Why LeBron Is Right About The NBA Playoffs

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“I would disagree with that. I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.” “It’s cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let’s not get too crazy about the playoffs.”

The above quote by LeBron James is what most of us saw when we got the notification from whatever sports app we use. My guess is that several people saw that one quote by LeBron and thought something along the lines of LeBron wanting to keep the playoffs the same because right now nobody in the Eastern Conference can beat him. I envisioned that quote to give LeBron haters another reason to hate on LeBron.

It’s fair to think that if that’s the only quote you saw, but there’s so much more LeBron had to say about why the playoffs should stay the same, and he’s absolutely right. The NBA wants to change the playoffs to something crazy. A 16 seed playoffs where two Western or Eastern Conference teams can end up playing each other in the Finals. Now there’s even talk of them doing a play-in game for the bottom two seeds in each conference. While the idea of those might be cool, it shouldn’t happen.

To my knowledge, one of the biggest reasons the NBA is considering changing the playoffs, is because the Western Conference is a lot more loaded and competitive than the Eastern Conference. It’s been that way for several years. It’s also because LeBron James has ruled the Eastern Conference for years now, going to 7 straight NBA Finals.

“There’s been dominant conferences throughout time. You know obviously in the 80’s you had mix-matched together Lakers who dominated the league at one point and you had Boston who dominated the league. In the 90’s you had Chicago who dominated the league. You know, San Antonio has had its run, we had our run in the East with Miami, Golden State is having its run.”

LeBron is right on the money here. Was it a huge deal when Michael Jordan ruled the Eastern Conference? Was it when Kobe Bryant ruled the Western Conference? Teams change all the time, and so does dominance. LeBron James wasn’t always the player who made it to 7 straight Finals you know. He used to be the guy who had everyone wondering why he couldn’t win a single championship. During that time there were teams like the Celtics, Pistons, and even the Magic had a little run at the top. In the Western Conference you had the Lakers and Spurs in the Finals just about every year.

The Celtics are good now, but it wasn’t always like that. The Pistons aren’t great now, and the Magic are one of the worst teams in the league. The Spurs aren’t the team they used to be, and the Lakers are not the Kobe Bryant in his prime Lakers by any means. Again, teams change and so does dominance. The Warriors are currently having their time of dominance, but it won’t always be like that. Things will change over time. There will come a time when LeBron doesn’t make it to the Finals because things will change.

“It just changes the landscape of the history of the game if you start messing with seedings or playoffs and you start talking about well if this team played this Western Conference team would he have,” James added. This is another thing that bothers me about this. People say things like, “LeBron wouldn’t have made it the Finals if he played in the Western Conference or if he played the (insert team of choice here) in the playoffs.” People make it sound like LeBron getting to the Finals 7 straight times is easy. They make it sound like he didn’t play any good teams to get there or like he didn’t have to try.

What would happen if there’s a 16 seed playoff and LeBron still makes it to the Finals? Is that system automatically going to be deemed flawed too? LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time. That’s why he’s been to 7 straight Finals. Michael Jordan is one of the greatest of all time. That’s why he had 6 championships. Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest of all time. That’s why he won 5 championships. It’s not because of what conference they played in.

I haven’t heard of any problem like this in the NFL, which has a slightly different but essentially the same playoff system. Tom Brady has been to 8 Super Bowls and has won 5 of them. Is the NFL considering changing their playoff system because Tom Brady rules the AFC? No. Teams change in the NFL just like they do in the NBA. The Jaguars were bad for years, and then last year they went to the Conference Championship game. At the end of last season, nobody thought the Eagles would win the Super Bowl because they were terrible the year before.

There’s no reason for the NBA to change the playoff system. It’s always been like that and it should stay that way. If they don’t like the Warriors and Cavs going to the Finals every year, all they have to do is wait. It won’t be that way forever.

 “LeBron James” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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