I had serious doubts.
When last season ended, I was at a crossroads in my relationship with the NBA. Since being introduced to the league as a child, I have been a dedicated and passionate fan.
But I lost some vigor for the sport last June.
While it was pretty evident from the preseason the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers were destined to collide in the Finals once again, especially after superstar Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for California, I refused to believe.
Sure, both teams were stockpiled with talent, but I couldn’t envision the league was watered down to the point it couldn’t sustain competitive balance.
And there were some rivals for the conferences’ top teams, including San Antonio, Houston and Boston, but in the playoffs, the gaps between the echelons were obvious.
By the time Golden State hoisted the championship trophy, I was disheartened.
Granted, history was made as the teams became the first to play in three consecutive Finals, but it was anticlimactic — the exact opposite of everything I loved about the NBA.
The Warriors and Cavaliers were the clear favorites to reach the Finals, and without much challenge, they did. Making matters worse, before the celebratory confetti finished falling, Cleveland and Golden State were already projected into the 2018 Finals.
But who could argue? On paper, those are the two best teams in the league without a doubt.
So, like so many others, I resigned to the fact the NBA had lost its shine. Outside of a miraculous upset or an unfortunate injury, the Warriors and Cavaliers would simply run through the remaining 28 teams en route to a fourth consecutive Finals encounter.
Then, the offseason brought hope for change.
With the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City is a threat in the Western Conference again, and Chris Paul will help move Houston among the league’s elite. Kyrie Irving’s jump to Boston transforms the Celtics into a contender, even though the team took a serious hit when fellow offseason All-Star acquisition Gordon Hayward broke his ankle in the season opener.
Then, there is San Antonio, Washington, Minnesota and Toronto among others, who will all be in the mix as well.
In the end, however, Golden State and Cleveland remain the favorites to win it all after each seemingly found ways to improve its rosters during the offseason, but the gap has narrowed.
Like millions of others, I was almost ready to give up on the league during the summer, but luckily, there were franchises and players unwilling to concede to two teams’ dominance.
My doubts are not extinguished completely, but they have subsided, and I am entering this season with an open mind to see how things progress rather than feeling there is no point of watching until the Finals.
It’s not the best-case scenario, but it certainly beats losing all interest in the league I’ve always loved.