The fact that it was a sweep doesn’t make it the worst Finals ever. The fact that it featured two teams with no flair and a “boring” style of play doesn’t make it the worst Finals ever. The fact that the TV ratings sucked doesn’t make it the worst Finals ever. And the fact that one team had no right to be there doesn’t make it the worst Finals ever. No sir. None of those reasons alone can be an argument for this being the worst NBA Finals ever. Not by a long shot. And here’s why:
1) The Sweep Argument
This argument goes a little something like this: how can you have a competitive, half-entertaining Finals series (or any playoff series for that matter) when it only lasts four games? Remember the 2002 NBA Finals? The Shaq-Kobe juggernaught faced the buoyant New Jersey Nets (who were the best of a very weak Eastern conference… sound familiar?) and proceeded to thump them in one of the most one-sided series I’ve ever seen. The problem was, it was damn entertaining. Call me a crazy sicko, but watching Shaq throw it down repeatedly on Todd McCullough’s head was quite amusing. Watching Todd get subbed off for Jason Collins and then Shaq throwing it down on his head was just as fun. Watching Kidd throw more alley-oop passes than has ever been attempted in Finals history, and more importantly watching all of them perfectly finished by Jefferson and K-Mart was damn fun. And seeing Kobe completely posterising Todd McCullough in one of the greatest Finals dunks in history was unmistakably fun. Yes the 2007 NBA Finals were a sweep, but that is no proof they were the “worst Finals ever” because as history has shown even a sweep can be pure basketball bliss if you have the right ingredients. Those ingredients being:
- At least three insanely talented individuals
- Todd McCullough
2) The Boring Argument
Goes a little something like this… “The Spurs are boring, Tim Duncan is boring, the Cavs are boring when Lebron isn’t on fire, all that makes for a seriously boring series”. Take your mind back two years when the Spurs won their last title. It was the same “boring” Spurs team facing a Detroit outfit that was even more gritty and defensively minded than the Spurs, far lass talented on the offensive end, and lacking the speed and athleticism of the likes of Parker and Ginobili. It had the potential to be a nightmare series and most NBA fans were sickened by the thought of it (and were still recovering from the fact that Shaq and Wade wouldn’t be there). And what happened? We got the first seven-game Finals series in over ten years, we witnessed one of the greatest Finals games EVER in Robert Horry’s miracle game five, we saw Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace in the prime of their careers, and we saw the league’s two hardest-working, best defensive units battle it out till the death. The dynamics of that series were crazy. The Spurs were brutal in games 1 and 2 where Manu Ginobili was so ridiculously unstoppable it almost made me puke. Games 3 and 4 saw the Pistons pull off the greatest momentum shift I’ve ever seen in a Finals series and slaughtered the Spurs to the point where Duncan looked clinically depressed on the sidelines (seriously, I’ve never seen a multi-MVP-winning NBA superstar look so distraught while the outcome of a game/series was still in the balance – you never saw Magic, MJ or Bird looking like that… the scene of Coach Popovich putting his arm around Duncan in consolation during game four is surely one of the most peculiarly touching moments in NBA history). Boring Western Champs + Boring Eastern Champs = Boring NBA Finals? I think not.
3) The Ratings Argument
Ok so maybe we’re stuck here. Who can argue against poor television ratings? That proves without doubt it was the worst NBA Finals ever, right? Wrong. I’ve got no NBA-analogy here but it is a fact that television ratings are no way to judge viewing quality. One of my favourite TV shows of the last few years has been Arrested Development. This five-time Emmy Award winning comedy was quoted as being “Better than just about everything on TV” (GQ Magazine) and everyone I’ve showed it to has instantly fallen in love with it. The house mates I now live with watch the DVDs constantly. I’m as harsh a critic as there is for comedy shows, but Arrested Development can be put in the same league as Seinfeld which to me is the most untouchable of all comedy sitcoms. It’s that good. Unfortunately the TV ratings didn’t agree and it got canned after its third season. Inexplicably, the best-made comedy show of the last five years was axed (and David Cross’ onset outburst about the marketing department on the season 3 DVD couldn’t be further from the truth). I will never let TV ratings influence me in what I perceive as good television. The Spurs-Cavs ratings sucked, but that doesn’t make it the “worst Finals ever”.
4) The Weak Conference Argument
This one has been done to death by now. The Cavs Finals appearance was a product of the feeble and completely inept Eastern Conference. It is puzzling. The team that most people thought was good enough to challenge the West (Detroit) easily eliminated the Bulls (who many thought were also primed for a Finals assault) who in turn destroyed the reigning Champions Miami Heat, yet couldn’t get over the line against a Cavs team many people thought was the weakest of them all. This was a season where the best three teams resided out West; arguably the best five if you want to include Utah and Houston. So how can this situation possibly result in a competitive Finals series? Surprise surprise, NBA history has proved time and time again it can. Throughout the eighties the Western Conference was the proverbial whipping boy of the NBA – the powerful Celtics, Sixers, Pistons and Bulls had to fight it out every year in their own conference before facing the best the West had to offer. And the team that won the most titles during the eighties? The Los Angeles Lakers. Five times they presided over their Eastern enemies in the Finals, putting to rest any doubts that a weak conference couldn’t cultivate an NBA team worthy of being Champions. The West has dominated the past eight years of the NBA thanks to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and Timmy Robot’s Spurs, but need I remind you that two of the last four champions were from the East? The East is weak no doubt, but blaming the conference for creating the “worst Finals ever” is a moot argument.
With all that digested, its time to reflect and ask the following question: How in hell did the Spurs vs Cavs 2007 NBA Finals end up being the undisputed, unchallenged, and rightful owner of the “worst Finals ever” tag? I’ll tell you how. It was 1) a sweep, 2) featured boring teams, 3) had sucky ratings, and 4) suffered from a seriously lousy Eastern Conference. As we’ve seen neither of those factors alone is good enough to proclaim any series as the “worst Finals ever”, but for some reason, some ungodly reason that our best scientists should be working around the clock to uncover, this Finals series managed to unite all of these factors to create one giant short-lived boring unpopular and lopsided piece of crap that left absolutely nothing to get excited about. I love my NBA, I love it to death. But I’ve never felt so disheartened, so disappointed, so cheated by the end of an NBA season. I can’t find the positives in it, I can’t bare to watch those games again, and I can’t even go to nba.com and watch the series highlights cos there were no freaken highlights!
I offer my sincere congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs. Well done, you’re winners of the worst NBA Finals in history.