NBA fans love drama. I say that as a fact, it’s irrefutable based on how fans react, how the NBA has set -up it’s business, and how social media has altered “fandom.” This happens, because in a league of 30 teams, most teams just aren’t relevant in the championship chase AND because drama pays the bills. The NBA provides not only an 82-game regular season, broken up by a star-studded NBA All-Star Weekend, but also an additional 60 to 105 post season games – with that comes commentary from the best players to play the game, Shaq vs. Charles Barkley, the Twitter wars, the drama between players, and of course the off season.
There is no more dramatic emerging story-line in the NBA than the East vs. West feud that is slowly bubbling in the NBA. Last year, everyone knew that the Finals would be the Cavs vs. the Warriors, hockey fans were even bringing it up as a way to discredit the NBA in the hard-fought feud of winter sports. The lack of surprise in the NBA post-season has essentially driven NBA fans to double down on their obsession with off-season… and it never disappoints.
In 2018, we live in what I like to call “Reality Show America” the host of The Apprentice is the President, and everyone is live tweeting everything. LeBron tried to utilize this shift to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of America when he “reality show-ed” his Decision to Miami, now he’s decided to go to the Los Angeles Lakers to join his brother in meme-hood Lance Stephenson.
Today, I saw a photo-shopped picture of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Lebron James – all teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers. Today, I also saw one or two infographics about how “unstoppable” the Golden State Warriors are supposed to be with newly added big man - Demarcus Cousins. For the first time in my life, sitting in Philadelphia I thought to myself “I hate the Western Conference. I can’t wait for the All-Star Game.”
Then it dawned on me that the NBA changed the All-Star game format to play into the “reality show” aspect of the NBA. Last season, the drama lied more between players and their individual disputes, so gossip queen & NBA commissioner Adam Silver decided it would be best if Lebron James and Steph Curry drafted teams. The drama was all about Lebron and his ex-point guard Kyrie Irving, but Lebron took the high road and drafted him anyway. Ultimately, the All-Star format generated enough gossip for FS1, Barstool, and ESPN to all take different slants and generate mildly similar content. Drama pays the bills. The game was forgettable, no one cares when Lebron James will draft Bradley Beal, and most importantly, you can’t manufacture drama in 2018 – players and fans are too smart.
The Western Conference has been touted as the “better conference” in the NBA, because it is. For the past few years, the Golden State Warriors have been terrorizing the NBA with deep 3’s and all-star off season work, James Harden has gotten the Houston Rockets to become a recognizable second-best in the West, and now the King of the Eastern Conference has decided to move out West.
The best players in the Eastern Conference are Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Victor Oladipo. These are all players with hard nose attitudes, willing to trash talk, and ready to prove who they are. They are an embodiment of the 1990’s East Coast Mentality, meanwhile, Lebron moved to LA to produce and become more involved with Hollywood – while his team of Lonzo Ball and the SoundCloud rappers help promote Big Baller Brand. It’s old school East vs. West basketball; it’s Tupac vs. Biggie, it’s Celtics vs. Lakers, it’s Super Teams vs. Rebuilds, it’s the new school vs. the old school and we need the East vs. West All-Star format back.
The majority of the best basketball players in the world play in the Western Conference, sports media outlets seem to think that the Golden State Warriors are the only logical conclusion to every NBA Season, and the Eastern Conference is being forgotten.
Lebron’s move from the East to West is essentially a small splash in a big bucket for the Western Conference, the Lakers are not a lock to make the playoffs year one, and they would surprise no one by taking the Spurs or T’Wolves playoff spot. But, Lebron’s move to the West creates a massive power vacuum in the East, the Cavs may have just become a lottery team, the face of the conference is gone, and teams no longer have to face Lebron to make it to the Finals.
This article is all about the East vs. West narrative, every year the Western Conference has to snub players from the All-Star game while the East needs Goran Dragic to play. The last few years the NBA has had a competition problem, the NBA regular season lacks effort and meaning, players sit, and fake injuries because 82 games is a lot of games. In the spirit of competition, I say we allow the All-Star game to remain flexible in format, last year was Steph vs. Lebron because it was best for basketball. In 2019, the NBA should switch back to East vs. West, because it is what is best for basketball.
The All-Star Game is normally an awesome opportunity for NBA players to show off their talents, but in 2019 we have a rare opportunity for it to be a competition for one Conference to show its validity against Lebron and the Warriors.
It’s sunshine on Christmas vs. snowy Boston winters, it’s the Process vs. Hollywood, it’s David vs Goliath, and the narrative that will drive this NBA Season. Next June, when the Golden State Warriors sweep Utah, Los Angeles, and beat Houston 4-2 to get to the NBA Finals; 95% of basketball fans will have fallen in love with whatever team rose out of the Eastern Conference to beat the jaded Warriors.