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 10 percent ratings boost 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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