In the past week, approximately seven million kids learned to love basketball.
OK, I completely made that up. But that's what I keep coming back to when I try and put this crazy, improbable, unbelievable, spectacular, delicious, are-you-kidding-me-no-seriously-are-you-kidding-me first round of the NBA playoffs in perspective. I go back to when I got into basketball, watching Payton's Sonics battle Barkley's Suns, and Reggie's Pacers vs. Ewing's Knicks. These thrilling, brilliant, intense, heartbreaking, soul-soaring games.
And the NBA has given them to us night after night.
What's funny is that I remember thinking after the first night of playoff basketball two weeks ago, "Well, that was OK, hopefully things get better." The Warriors had edged the Clippers, but that game was as disjointed as Saturday's Game 7 was phenomenal. OKC had blown out Memphis, surely a sign of things to come, no matter how Memphis had played in the third. The Nets had slogged away the fun of a raucous Canadian crowd, and yeah, the No. 8 seed Hawks won, but that was more about how sad the Pacers were than anything. But it was the Pacers who finally advanced, looking a little more like a legit 1-seed in Saturday's Game 7.
After what was by and large, not just a non-descript regular season, but a geuinely bad one from an entertainment perspective, I had some fears of a similar fate for the playoffs.
What has happened since, from the very next day when Dallas narrowly missed an opportunity to take out the Spurs in Game 1 as San Antonio came back from 10 down with eight minutes left in the fourth. Since then, it's been madness. Nearly every game has been close. Memphis-Oklahoma City went to four straight overtimes. Think about that! Only Zach Randolph's suspension, and perhaps Kevin Durant's extra motivation, kept Saturday's Game 7 from becoming another instant classic as the Thunder rolled.
Eight games have gone to overtime already, with the playoffs on pace to shatter previous records. But it's not about the numbers or logistics of these games. You can have boring overtime games. It's about the craziness of each moment being topped with another. This hasn't just been the objectively closest first-round in NBA history.
It has been the best first round in NBA history, and the competition isn't close.
It's about moments like...
Battling are-you-kidding-me four-point plays in Saturday night's Warriors-Clippers classic:
... Or why the Nets have Paul Pierce here:
Josh McRoberts, in the only predictable, boring first-round series, nearly killing a man with a dunk.
Tony Parker putting Dirk on skates:
Damian Lillard, with a preview of things to come:
It's about "Who's Troy Daniels?"
About Perkins?! Wait, Perkins?!
It's about Jeff Teague and the emergence of #PLAYOFFTEAGUE:
It's about Jamal Crawford from way, way, way downtown.
It's about "Hey, remember what Masai said? (NSFW):
It's about how close, how close, how close can it get?
It's about Vince Carter, can you believe it?
It's about Kevin Durant, I don't believe it:
It's about Damian Lillard, and it being his time:
It's about the playoffs.
Kids have learned to love basketball in the past week, sparking passions they'll carry with them. They'll grow up and go to college and talk about where they were when they saw Dame's shot, Carter's gamewinner, Grizzliers-Thunder Game 2 or 3 or 4 or 5. These are the playoffs that just keep on giving as we polish off a weekend of five, count 'em, five Game 7's, the only question left is: What's next?