Can the NBA (and its fans) handle a small market Finals match-up

finalsThe conspiracy theorist have already began to concoct far-fetched ideas as to why this Eastern Conference battle  was set up to ensure that the series went the full seven games and that the Miami Heat eventually make the NBA Finals; the ticky tack foul against LeBron James in Game 4, the after-the-fact suspension of Chris “birdman” Anderson for Game 6, and questionable officiating against both sides, and because of this many wonder if NBA Commissioner David Stern and the rest of the league are having a bigger influence in the outcome of this series than they should.

But what happens if somehow the Indiana Pacers go down to South Beach and upset  James and the Miami Heat in Game 7 on Monday. There is already grumbling within the media, that if that happens the match up between the two small markets of San Antonio and Indianapolis could be one of the least watched  finals in a long time. Yes you will have die-hard fans still tuning into the series but will it be enough of a market share to overcome not having the viewership from Miami Heat “fans.”

So the potential dilemma many think David Stern and the NBA offices is be faced with is determining what is more important; a good on-court match up involving no perceived star power which could result in low ratings which is bad for sponsorship or a mismatch involving the most popular player in the NBA and the Miami Heat, who have been playing more like James former Cleveland Cavalier teams instead of  the championship team from 2012, that everyone will watch just because. But contrary to what many believe, there still could be enough of a compelling subplot to convince people to tune in if the Pacers and Spurs do meet; the potential end of the career of one of the most overlooked stars Tim Duncan who is chasing his 5th championship and the emergence of  budding star Paul George, who has seen his notoriety sky-rocket after a great Eastern Conference finals versus the Heat that included two attention-getting dunks.

At the end of the day sports should always be about showcasing the team that performed the best on the court and if that means having two teams in the championship that may not be national favorites, so be it. The 2005 NBA Finals involved the same Spurs franchise and a medium market Detroit Pistons squad and while the Nielsen ratings were not as high (7.38  compared to 9.29 over 5 games) as the 2004 Finals that involved a more popular L.A. Lakers team against the same Pistons, fans felt it was a more entertaining series. And maybe that is what the NBA needs another good Finals involving two lesser followed teams for casual fans to embrace the fact that great basketball is being played outside of Miami, New York, and L.A. and without superstars on the roster, because while he could have worded it differently Roy Hibbert was spot on when he was quoted saying “You know what, because y’all motherf••••••s don’t watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth,”… “I don’t care if I get fined” in response to asking about why he finished 10th in the Defensive player of the year voting, which is done by the media.

So as much as the fans complain about not wanting to see “boring” basketball the bulk of fan apathy for the underdog rest at the feet of the national media and the NBA itself for not doing more to showcase all of its teams. Its easier to root for a team or become a fan of a player when you see them more on a national level and its a shame that it took for Indiana to make it to Game 7 versus Lebron James & Co. to get the respect it deserves as a good team.

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