Ah, the Red Wings complete a sweep. The Capitals, Rangers, Lightning and Penguins all play sudden death double overtime. San Jose rebounds from a four-goal deficit to shock the Los Angeles Kings on the road in overtime.
This is why I love the Stanley Cup Playoffs and this is why I think it’s the best playoffs in all of sports. Truth be told, I’ve gotten so wrapped up in the hockey playoffs, I’ve hardly taken time to see what’s happened in the NBA playoffs.
And to be honest, I’m not all that worried about it.
Maybe part of the reason why is that the Pistons are not in the playoffs. Or maybe it could be that I’m just tired of the endless NBA hype and oversaturation.
Maybe I’m tired of turning on “SportsCenter” every morning to watch every NBA game analyzed inside out while the hockey playoffs get treated like a red-headed stepchild and analysts Barry Melrose and Matthew Barnaby are relegated to seat fillers.
To me, the NBA is not really must-see TV for me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still like basketball, and I did especially when the Pistons were the Bad Boys, when Michael Jordan amazed us all, when Shaquille O’Neal was bringing down backboards as a rookie and when Phi Slamma Jamma, aka Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, reunited in Houston and led the Rockets to championship glory.
But, now the NBA, the game is not so much on the court anymore, but off the court.
It all started with Lebron James’ “Decision” last summer in a Boys and Girls Club with a hand-picked interviewer in front of a small crowd of children saying he would leave Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat, slapping his hometown in the face. But, hey, all the proceeds went to the Boys and Girls Club, so who am I to criticize, right?
Then came the endless speculation of where Carmelo Anthony was going before he was finally traded to the Knicks a couple months ago. If Carmelo wants to play in his hometown, that’s great. Just don’t say that you’re going because you think you have a better chance of winning when your former team had a better record than the Knicks.
Now there are endless rumors about Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are going to go when they become free agents, be it New York, Los Angeles, or perhaps playing on the same team with each other. Meanwhile, the Utahs, Milwaukees and other small-market teams are left in the dust.
Also the NBA’s newly-crowned Sixth-Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, is getting more attention for his reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian, than his play on the court.
Dennis Rodman just had his number 10 retired by the Pistons. I was in the stands at the Palace when Isiah Thomas’ number 11 was raised to the rafters. How I miss those days.
Don’t even get me started on the soap opera that was the Pistons this season.
As popular as the NBA is, I don’t think that the league is as great as Commissioner David Stern believes it is. At this point, I’ll take March Madness.
Which brings me to hockey. I recognize the fact that hockey is a lower-tier sport in America, some would say that it’s behind NASCAR.
But, even though hockey players don’t dunk a basketball, I think they are just as talented and athletic as basketball players.
The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports, bar none. As hard as hockey players compete against and pound each other, they still line up at the end of the series for handshakes, a wonderful tradition.
Edmonton fans may still revile Chris Pronger for leaving for the Anaheim Ducks after the 2005-06 season, but at least Pronger didn’t go on TV and say “I’m taking my talents to the O-C,” and do it in the name of charity.
Where else will you see Johan Franzen take a shot face-first into the boards, get stitched up and come back out onto the ice while refusing to wear a visor even though team personnel asks him to? I’m not saying he shouldn’t wear a visor, but you have to admire his guts.
Hockey players sacrifice teeth, throw their bodies in front of pucks, grow mullets, mustaches and beards. Little-known goaltenders all of a sudden become hot, rise to the occasion and lead an 8-seeded team to the finals. A lucky or unlucky bounce of the puck can turn a playoff series around in an instant.
As much as Commissioner Gary Bettman has tried to screw up the NHL by trying to emulate the NBA with the Eastern and Western Conferences instead of the Wales and Campbell and by moving too fast with southern expansion (there was a hockey team in Atlanta before and it left for Calgary, why put another in?), hockey still remains the most exciting sport in the world.
Even though hockey usually ends up in the mainstream headlines for the wrong reasons such as a player being paralyzed by a violent hit or Sean Avery making a crude comment, I will gladly stick up for hockey and those who play the game against those who dare look down upon it. I’m not asking people to like hockey more than basketball, I’m just asking people to respect the sport.
While the NBA is the NBA, it’s slowly becoming a shadow of it’s former self. Kobe Bryant is the last of a dying breed of great competitors. Derek Rose of the Bulls at least gives me a glimmer of hope.
By the time the fall rolls around, the NBA could soon suffer the same fate the NHL did in the 2004-05 season, a lockout. The NFL is currently in the midst of a lockout.
While I hope that both leagues get their issues resolved, the one bright spot I can see of this is maybe the NHL will now get a few extra minutes on “SportsCenter.”