I don’t know if anyone told our beloved NBA, but when Michael left Chicago in 1998, the entire conference was not supposed to leave with him.
In the 13 seasons proceeding MJ’s departure and subsequent retirement from basketball (for all intents and purposes, I will not speak of his Wizards tenure, ever). In a decade plus dominated by the Lakers and Spurs (combining for 9 championships), the East has posted 3 title victories, coming as an underdog to a Western Conference team each time (Detroit in 2004, Miami in 2006 and Boston in 2008). I don’t even need to quantify the losses and utter incompetence Eastern conference basketball has shown over the past decade with statistics or standings - Anyone that has watched basketball over that period of time has clearly seen 12 seasons of floundering, which has simultaneously magnified the 12 seasons of consistent and continued excellence from the Spurs, Mavericks, Suns, Lakers, Nuggets, Jazz,
But all was not supposed to be lost – despite a seeming exodus of front office intelligence and on-court talent, each year we hear the same thing: “The East is coming back!”. Season after season, there is a supposed infusion of talent that will lead to the East rising again. Lebron, Bosh and Dwyane were drafted in 2003. Then Dwight Howard in 2004. Derrick Rose came in 2008. Dougie Wall is a rook in 2010.
There are 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. 6 have winning records. By comparison, the West has 6 teams – under .500. Of the bottom 10 teams in the league – Charlotte, Philly, New Jersey, Toronto, Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, the Clippers, Minnesota and Sacramento – 7 of those teams are from the East.
Look, I think you get the point. I don’t have to keep on throwing out facts and figures for you. Anyone that even casually watches the NBA can see that the East is extremely top-heavy. Boston, Miami, Chicago and Orlando are the 800 pound gorillas. Atlanta, Nueva York and Indiana are halfway decent and everyone else plays in Awful Arena in Mediocre Town in Suckville County. BUT relax citizens of colder weather and tighter buttholes! I feel that salvation is coming!
The East is coming back. For real. My argument is three-fold:
1. The end of the West’s dominant stars
If you look at the previous 12 seasons Post-Jordan (so are we in 12 P.J.?), the West’s domination has been predicated on these superstars: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony,Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, et al. During their prime years, these gentlemen didn’t just make all-star teams or win scoring titles – they dominated the game, and for some of them, will go down as some of the greatest of all time. However, these are mostly players that range from the end of their peaks to out of the league completely.
2. The lack of the West’s rising stars
To add to the last point, the West simply has a lack of young talent that are either in their primes or just starting to tap the surface. Aside from Carmelo, Deron and CP3 (and two of those players seem to be headed towards an imminent departure to the Mecca), there are only a few young players that you could choose to build your franchise around. This is not to say that the West does not have stars in place - Kevin Durant, Russ Westbrook, Steph Curry, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin count as some young players that could soon turn into elite game changers (particularly Durant and Griffin, both of which could be the best at their positions, not to mention the league as a whole, in a few short years). Which brings me to my next point…
3. The wealth of young stars in the East
The best young players are all in the Eastern Conference. Let’s just throw out these names: Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudamire, Derrick Rose, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Al Horford – and this doesn’t include the players that will be the game’s biggest stars in the immediate future: John Wall, Brandon Jennings, Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah, Derrick Favors, et al…and this doesn’t even count the high draft picks that will surface in the 2011 and 2012 drafts. Of those guys I just named, Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Rondo, Howard, Wall, Noah, Lopez, Bogut and Rose are going to carry the league for the next 10 years. Of the young stars in the west, I can only comfortably name Griffin, Durant, Westbrook and Love in that category.
Mark it down – 2015 and on, the East will be risen.