PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In making the NFL the giant among American pro sports that it is today, the late, great NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had a vision. It was an idea that didn’t exactly coincide in the 1970s with Oakland owner Al Davis, or Dallas’ Clint Murchison Jr. Rozelle’s dream was to give every fan of every NFL team hope. His mantra was “parity.”
Competitive balance, according to “Parity Pete,” would help the league thrive and soar into the next millennium. It looks as if Rozelle’s foresight has come to fruition. Rozelle’s way should be the way of all pro sports leagues. Apparently, someone needs to tell that to the National Basketball Association.
Back in late October, everyone who watches the game knew the NBA Championship would come down once again to the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and megastar LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors star-studded cast, led by Steph Curry.
Curry last week lashed back at the media, calling the foregone conclusion that a Cleveland-Golden State final was “almost disrespectful,” and that the NBA’s two favorites had to “work our butts off” to make history as the first pair of teams to reach the NBA Finals for three-straight years. “You can’t just sleepwalk through a season,” Curry emphasized. “You got to come out every night and prove yourself.”
What was proven?
That Golden State could go 12-0 and the Cavs 12-1 in the postseason against incredibly overmatched teams. The Warriors beat opponents by an average of 16.3 points a game (118.3 to 102.0). Cleveland was right behind, pounding their foes by an average of 13.6. After those two, the next largest postseason point differential was Houston, which won by an average of 1.2 points a game, which is more like it when going against what was supposed to be the NBA’s best teams. Even the 1995-96 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, arguably the greatest team ever that went 72-10 during the regular season, didn’t stomp playoff opponents the way the Warriors and Cavs have done, winning by an average of 10.5 points throughout the playoffs (the Bulls averaged 97.3 points a game, while giving up a mere 86.8 per game in the postseason).
There’s nothing wrong with Superteams. That Bulls team was a “Superteam,” with Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. They still lost twice in the finals. The 1985-86 Boston Celtics of Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale was a Superteam. That team actually lost three playoff games.
There’s no doubt that this is a special matchup between two great teams. The looming question is, why the wait? There was no mystery what two teams would be playing in June. The only thing that got in the way was the NBA regular season and a month of playoffs that weren’t really necessary.