Nearly every postseason across every sport claims it’s the best (except for college football, which claims to value the regular season more than anything). In many ways, different postseasons stand on their own merit. For example: There’s no drama quite like the MLB playoffs and the World Series simply because of the pace. Every pitch can feel like a lifetime. Another example: Overtime playoff hockey, which might be the most underrated postseason scenario in professional sports. And then there’s the NBA playoffs, when the best athletes in the world put it into another gear. In fact, the NBA’s postseason is great for the exact same reason playoff baseball is great — pace; it’s just the opposite approach.
But what all of these formats have in common is that no series, save for the MLB’s wild-card round, is decided by one game. If it were up to Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, though, the NBA playoffs would be single-elimination:
Why Morey would be willing to change the gold mine that is the NBA playoffs is worth further questioning. At the very least, he deserves to be heard out for such a bold take. However, the reality is the NBA postseason is more than fine as it is. It shouldn’t change. It won’t change. A best-of series usually, but not always, ensures that the better team will advance.
Obviously, the prime example of single-elimination postseason play is happening now with the NCAA tournament. To be sure, there’s plenty of drama associated with that format as well. The first weekend of this year’s tournament was arguably the most memorable in years. There were buzzer beaters and epic collapses. There’s a tension in knowing these players are fighting for their seasons, and that it can all be over in an instant. And, every once in a while, a Butler or VCU breaks through and challenges for the whole thing.
The format works for college because there are 68 teams in the tournament and the regular season is far shorter. Playing a best-of series every round would mean it would be August before a champion is crowned.
There’s also a considerable gap in talent between college and the NBA. The sheer level of talent alone warrants a best-of series in every round of the playoffs. Imagine if the Golden State Warriors, after bulldozing through an 82-game season, got bounced in the first round because they lost one game?
Such volatility might be what Morey wants, but it’s not what the majority wants (or should want).