There would be vigorous dissent in Miami, of course, where four consecutive NBA Finals appearances amounted to basketball nirvana, not boredom. There would be an argument in any league city where fans had grown spoiled by the certainty they’d still be cheering right now.
Step back, though, and try to see it dispassionately.
What a great postseason this has become. What a terrific elixir for a league that had become mired in sameness and predictability.
Dynasties have their place, but so does variety. So does fresh air.
No matter what happens from here, the NBA will crown a new champion that actually feels new for the first time in a long time. Of the eight surviving teams, Chicago won most recently, in Michael Jordan’s 1998, whereas Houston last won in 1995, Washington in 1978 (as the Bullets) and Golden State in 1975. The others still playing — Atlanta, Cleveland, the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis — have never won it all.
The final eight are putting on a show, too, as if reveling on a stage they’d watched too often from the audience while other teams performed.
All four conference semifinal playoff series are 3-2 in games entering Thursday’s action, presenting the plausible possibility of four Game 7s.
That has never happened in the 48 years since the 1968 advent of the seven-game series in this round. Only three times have three of the four conference semis gone to Game 7s: 2006, 1994 and 1981.
The first round of this postseason was a snooze, with three four-game sweeps and only Clippers-San Antonio stretched to the maximum. Now every series is competitive and there’s drama anywhere you look.
LeBron James trying to make good on why he left Miami to return to the Cavaliers: Giving Cleveland a major sports championship to celebrate for the first time since the NFL Browns in 1964.
The Clippers, laughingstocks for so long and lost in the Lakers’ shadow, trying to win a first title the same season that began in disgrace for the franchise with the banishment of racist owner Donald Sterling.
And league-MVP Stephen Curry aiming to make Golden State champion for the first time since Rick Barry averaged 30 points and shot free throws underhanded.
But would that be any more compelling than Derrick Rose completing the Bulls’ renaissance after all he’s been through? Or Atlanta proving wrong all its doubters?
Of course the biggest story nationally continues to be LeBron.
In Miami, too.
Here, with the Heat not in it this year, the rooting interest for most fans in South Florida is whatever team is trying to beat LeBron.
We had a little war in my house the other day, and James started it.
He made that buzzer beater to defeat Chicago on Sunday and rescue Cleveland’s title hopes, and my eldest son groaned as if gut-punched.
I smiled and made a little fist pump. Didn’t plan it. Just happened.
(A sports columnist, when not on the company clock as a neutral observer, is free to lapse into fan tendencies just like a regular human being. It can be fun. Cathartic.)
My son looked at me as if I’d just traded the family dog for crack cocaine.
It was a lot to bear — the sight of the “traitor” LeBron preening heroically, compounded by stunned incredulity as a young man watched his father commit treason.
I’m not sure if rooting for LeBron is technically against the law in and around Miami these days, but it’s seen as antisocial behavior, as flagrantly anti-Heat.
I get the animus, but not the depth of it, or the lasting vitriol.
Yes, LeBron botched the way he left Miami. He did the franchise no favors, left it scrambling. He put Pat Riley on a plane for a dog-and-pony show even though he’d already decided to go home to Cleveland. Shabby.
But was the manner of James’ departure enough to overshadow the four franchise-defining seasons including his two MVP awards? Enough to outweigh the four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two championships he led?
For my son and for most, apparently, yes. For me, no.
I have forgiven James the gracelessness of his departure and can wish him well.
The journalist I am and the fan that never quite left me can agree: We root for excellence, and for a great story.
James, by the way, had this encore to his game-winning Sunday shot: 38 points Tuesday with 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals, three blocks and zero turnovers.
I enjoy watching that guy perform, still, no matter the uniform he’s wearing.
In fact I think I’ll start a “Miamians For LeBron” bandwagon.
Good seats still available.