Two prominent and respected teams played in this year’s NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs – winners of three NBA Championships had three stars competing with a future hall of famer looking for his fourth – against the Miami Heat seeking their second NBA championship in a row. They, too, had three stars with arguably the best player in the NBA currently. The NBA could not ask for a more perfect match up with enough story lines on ESPN not needing an exclamation on its ending.
Surprise! Something very special and unexpected did happen. Sure it was the seventh game of the finals and the ending was going to be special since it was a close game, a home win by the Miami Heat. Making the last minute or so more comfortable and at the end the emotional toll that had just been the classic seven games were evident. As the confetti fell, players were seeking opposing players to congratulate and console. Coaches were seeking opposing players to hug and congratulate. What a seen. Near Midnight on the East Coast, two great teams playing a good brand of basketball showed great class and character both as winners and losers. What a marketing tool! When the world is watching reality television whereas the idea is to lack character to succeed, the NBA had its’ finest moment. Even naysayers of the NBA were silent.
I have been watching playoffs in football (NFL), basketball (NBA), and hockey (NHL) for many years and through some research was unable to find a “rule” stating what was expected by each professional league and sport when it came to the post game.
In the NFL it is their ritual for the coaches to make the handshake near the fifty yard line and because of the numbers of players it can be utter chaos in the players who do and do not shake hands and greet after a hard fought game. Most of the time the networks decide to focus on the key playmakers and coaches to get the storyline of how each handled winning and losing. There are not many problems shown after a game unless you were a formal member of the coaching staff of Bill Bellichek. The NFL is so strong a brand that the stars are scrutinized and know to keep raw emotion under check and follow protocol.
The NHL has what I feel is the closest to an organized code of conduct for post-game rituals lining up each time and coaching staff to shake hands at the end of series. In hockey the stage is set for this because the field of play is enclosed with the players and coaching staffs have the access to the ice. Even fridge fans of the NHL like me have grown to really respect and like the game more because of this post-game ritual. Unfortunately many do not get to see this because of the lack of television exposure of the NHL and what is provided is usually on cable.
Good sportsmanship is not dead. The last few weeks have shown some great examples of it. Fans have grown weary and have been brightened by what just happened in the NBA Finals and the numbers do not lie. Fan viewership was up and will grow thanks to Miami and San Antonio. By the way San Antonio is a small market, right? That can be another story for another time.