading into the rebuilding years…

    • Sean Breslin
      May 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

      Yep, and it will probably be the Thunder that takes over as the next franchise that dominates, if the Heat don’t do it…

  2. May 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    I agree! The league has become a bit predictable and does lack a lot of parity compared to sports like football and baseball or hell,even hockey. It would be nice to see other teams win it than the same ones that do each year. I’ve been saying it for years that the NBA’s problem is lack of parity therefore fans in cities who never see an NBA playoff logo on their court tune out in large numbers. It’s kinda sad.

    • Sean Breslin
      May 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

      There are too many teams that never sniff the playoffs, and that’s bad for the league.

      • May 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

        Definitely agree. I think the league during the louckout should have done more to help small market teams be able to keep their superstars from leaping to bigger market teams or teams that win all the time. The NFL does a great job of that with the franchise tag and players are more willing to go to small market teams. Maybe the NBA should explore something like that.

  3. May 9, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    remember when bobcats was in the playoffs? Great post!

    • Sean Breslin
      May 9, 2012 at 7:03 am #


  4. Matt
    May 10, 2012 at 1:02 am #

    I don’t know if the stat that you used of 9 champions over the last 32 years really backs up your point of the reason this seasons ratings or down. There has been 6 different champions in the last 8 years (same as the NFL). When the NBA was near its height in the 90′s the Bulls were winning every year. I think the bigger reason the NBA is “predictable” is just the nature of basketball and having a 7 game series. Most of the time when you play the best out of 7 the better team is going to win. Also, in a sport like basketball with a smaller roster it is easier to stay on top since you can just focus on keeping a few guys (see Duncan, Parker, Ginobili; Shaq, Kobe; Jordan, Pippen).
    I honestly think the bigger issue with the NBA post season popularity is the same problem MLB and NHL has which is a change in society. In today’s sports society we all want instant results and want everything to truly matter. The three events that gain the most attention now is: college football regular season, NFL playoffs, March Madness. All events where after watching one game you know if you still have a chance at the title or your season is over. The one and done format leaves the opportunity for upsets since it is the best team over a day instead of 2 weeks like the NBA. I think the casual NBA fan says oh i missed game 1, well I’ll watch game 2 or 3 or 4, etc.

    • Sean Breslin
      May 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Good points for sure…I have to admit, I get tired of the NBA Playoffs after the first round. When you have two weeks per round, that second round always makes me say, “Wow, we have ANOTHER series before we even get to the conference finals?”

      Maybe a best-of-3 series in the first round, followed by best-of-5 in the second round, then best-of-7 would be a better format for the sport. Or maybe it’s time to blow the whole thing up and play one game per round.

  5. May 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    I agree with you, but I’m worried the real issue is that the league is too big to ever achieve balance. If only 9 teams have won a championship since 1980, maybe it’s time to talk about contraction. What else do you do when so many teams never even make it to the playoffs? Obviously lots of those teams simply don’t belong in the NBA.

    • Sean Breslin
      May 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      That may be a problem too, but it seems like they only add more teams.

  6. May 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    In the NFL, fans know that if their teams draft well and can develop a franchise QB, atleast you have chance to get to a Super Bowl, so you get something out of supporting your team financially. For example, I think the Atlanta Falcons winning a Super Bowl is a much greater possibility than the Hawks ever even appearing in an NBA Finals. Why support a team that you know will never win a championship or even play for one? The Falcons have atleast made it to a Super Bowl, so you know it’s possible.

    I suggested in a post that the NBA should adopt a final four format to decide it’s champion as opposed to series. Series can be rigged, and teams know that they can lose a game or two and still win the series. With a final four there is no tomorrow and anything can happen on a given day. IN the NFL wild card teams can emerge to win the Super bowl. I doubt an 8th seed has ever won an NBA Title, and I doubt one ever will.

    • Sean Breslin
      May 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      I think the lottery is a bad system as well, because the teams that are truly the worst can get screwed and end up with a lower pick in the draft. Of course, it takes out the possibility of teams tanking on purpose, but it can hurt teams that are truly the worst and need the best player in the draft the most if they want to rise up in the future.

      • May 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

        Yeah, unless you’re one of a select few franchises that can lure big time free agents, then doing well in the lottery is one of the only ways you can get a hold of a franchise player. But as we’ve seen with LeBron and Bosh, even if you draft a franchise player they probably won’t stay long (no Franchise Tag).

        The Thunder have gotten very lucky with Kevin Durant, but I guess you need a bunch of luck if your team isn’t one of the “chosen” few. The NBA to me seems set up to cater to the player’s needs the most, and not the fans or owners for that matter. A lot of NBA teams can barely turn a profit. It doesn’t seem to bother the NBA that most of it’s teams will never even play for a championship. Yet they wonder why fans don’t turn out for games consistently. Beyond just casual entertainment when a superstar like LeBron comes town, what’s the point?

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