While some professional sports leagues pride themselves on parity, the NBA can make no such claim. This year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs could feature its fourth new champion in as many seasons, but pro basketball seems destined for a three-peat of Cavaliers and Warriors in the finals. So, would another meeting of LeBron James and Steph Curry be a good or bad thing for the sport?
The NFL is famous for its saying, “any given Sunday.” The league books parity as its biggest selling point – every team has a chance to win. But, truth is, parity in the NFL only exists week to week, rather than on a year to year basis. All the momentum parity gains during the season is usually derailed by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. Of the past 16 Super Bowls, only 2 have not featured the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger. At the end of the season, football fans always see the same familiar faces.
The NBA is in the same boat when it comes to stars dominating the league. With the exception of the Mavericks-Heat finals in 2006, every single NBA Finals has featured James, Kobe Bryant, or Tim Duncan since 1999. Star power has defined the basketball hierarchy since the days of Magic Johnson. And, according to the numbers, fans don’t really seem to mind watching the same teams and players at the end of each season.
If the Cavs and Warriors do meet for a third straight time, the ABC network will likely rejoice. Last year’s matchup drew the league’s highest ratings since Michael Jordan won his last ring in 1998. More than 20 million viewers tuned into the finals last year; improving on the prior seasons’ TV ratings. In fact, Cleveland’s game 7 victory was the NBA’s highest rated game in history on ABC, drawing over 31 million viewers.
Perhaps the league’s lack of parity is actually the best thing it has going for itself. The opposite point can be made about the NHL; routinely the lowest rated of the four professional sports. If the Stanley Cup Final featured a star like Sidney Crosby on a yearly basis, then maybe the league’s TV ratings would steadily increase like the NBA.
The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in America. Millions of viewers will tune in regardless of the teams participating in the event. Perhaps this explains why there never seems to be a gripe regarding the NFL’s lack of parity; because the Super Bowl will be a spectacle no matter what. If LeBron and Curry, the NBA’s two brightest stars meet in the finals once again, millions of Americans will likely tune in while at the same time, tuning out on the ‘lack of parity’ narrative.