Michael Jordan retired three different times — in 1994, 1998, and 2003. While Jordan was still a blast to watch between 98′ and 03′, his career for all intents and purposes ended in 98′. He simply didn’t have a chance to win a championship with the Washington Wizards.
Following his retirement in 1998, the NBA found itself in a bad place — a fact that seems to have been all but forgotten by fans. The NBA’s heyday of Magic and Bird was long gone, Jordan’s run of brilliance and the Bulls’ dynasty had passed, and the league lacked both the young stars and rivalries needed to be successful. Arenas were empty and TV ratings were down. Boy, so much has changed since then.
In the 12 years since Jordan’s real retirement, the NBA has rebuilt itself into what has become an amazing league once again. There are too many young stars to count, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry was renewed (although that may now be over as well), and the parity in competition was tighter than ever. For that, NBA commissioner David Stern must be given a lot of credit. I for one am extremely happy to see the league so healthy once again.
Looking forward to next year, it’s crazy to think that the league could be completely different than it has been these past few seasons. With the number of high-caliber free agents out there, the balance of power in the NBA will dramatically shift next year — the playoffs will certainly look very different. It is important to note that there is one major exception to this — one that nobody seems to be talking about — the Los Angeles Lakers. While free agency and the building of super-teams is a hot topic of discussion right now, and rightfully so, the Lakers have a huge advantage next year. Despite the star studded teams they will have to face, the Lakers will still have a young enough team — but they also have years of experience playing together including invaluable playoff-tested experience as a team.
While I’m not completely sure it’s good for the NBA that one season can completely shift the balance of power throughout the entire league, it sure provides an interesting story line for next season. As a Boston fan, I obviously hope that the Lakers don’t 3-peat, but I do think that they can’t be ruled out despite all of the name dropping and super-team talk going on this off-season. The cool part? We’ll have an answer to most of our free agency questions in the next few days.
It’s great to see the NBA back where it belongs.
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