The narrative started that day last summer when Kevin Durant told the world he was going to join the Golden State Warriors. A significant – or perhaps just significantly loud – segment of the sports world reached for its smelling salts, then started howling.
Nobody will beat the Warriors. They took a stacked roster and stacked it even more. They created a Super Team, and Super Teams are bad for the sport.
Turns out, nobody did beat the Warriors and their four All-Stars, not when it counted. LeBron James and his running mates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love managed to do it just once in the NBA Finals as the Warriors set a North American professional sports record with a 16-1 run through the postseason.
Despite the expected outcome, there was plenty of drama in Games 3 and 4. Despite the foregone conclusion, plenty of people tuned in to watch.
Nielsen ratings showed this was the most-watched NBA Finals since Michael Jordan’s last title in 1998, with an average of 20.4 million viewers per game. Everyone knew how it was going to end, but that didn’t stop us from watching in record numbers.
It’s just the latest example that dynasties – on the rise, at their height or in decline – are riveting. They draw the attention of casual fans who couldn’t tell Stephen Curry from Stephon Marbury.
Take Alabama football. The names and faces change, but annual recruiting rankings and NFL Draft results indicate the Crimson Tide is college football’s version of a Super Team. One program winning four of the last eight national titles hasn’t exactly hurt interest in that sport.
Alabama has been favored in virtually every game it’s played for almost a decade and has lost just 13 times in the last nine years, only eight times in the last six years. Yet networks keep finding new and creative made-for-TV matchups involving those familiar crimson helmets.
See Alabama vs. Florida State in this year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. One of the most anticipated openers in memory promises to draw huge TV numbers even though Alabama hasn’t lost a season opener under Nick Saban and a loss won’t eliminate either team from the College Football Playoff race.
Alabama has beaten LSU six straight times, but CBS schedules an SEC double-header every November the day they play, with that matchup as the prime-time attraction.
Why? The most dominant college football program of the last decade sells. People want to see how long Alabama can keep winning and putting itself in position to play for national championships. When will the dynasty end? How will it end? Who will end it?
The same will hold true for the Warriors going forward. It all makes for great television, great discussion and tremendous interest.
Fans say they want parity. Their behavior in terms of media consumption suggests they’re liars.