You read the title correctly, the most valuable person in sports is Adam Silver. No, it isn’t LeBron, Brady or any other athlete, it’s the guy making all the right decisions for the fastest growing league in the nation. While some of these decisions seem like no-brainers, like banning Donald Sterling, a whole heap of his smaller decisions have had insane amounts of undetected impact on the league. Some of which, other Commissioners have botched beyond belief.
For starters, the small minor playoff format change the Silver made was, in a word, genius. Previously, the three division winners from each conference made up the top three playoff seeds while the remaining five spots were determined by record, regardless of division. Silver, in all his excellence, came in and removed the division winner placement rule, meaning even the division leader is sorted by record and not guaranteed a top three seeding. While that detail does seem minor, a quick glance at the current Eastern Conference standings shows how major a change it is. Under the new format, Indiana is in third place with a 38-20 record, which would give them the Brooklyn Nets as a first round match up. Under the old rules, Charlotte leads the Southeast Division at 27-30, which would grant them the third seed forcing Indiana to play the surging Celtics in round one. Instead of forcing two superior teams to play each other in round one, Silver’s rule change makes for more dramatic contests in the later rounds. And this move is a lot more impressive when comparing it to other leagues, not just the old rule it replaced. For example, the Red Sox and Yankees were forced to play in a five game first round series, instead of a full seven game contest due to the bad playoff format currently enforced in Major League Baseball. The Red Sox had the best record in the American League meaning they play the winner of the Wild Card play in game, which featured the 100 win Yankees. Meanwhile the 90 win Indians, winner of the Central Division, played Houston in an extremely forgettable series. Houston went on to sweep Cleveland while three of the four games in the Red Sox/Yankees series were decided in the seventh inning or later. Under Silver’s rules the Red Sox and Yankees would have had a chance to play in the League Championship, which would have been much more entertaining than the actual Houston vs Boston series we got. None of that holds a candle to how bad the NHL is though.
Gary Bettman is the exact opposite of Adam Silver. What ever the right choice is, Bettman always goes the other way in hilariously idiotic fashion. The NHL is filled to the brim with bright personalities, marketable players, a handful of legends to keep fans familiar, and a once in a life time talent for fans to fall in love with named Connor McDavid. Yet, somehow Bettman can’t get hockey going in the states, and while I could go on about television deals, and marketing strategy, we’re here to talk about the disaster of a playoff format he’s put in place. Each conference is divided into two divisions, the top three teams from each division get in, the last two spots go to the top two remaining teams in said conference. Here’s where things get out of hand. The second and third seed from each division play each other in round one. If the playoffs started right now, Boston and Toronto would be first round opponents, despite the two teams being in third and fifth in the entire NHL. It’s the equivalent of having the Nuggets and Thunder in the first round. Imagine a third of the top talent in the playoffs went out round one so the four conference finals teams were Golden State, Boston, Detroit, and Utah. How awful would that be? Well, thanks to Adam Silver hoops fans never have to worry about it.
The playoffs aren’t the only thing that has turned the NBA into America’s favorite year long soap opera. The Silver Era has brought forth a wave of self expression, albeit sometimes for the worse, that no other league has ever seen. Watch Steph Curry on any given night, watch him shimmy in people’s faces, and imagine if someone did that on a football field. It’s fifteen yards and a first down for taunting. The entire league came out for warm ups in “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to protest the murder of Eric Garner. Know what that gets you in Goodell land? A 25,000 dollar fine. With this league bursting with personalities you get story lines, great interviews, and rampant season long rumors that keep fans invested. Think back to Super Bowl week, and when I say Super Bowl week I don’t mean the game and NFL events, I mean the actual week itself. What was the number one sports story of the entire week? Was it Tom Brady and the Pats going for six? No. Was it the Rams looking to claim the throne as kings of football? Nope. Was it the two baseball mega stars that still sit unsigned in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado? Wrong again. Everyone was talking about Anthony Davis wanting out of New Orleans, which is something pretty much everyone already knew. So then why was everyone talking about it? Because the personalities Adam Silver has allowed every player to create is far more entertaining than the same stupid interviews that take place during Super Bowl week. Don’t get me wrong, I love Thomas Edward Patrick Brady with all my heart, however how many times can he answer the same questions over and over again before it gets redundant? I’d much rather listen to the interwoven story lines of the impending NBA free agency. Where will Davis go and will that change Kyrie Irving’s decision? Where does Kevin Durant fall in all of this? Give me that over Brady saying he’s not retiring every year.
If none of this has proven Silver’s worth, then the bombshell he dropped over All Star Weekend (which was another smash success) may sway you.
The owners of the most powerful sports league in the country want Silver to run their league. When Robert Kraft finds value in a person I tend to agree, and apparently he finds so much in Adam Silver that he offered him the highest job in American Sports. If that doesn’t prove his worth to you, then you don’t know the meaning of the word.
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