It's the nail-biting, teeth-clenching, edge-of-the-seat matches that keep sports fandom so alive. The majority of the time, the most epic game finishers occur when an underdog team perfectly outplays a top-seed contender. Though everyone likes a winning story, everyone also gets behind an underdog story
This is the basis of this season's professional sports playoffs. On one hand, the NBA Finals seem to run on repeat. On the other hand, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals are a treasure chest of colorful come-up stories that make for a better read and finals match.
I think it's time to accept that winning isn't everything, but the manner in which you get there is. Diving into the two major playoffs series, here's a breakdown of the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals leading into June.
The lesson: it's important to root for the underdog. And frankly, it's a hell of a lot more fun.
Lebron vs. Dub Nation
By Game 3, the crown on Lebron James's head was looking a little dull.
The Boston Celtics pulled off two monster wins in Game 1 and Game 2, and fans everywhere began to think that this series was going to get lucky. The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't have it in them this season. Love, almost useless the parts of the playoffs he did play, sat due to an injury.
The Celtics had a chance to knock James & Co. off of the pedestal after a twisting season that left Cavs-turned-Celtic Kyrie Irving on the bench with an injury. It took seven games in a hard-fought series, but Lebron still pulled off the series in a manner that reinstated his dominance in the NBA.
After another tough seven-game series, the Rockets fell to the knees of Durant and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA semifinals. Stephen Curry's return post-injury packed an extra punch. Though James Harden and the Rockets fended off the reigning NBA Champions from taking hold of the series, the Rockets joined the Celtics in losses during Game 7.
Therefore, the 2018 NBA Finals are looking just like the 2017 NBA Finals that look very much like the 2016 NBA Finals that looked exactly like the 2015 NBA Finals.
I'm bored. I'm over turning on the television and hearing the announcers hyper-focus on James's legacy before he even retires. I'm over the Hampton Five and a clenching reign of the NBA Finals spot that leaves all other prospects just slightly too behind. There is a gaping hole where underdogs should shine in the NBA, and for all of the money that this matchup makes, it also makes professional basketball currently boring. The NBA Finals rerun says a lot about where the league is, and it also opens sports fans' eyes to this year's NHL playoffs. Underdogs galore, and a lot more to talk about than Lebron James.
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NHL Thrives in Sin City
The Stanley Cup Finals aren't following suit of the NBA Finals this year. After Sidney Crosby and the Penguins pulled off the victory over the hungry Predators last year, it looked like most professional sports were stalling to find new kings to crown.
Enter the Vegas Golden Knights. A team literally in their first season, they have played their way into the Stanley Cup Finals. The team's roster is a mashup of players whose talent did not precede them. Suddenly together, once weaker talent soared forward, racking up stats that are unprecedented.
The Golden Knights fought past major NHL teams such as the San Jose Sharks and the Winnipeg Jets to land themselves in the Finals. They now face the Washington Capitals. The Capitals have a history of successful seasons that end in heartbreak. For leader Alexander Ovechkin, this hangs over his legacy, as he has not won a Stanley Cup. The win would be huge for both franchises, but the Knights' newbie run makes for a little extra in playoffs season.
After the year that Las Vegas has had, including the mass shooting at the Route 91 Festival, an underdog story is exactly what the city needed. The Golden Knights arrived with an entire community behind them. Vegas itself is not known for its professional sports or even college teams. T-Mobile Arena is used more for PBR, UFC, and concert events than popular professional sports teams. The Golden Knights filled the gap in the city, and their early success will hopefully continue to drive excitement towards the franchise.
Game 1 of the Golden Knights vs. Capitals Stanley Cup Finals has been deemed by some experts as "peak hockey." The Golden Knights won 6-4 in an epic match that included 135 shots on goal with major saves from both sides. Though Vegas won with two goals to spare, there was no major lead the entire game. The back-and-forth made for the ultimate beginning to the Stanley Cup Finals. No matter the outcome of the series, either a novice NHL team or a veteran NHL player will make history by taking home the Stanley Cup. That in itself makes the Stanley Cup Finals vastly more interesting than the NBA Finals.
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