Bulls

Kevin Durant's Golden State decision is a winner for the NBA

Kevin Durant's Golden State decision is a winner for the NBA

Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors has stoked many different reactions from NBA players, coaches, agents, fans, and media members. However, there seems to be one area where everyone can agree – the Warriors are the heavy favorites to win the 2017 NBA Finals. The Warriors will likely be the clear favorites to win the NBA championship every year for the foreseeable future.

The Warriors added the 2013-14 NBA MVP, who is in the prime of his career, to a team that won an NBA-record 73 games and was one game away from winning the 2016 NBA Finals. It seems easy to make the case that Durant going to the Warriors will be bad for the NBA because there will be little competitive balance. More specifically, the Warriors will be so dominant that no other team will have a realistic shot at winning the title. In theory, that should not be a good thing for the NBA.

Competitive balance is often described as the core element that makes sports successful. Why would NBA fans, media, and sponsors want to be a part of the league when the champion is “known” before the season starts? Fans are not going to watch or attend games when the outcome is not in doubt. The media will not cover games as closely for the same reason. If fans and media are not engaged with the NBA then sponsors are less likely to want spend their advertising dollars with the league. As The Ringer’s Micah Peters writes, “It was fun, you guys, but I think it’s time we start a new league and not tell Golden State about it.” Without competitive balance the NBA cannot be successful.

The only problem with this argument is that it is not true (usually a big problem for arguments). The NBA has not had competitive balance in a long time, and the league has been at its strongest when it has dominant teams. Seven NBA teams won 33 of the 35 NBA crowns between 1980 and 2014. The most memorable parts of NBA’s history during this time period are filled with dominant teams and players. From Magic Johnson and Larry Bird with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, respectively, to Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls to Kobe Bryant with the Lakers to Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA has been filled with dominant teams throughout its history. The converse of few teams winning so many titles is that most teams rarely compete for a title.

This year is no exception. The NBA Finals was a rematch of last year’s showdown between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James appeared in his sixth straight Finals. The dominant storyline this NBA season was how quickly the Warriors became the overwhelming favorite to win the title after starting the season with 24-game winning streak. The Thunder nearly defeated the Warriors in the playoffs during a seven game Western Conference Finals, but the Thunder were one of only maybe 2-3 teams in the Western Conference that had any real chance of beating the Warriors (the Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers being the others, in my opinion). Few teams in either the Eastern or Western Conferences had a realistic shot at winning the championship. And yet NBA attendance hit record a high for the 2015-16 season and television ratings increased from the 2014-15 season. The Finals were the highest-rated since 1998.

Dominance as a driver of audience interest can also be seen in other sports. Leagues throughout the world have arguably never been more popular or more successful at a time when fewer teams than ever before appear to be competitive for a championship. Durant’s decision to join the Warriors could produce the most dominant team in any major professional sports league throughout the world. And that is likely the best possible outcome for the NBA.

Adam Grossman is the president of the sports sponsorship and analytics firm Block Six Analytics. He is also the co-author of "The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High-Performance Industry." In addition, he is currently an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University, where he teaches classes on entrepreneurship and quantitative analysis. Grossman also contributes to Forbes. Follow Adam Grossman on Twitter @adamrgrossman.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue break down the Bulls season opener vs the Raptors. They’ll explain why Bulls fans should be very happy with the debut of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kendall points out why he expects the Markkanen/Lavine combo to be great on the offensive end. They’ll also go over their concerns at point guard, and Will shares his story of how Greg Popovich dealt with a losing Spurs team in 1996-97.