Surprise Upsets Great for Growth, Popularity of NBA Playoffs

By Jeric Griffin
John Wall wizards 2014 nba playoffs
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It’s safe to say no one would disagree this year’s NBA playoffs have been the most exciting in recent memory. During the regular season, all we heard about was how both the Eastern and Western Conferences would be two-team races during the postseason and the jokes about cutting the playoffs down to four teams were countless. We’re not hearing any of that talk now, and that’s fantastic news for the NBA.

Here’s a not-so-rhetorical question: What makes the NFL playoffs and the NCAA Tournament so popular? Get all the sidetracked, weird answers out of the way and the one prominent response is the upsets.

Sure, last year it was easy to predict the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks meeting in the Super Bowl, but what about the 10-6 Baltimore Ravens the year before or the 9-7 New York Giants the season before that? And absolutely no one had UConn beating Kentucky in this year’s bracket burnout.

Yet up until this season, the NBA playoffs have almost never featured a low seed in the NBA Finals, especially since the turn of the century. Then came this year, when the long, drawn-out, boring postseason of American professional basketball became relevant.

Sure, six of the eight first-round series have yet to be decided, but both No. 1 seeds are in trouble, the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder are on the brink elimination after losing two home games and the rest of the series are all going down the wire with the exception of the Miami Heat sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and the Washington Wizards shocking the Chicago Bulls in five games.

Yeah, that last one was really predictable…

We all complained about the Atlanta Hawks getting into the playoffs with a losing record, but they are one win away from knocking off the No. 1-seeded Indiana Pacers. We all expected the Brooklyn Nets to mop the floor with the Toronto Raptors, but that series is tied heading into Game 5. We all thought James Harden and Dwight Howard would finally show us what they’re made of and make a run in the West, but the Houston Rockets are in a 3-1 hole to the Portland Trail Blazers, who suddenly look like title contenders.

And now we’re actually watching these games because of it.

The average number of viewers for the six Games 1 in the first round that were broadcast on cable channels was 3.5 million, which is up almost 100,000 per game from last year. When the comparable numbers come in from the latter games of these first-round series, you can bet the difference from 2013 and ’14 will be astronomical.

The best part of all this craziness is what will happen next. When these incredible first-round series are decided, how will we be able to predict a series between the Blazers and the winner of the San Antonio SpursDallas Mavericks series? How will we be able to handle the potential winner of a Wizards-Hawks series playing in the Eastern Conference Finals?

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now that we’ve finally experienced a meaningful NBA postseason in the first round, do we dare let the thought cross our minds that having more than half the league in the playoffs is a…good thing? It’s crazy how one amazing round of games can sway our opinions without us knowing.

Even if you’re still an advocate for reducing the number of teams that qualify for the NBA playoffs, you can’t deny you’re now enjoying the postseason more than you have in a long time.

Jeric Griffin is the General Manager for Follow him on Twitter @JericGriffin, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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