With baseball season in full swing (no pun intended), the NBA playoffs and Stanley Cup playoffs also are competing for your attention.
As the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers duke it out for a shot at the NBA Finals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators are looking for two spots in the Stanley Cup Final, it's time to revisit the debate you should be having before tuning in.
Which is better? the Stanley Cup playoffs, or the NBA playoffs? The debate that should clearly end in hockey reigning supreme.
Why, you ask?
1. Effort and intensity
When is the last time you watched an NHL playoff series and complained about a team or its players not sacrificing enough to win? Set aside the fact hockey has been built from physicality, and there's still no comparison between certain NBA stars' outpouring of effort -- or lack thereof -- and the grind of a postseason contender on ice.
We won't even start on the abysmal "professional" defense by NBA ballers, because that's a joke. If you want to watch a multi-million-dollar athlete put his body on the line (or even come close to doing so), you'd be best served giving hockey a whirl. Hardly a minute of Stanley Cup playoff goes by without an onslaught of intensity surrounding the puck.
The NHL also does a better job of managing time.
Unlike the NBA playoffs, where timeouts are rampant because of the demands of the game, hockey unfolds rather expeditiously. At least two intermissions guarantee some sitting around between the action, but it's not as if the NHL's overtime setup doesn't also trump that the NBA's.
Sudden-death OT is all you need to know. Maybe showcasing another 10 or so minutes of LeBron James is good TV for the basketball fans, but amping up the gravity of another high-speed or high-contact battle to the net is better. An OT Stanley Cup playoff game ends in an instant, so every move is critical -- and not a holdup on time like the inevitable last-minute fouls that extend the NBA's final seconds.
3. Parity among teams
You probably could have guessed at least three of the four remaining NBA playoff teams without watching a single pro basketball game this season.
In the NHL, the Penguins are obviously making a strong bid at repeating as champs. But hockey is historically more balanced when it comes to producing different title winners, and it's not even close. No disrespect to the celebrity dynasties of basketball, but if you're looking for some unpredictability and excitement in your postseason, why in the world would you not consider the Stanley Cup playoffs?
This is a tournament that consistently churns out upsets -- just look at the Nashville Predators exploding out of the gate to sweep the heavily favored Chicago Blackhawks this year -- and defines the "any given Sunday" mentality on a lot more than Sundays.
4. Parity within teams
James. Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant. The list goes on when it comes to NBA superstars. And it's not a bad thing for basketball to have a plethora of marquee names. That's something the NBA has long had on the NHL, and it's probably one of the reasons hockey continues to struggle to develop a wider audience.
But championships (or at least ones worth watching) aren't always won by one player -- or a roster assembled in free agency as a collection of big, high-priced names. Teamwork is epitomized in the Stanley Cup playoffs, where sometimes only a few players get their name on the stat sheet for goals but often a variety of contributors chip into a title run over games and series.
The NBA is driven by its icons (and good for the NBA in that regard). But the Stanley Cup is usually captured when an entire team, including overlooked reserves, comes alive.
5. Lead-up to the championship
Are the NBA Finals better than the Stanley Cup Final? That's another debate, and it's one the NBA well may win. There's simply no denying the marketability of basketball's final matchup, even if it does feature LeBron and other tirelessly crowned hoops stars for the umpteenth time.
But if we're talking about the playoffs as a whole, and we are, hockey has the edge. Take the unpredictable nature, couple it with the contrasting styles of smash-mouth and fast-paced contenders, and you've got yourself more than a handful of prime-time showdowns worth watching.
Consider that the NHL's final 16 are fighting for the storied Cup the league's postseason is named after, and you've got an added layer of interest, too.