According to lore, or at least the Sports Illustrateds that I read in my youth, it was Red Auerbach that convinced David Stern to adhere to a 2-3-2 home/away format for the NBA Finals. Mindful of the potential for a Boston Celtics/Los Angeles Lakers Finals pairing that could appear repeatedly from 1984 until the end of the decade, Stern (in his first full year as commissioner) decided to change the format away from 2-2-1-1-1 for the 1985 Finals in order to save wear and tear on his league’s players, staff, and media.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, as the NBA featured wider mile stretches between typical conference champions than the NHL, and a geography-based conference divider that was unlike Major League Baseball or pro football’s setups. If the Finals were to be held in Boston and Los Angeles every year, why not give everyone a break – instead of shuttling back and forth between Games five through seven?
Well, because that format doesn’t match up with the NBA’s other playoff series’, the 2-3-2 approach has taken on flack over the last two decades. And with Stern set to step down midseason after 30 years on the job, there are reports that the league could go back to what seemed to serve them so well when St. Louis and Minneapolis were the reigning Western Conference champions. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald was the first to report the news, via the Associated Press:
The league's Competition Committee voted unanimously to recommend the change from the current 2-3-2 system and owners will vote on it next month at their meetings.
"The idea was raised at the Competition Committee and was well-received and the committee ultimately unanimously voted to recommend the change in format," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Sunday.
If approved, it hasn't been decided if the change would begin with the 2014 finals.
Because the Super Bowl is in a neutral location, and the World Series’ home field advantage isstupidly strangely decided by MLB’s All-Star Game, the NBA Finals are in a unique position. Nearly three decades after the switch to 2-3-2, it’s still debatable as to whether or not the team with home court advantage is helped or hurt by the format (remember, all it takes is one Game 3 win from the team with the better record to achieve a borderline-insurmountable 3-0 chokehold on the Finals), but the NBA appears to have had enough with the switch.
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