The NBA announced last week that the ways games are scheduled for the NBA Finals just might change as soon as next June. The format would match the other playoff series, 2-2-1-1-1, instead of the current 2-3-2 format. The league Competition Committee voted unanimously to change the format. It now needs the approval of league owners.
The NBA Finals are one of my favorite things to watch. Ever since the 1997 finals where my Utah Jazz lost to the greatest player ever to don a jersey, Michael Jordan, I have been hooked. I can remember as clear as day the excitement I had every game for those two years Utah had a chance.
Yet, with this proposed change, I can’t help wonder what might have been.
The NBA changed its format nearly 30 years ago. Back then, every finals seemed to be Bird versus Magic, the Lakers and the Celtics. The toll of cross-country travel was a concern, as well as travel costs.
These men are some of the greatest athletes in the world. Jet lag shouldn’t be a huge issue — especially with the NBA looking to have more weekend games to draw more viewership, which means more time in between games. Also new to the NBA world is the private planes each team has. There is no more flying coach in a cramped airplane. I can relate to being so smashed in a seat I can’t get my tray down.
The benefits far outweigh the cost. First of all, teams will not lose money having two extra travel days. The cost will, of course, be put onto the fans, because apparently all the team’s profits would turn red with two more travel days. Secondly, the biggest thing the change would bring is the re-established home-court advantage, as well as a pivotal road game with the series on the line.
This is perhaps the biggest issue of concern. The team with the best record during the regular season gets home-court advantage, meaning that in a seven-game series, the winning-est team would get four home games. However, in the finals, it is two of the best teams in the league, and a home upset is possible.
The lower-seeded team would then have three straight home games, basically giving them home-court advantage if they can win either Game 1 or Game 2.
One of the reasons that has floated around as to why the change happened is the fact that there would be more drama in the new format. If the lower-seeded team is down three games to two, they would have a home game to force a Game 7. It is difficult to win two straight games on the road in the playoffs.
It brings to mind the 1997 Finals. In Game 6, Jazz were down 3-2 and faced two more road games. Game 5 was a nail-biter in Salt Lake City that the Bulls won in the final moments, 90-88. The Jazz would lose the next game 90-86 in Chicago. Oh, what might have been if Game 6 could have been in Utah.
Of course, the Jazz were facing, in my opinion, the greatest basketball player ever to touch the hardwood. It still might not have been enough. Jordan was just too good for anyone to stop. But the format could have changed the outcome; we might have had a Game 7.
It adds to the drama, the spectacle that is basketball’s finest hour. Or finest 48 minutes. It benefits both teams equally. The team with the home court still has four home games, especially the pivotal Game 5, which gives both teams the chance to take a 3-2 lead.
It also benefits the other team, because they will have a chance in Game 6 to win on their home floor if they have won a road game, or they can have a home game to tie the series at three games apiece if they are on the other side of the 3-2.
If the motion isn’t passed, I, along with many others, will be flabbergasted. Hopefully today’s NBA stars haven’t gotten soft enough to get worn out on a plane. The change would bring continuity to the way things are run in previous series, and it is more fun for fans. There is nothing like high drama and underdog stories.