Monday, April 30, 2007

How the Warriors are saving the NBA

The Golden State Warriors haven't been in the NBA playoffs in 12 years. A young Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell were the leaders of that team. More than a decade later, after compiling a 9-1 record down the stretch and barely sneaking into the playoffs at 42-40, the Warriors have the heavily favored Mavericks down three games to one.

Heavily favored isn't the right term. Dallas won 67 games this season, having one of the best regular seasons in the history of the sport. The Mavs are stacked with talent, including MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki. Despite the Warriors sweeping the season series with the Mavs, 3-0, few gave them a realistic chance to oust the West's top seed. There are still three more games to be played, two of those at Dallas. But the Warriors have outplayed the Mavericks in every way thus far. In doing so, the Warriors are saving the NBA.

Of the three major sports - baseball, football and basketball - basketball has to be third in terms of popularity. The TV ratings sag, especially during the long, drawn out playoffs. Even though the league has marketable stars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan, it is still struggling to keep pace with the NFL and MLB.

I don't think I am alone in saying this, the Mavs/Warriors series has been everything one would want in a sporting event. Last night I found myself cheering aloud as the Warriors refused to lose in front of their 20,000 strong home crowd. You could feel the electricity of the crowd, starved for more than ten years, as their team closed in on a historic upset. Whether these fans have been there all year long, or have hopped on the bandwagon, is irrelevant. If you lived in the Bay area, why would you not want to be a part of this?

Golden State toppling the Mavericks and advancing to the second round would be the best thing for the NBA. Golden State would become everybody's team. The Oracle Arena would become a place visiting teams dread to play in. Baron Davis would vault himself into stardom. Ugly memories of Stephen Jackson in the stands at Detroit would be forgotten, for a while at least. An upset of this magnitude (no eight seed has beaten a one seed in a best of seven series in the NBA) would no doubt grab peoples attention.

The Golden State Warriors would become an NBA team again.

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