Is this season just a prelude? Is this, the 2016 NBA season, the 71st installment of such, which has now spilled into 2017 calendar year, a prologue of a story which many believe is already written? The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the former the defending champions and the latter the recently reloaded, are the two teams most expect to be the finalists by the time The Finals roll around in June. And with good reason. The two have split the title of NBA Champion between themselves over the last two seasons and have shown no signs of letting up. Most believe the Warriors to currently hold the edge over the Cavaliers as they added a former MVP by the name of Kevin Durant to a team which boasts a two-time MVP of its own in Stephen Curry. The Cavaliers themselves are a well-oiled machine, pulled by the locomotive that is LeBron James, and need to make no argument for why they will be there in the end as well. And although for most, that this season is already a forgone conclusion, barring major injury or act of God, there does not seem to be a palpable pulse beating in either the direction of apathy or intrigue. And it is not as if there should be a definitive feeling either way.
The 1990s saw the Chicago Bulls win six championships during the decade. The Bulls won back-to-back-to-back titles twice, as those reigns were broken up by some mere mortal's quest to be decent at baseball, ultimately winning their six championships over the span of eight years. The notion that the Bulls would have won eight in a row, while adding Hakeem Olujawon, to the list of Hall of Famers such as Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Gary Payton to succumb at the hands of the aforementioned mortal, stands as plausible. Imagine if the 90s did provide eight consecutive titles crafted by Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. It would be akin to the Boston Celtics era of dominance in the 1960s provided by the efforts of the incomparable Bill Russell and Red Auerbach. These two dynasties during the height of their powers gave NBA fans at the time the same result over and over, whether they wanted it or not. Whether good or bad for the league, it is what it was. The same way in which it continues to be it is what it is today.
To say that the state of the NBA as it pertains to winning a championship or two is monopoly-driven endeavor, would be to acknowledge the history of how championships are one and spread out amongst not the entire league on a whole, but to a special select few franchises. Namely those that have been able to field teams which combine great teamwork and coaching with superstar talent and the killer-instincts that accompany said talent. The teams who fall under this distinction are those whom we name readily when it comes time to talk about just who has hoisted a championship banner in their respective arena's rafters. The aforementioned Celtics of the 60s fit the bill. The Los Angeles Lakers and (once again) Celtics teams of the 80s do as well. The previously referred to Bulls of the 90s are revered to the point of worship. The Lakers of the first three years of the new millennium take a backseat to no one. And the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat teams of recent memory give of fresh reminders of just how this thing works. In short, everyone gets invited to the party, but not everyone gets to dance.
As this season reaches the All-Star break, the fact that this campaign is more than halfway complete is a notion that is not lost amongst both players and fans alike, although both entities may process the thought in entirely different manners. For the player, to know where his team currently stands, and to understand what lies ahead within reason and within expectation; the opportunity to substantiate or create anew the narrative that this season is becoming, his is the perspective of faith and hope. The fans do the same as well, although their approach is one of hope and prayer. For some a hope that we get the championship round we all expect, and for others a prayer that this is not the beginning of a back-to-back-to-back-to back (well you get the idea) and forth between the Cavaliers and Warriors that completely excludes their own teams. You know, the ones that never get invited to dance that last dance.
The season is a prelude. Although it differs greatly from a book already printed for publishing, words, letters, and characters deeply embedded and unchangeable, an NBA season is quite similar in its structure and presentation. The difference between the two is subtle, yet sublime. The difference? The ink has already dried on the pages of the literary work of art. The ink is still drying on the pages of the annals of NBA history. Already written. Awaiting the drying breaths of air to be drawn and blown from the lips of players on teams that were already written.