Why Cavs losing Finals is good for NBA

ByScoop Jackson ESPN logo
Friday, June 19, 2015

Thankfully, the basketball gods looked out and did not allow the King, aka "I'm the best player in the world," to win this chip. At least not this year.

Nothing against what LeBron James and the rest of his survival unit did to make the NBA Finals as compelling and competitive as they were, but nothing good surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers' epic overachievement would have come from their Dellavedovian efforts resulting in a victory over the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors.

A MASH unit beating the Splash unit wouldn't have been a good look for the NBA. The 67-win Warriors became the "new standard of basketball excellence" and the "future of how the game will be played." They can't lose to a team that, without LeBron, would have struggled to even make the playoffs.

And in the Cavs' case, they needed to lose. Losing breeds hunger, always the prelude to greatness. And a team is only as great as its appetite.

If the King had won a crown with less than half his court, what would have been the incentive once his entire band of brothers returned? IfKyrie Irving and Kevin Loveand Anderson Varejaoare all back next year, what would LeBron have had to prove? What hunger would he have had deep inside to prove anything more?

Is the Cavs' loss good for basketball?

Yes, you can say that when looking at the big picture and what is in the NBA's best interest.

A Cavs title this season would have made a general public -- which already has a love-hate relationship with LeBron -- lose interest in this team ever winning again.

How would it have helped the NBA for the Cavs to go through the East with ease (only slightly challenged by the Chicago Bulls) minus one All-Star (Love) and then win the championship minus another All-Star (Irving), all the while doing that without their starting center (Varejao), who was out for almost the entire season?

It would have all seemed too easy. Yes, they would have had the overcoming-the-odds achievement of these Finals to fall back on, but after that, what? Where would the so-called "adversity" come in to stop them when fully healthy from running off a string of championships?

How would that have helped the NBA?

The NBA, much like MLB and the NHL, is historically a league of dynasties. Lakers, Celtics, Yankees, Canadiens, Red Wings, you get the pic. And even as the definition of a true dynasty has changed over the generations, the one thing that makes dynasties interesting, intriguing and respected is the effort the teams must put in to reach that status.

Dynasties can't be easy. There has to be some sort of struggle and adversity. An interruption of a stretch of genius. Or at least some sort of failure in the beginning. Without it, there is no true story to love. In sports, we love the players and teams that play, but what we fall in love with are the players' and teams' stories.

"Not every story has a happy ending. That doesn't mean it's a bad story; this was a good story," Cavs coach David Blatt said after the Finals.

A happy ending to the Cavs' story this season could have ruined the rest of their story before it was even told.

Had the Cavs won, an offseason narrative about LeBron's greatness and place in history -- making the LeBron-Michael Jordan debate finally a legit one -- would not have been bad for the NBA. But on the flip side, had he won it with the depleted team around him, that narrative would have shared space with an open-ended discussion about how weak the NBA is.

The Cavs' chances of winning fluctuated throughout the Finals. Coming in, they were given only a 27.6 percent chance of winning it, according to the NBA BPI Playoff Projections. After losing Game 1 (and losing Irving), their chances dropped to 19 percent. After tying the series 1-1, the chance jumped to 39.3 percent. When they took a 2-1 lead and had home-court advantage, it peaked at 56.4 percent. Then, when reality set in and the Warriors evened the series, their index sank to 29.4 percent, then to the all-time series low of 14.8 percent before Game 6.

From a pure basketball standpoint, how good would it have been for the future of the NBA if a depleted team that was only once given a better than 50 percent chance of winning the Finals had walked away with a championship only to add back two All-Stars and its starting center the next season?

LeBron and the Cavs winning it all this time would have been as bad as or maybe even worse than Magic Johnson winning one with the second-best player on the Lakers being Kurt Rambis. No Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, no James Worthy, no Michael Cooper. What if they were all injured and then they all came back? Think the NBA would have blown up to historic heights in the 1980s had that been the case? The impact of such a scenario? No rebirth of a rivalry with the Celtics. No Sixers and Pistons challenges.

The Cavs would be too good for anyone to really care about. And that is not good for any team sport. Especially one in which a single great player can pull off a miracle by his own damn self.

So, the Warriors and the rest of the NBA, enjoy this while it lasts. Enjoy this 2015 championship because after this, LBJ & Co., once full strength, are about to change the entire basketball narrative. When asked at the opening of next season, the Cavs vs. the field? Don't take the field. The Cavs during this Finals proved that the field in the 2015-16 season -- even with major free-agent signings, big-name offseason player movement and the draft -- might not be ready.

In the current Instagram/Twitter/Facebook world of prophetic sayings, there is one that seems to get posted often: You can't do epic s--- with basic people. That saying would have lost all credibility and substance with a Cavs victory in the Finals. LeBron almost proved that to be a falsehood.

And had he done that, just ask yourself, for the sake of parity and competition, how thoroughly uneventful the next four or five NBA Finals stood to be once a fully loaded Cavs squad got back together to play for something already achieved.

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