Once upon a dime the NBA was showcased by America’s National Broadcasting Company (NBC) who used to broadcast all the games. Fans who loved their NBA during the Jordan-era of the 90’s will undoubtedly remember a guy by the name of Bob Costas who used to rip up some of the best intros to games ever shown on TV. Let’s be honest, you’d get goose bumps. I still get the chills watching re-runs of Costas’ intro to the 1993 Finals where Chicago played Phoenix in which the Jurassic Park theme music ran point. A sheer classic that will forever live in the annals of YouTube.
How times have changed.
Da da da!… da da da! And on it goes as ESPN’s worldwide coverage of sports continues unopposed. It’s been like this since January 2002, when the NBA decided to sign a six-year agreement with The Walter Disney Company and AOL-Time Warner, which gave the NBA airing rights to ABC and to TNT. Essentially, this meant ESPN (ABC’s sister company) had dibs on all NBA coverage.
For the Aussies out there, this means Foxtel had ESPN which shows games on Thursdays and Saturdays (our time), and One HD (on free-to-air) shows the TNT games on Fridays.
As an avid NBA fan, like most of you, I love my NBA called straight down the middle, with no biases. ESPN and TNT cater to this, which makes me the biggest Mike Breen and Marv Albert fan. Nothing beats the nationally televised games.
No disrespect to TNT of course, I love their coverage. Marv is the voice of basketball, Reggie Miller has earned his chops as an astute analyst, Mike Fratello has been in the game longer than I’ve been on this earth and you have to love a good ‘ol pregame and halftime bicker and banter between Charles Barkley, EJ and Kenny Smith. It’s a fine recipe for the NBA fan. If you’re a junkie from the 90’s, their names and voices are basketball family to you. But nowadays, I love my ESPN games more. Primarily, the atmosphere is unexplainably different, ‘Hand down-Man down’ Mark Jackson rocks, Jeff Van Gundy’s rants are gold and Mike Breen’s voice is just as good, if not better than that of Mr. Yes…and it counts!!!! Those are huge calls, but ESPN has earned its street cred respectively.
So where on earth am I going with this? In recent years I started noticing a major trend come playoff time. You see when it gets to the Conference Finals; ESPN/ABC and TNT split the coverage. One takes East, the other takes West, with ESPN to cover the NBA Finals. They alternate each year.
In 2003, (which happened to be the first year in which both networks featured), the San Antonio Spurs won the title beating the New Jersey Nets in six games. That year, the Western Conference Finals were covered by TNT, which proved to be the one and only time TNT has covered the champ. Call it a startling trend, coincidence perhaps or curse, but ever since that year ESPN has managed to call the eventual champion six consecutive times in the Conference Finals.
OK, so most of you will say that ESPN does the finals anyway, what on earth merits this ridiculous observation? You might even argue that with a 1-in-2 chance of calling the eventual champ in the Conference Finals, it’s not all that surprising. But you flip a coin six times and tell me if you get heads every time. I bet you don’t. Just take a look at the below match-ups from ESPN’s coverage of the Conference Finals. Can it be pure coincidence?
This year, going by the annual tradition, ESPN will cover the Eastern Conference Finals which will feature the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics. Both teams are worthy championship contenders, and both would be hoping that this ESPN curse continues.
ESPN’S Conference Final Coverage since 2003
(eventual NBA champion that year highlighted in bold):
*2003 Eastern Conference Finals- New Jersey Nets v Detroit Pistons (San Antonio Spurs)2004 Eastern Conference Finals- Detroit Pistons v Indiana Pacers
2005 Western Conference Finals- San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns
2006 Eastern Conference Finals- Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons
2007 Western Conference Finals- Utah Jazz v San Antonio Spurs
2008 Eastern Conference Finals- Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics
2009 Western Conference Finals- Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers
2010 Eastern Conference Finals- Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic (?????)