NBA teams are down in Orlando practicing, and we're getting closer and closer to live games as the league's restart is ramping up. Given the unique circumstances surrounding the rest of the 2020 season, there's clearly a million questions that will need to be answered in the coming weeks.
There's also a ton of opinions as to whether or not this year's champ actually should count, which is ridiculous. The asterisk talk is completely out of control in sports right now. This year's NBA champion will have to go through something so different and so awkward that if anything they should have an asterisk to make sure people realize how difficult their run was.
You want to talk about asterisks? Let's look at some teams that actually deserved them.
Tom Haberstroh recently pointed out that you can put an asterisk on every NBA champion for one reason or another, and he's not wrong. If you really want to, you can find an excuse to water down anyone's ring. That being said, instead of trying to take away from the unprecedented challenge facing every contender this year, let's look back at the top-5 NBA champs that really deserve an asterisk.
I'm sure this won't make anyone mad at all.
5. 1959-1966 Boston Celtics
You had either eight or nine teams in the entire league depending on the year, and it was said that you were only allowed up to four black players per team, which is just a mindblowing think to think about today. Rosters were limited, talent was limited, and from 1967 until 1976, you had players split between the NBA and ABA. At this point, all those champions had a far easier path than whoever wins it this year, so go ahead and add the Sixers, Knicks, Bucks, Lakers, and Warriors to this spot given how that era was compared to today.
4. 1981 Celtics
Sorry Boston, but this time you faced a 40-42 Houston Rockets team that year in The Finals. Seriously? Can you imagine a team two games under .500 going to the NBA Finals today? NBA Twitter would go nuts and pretend that series didn't even exist.
3. 2007 San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix won 61 games that year, led by Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, 6th Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Boris Diaw and Stoudemire end up getting suspended for that pivotal Game 5 in the West semis for stepping on the floor during a fight when Robert Horry hip checked Steve Nash into the scorers table on the sideline. Oh, let's not forget the 67-win Mavericks were knocked out in the first round and San Antonio never had to deal with them at all, and instead swept a young, overmatched Cavaliers team led by 22-year old LeBron James.
2. 2019 Toronto Raptors
Kevin Durant tore his Achilles in Game 5, and Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The Raptors are not winning this series if Golden State is at full strength. Heck, they weren't winning that Game 6 if just Thompson had stayed on the court, who had 28 points, on 8-of-12 shooting, 4-of-6 from three, with still 2:22 left in the third quarter before he limped to the free-throw line and eventually left the game. Not a chance.
1. Both Houston Rockets titles in 1994 and 1995
Michael Jordan. That's it. That's why. If he wasn't playing baseball and golf, that's likely two more titles for Jordan and none for Hakeem Olajuwon (who by the way is still one of the most underrated big men in NBA history). Maybe Jordan's Bulls get broken up sooner, but they're beating this Rockets team in The Finals, instead of them sweeping the Orlando Magic or getting past the Knicks in seven games when John Starks forgets how to shoot the ball (he missed 16 of 18 shots, including all 11 threes, which is mind-blowing).
So no, we're not putting an asterisk on this year's NBA champion. The mental hurdles teams will have to overcome has never existed before this year's bubble situation. The long layoff, worries about a pandemic, routines are totally scrambled, and no homecourt advantage anymore to name just a few.
No, this year's NBA champ will have done something no one else has ever done before, and for that, it should be remembered as the ultimate championship run.
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