The dilemma of a fan whose team has been eliminated from the playoffs is both painful and complex. Do you simply refuse to watch the rest of the postseason out of principle? Or do you temporarily attach yourself to a remaining team to satisfy your need for basketball?
The San Antonio Spurs are no longer in the hunt for a championship after their best regular season in franchise history. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and evokes the famous Alfred Tennyson quandary of whether it is better to have made the playoffs and lost than to have never made the playoffs at all (or something like that).
Spurs fans can harness the positive memories associated with the dismantling of the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round, for what it’s worth. It may not sufficiently quench the thirst of playoff success, but not every team gets to win a playoff series. In fact, some franchises go decades without something that the Spurs routinely accomplish.
For displaced Spurs fans lamenting the cruel fate bestowed upon them at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, there’s only a few ways to go about this. Allegiance to a conference is pretty standard, especially in this day and age.
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LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (or the Miami Heat before them) annually reveal how inferior the Eastern Conference is compared to the competitive Western Conference, and any fan of a Western Conference team should take pride in the fact that the Western Conference playoff landscape is so much harder to navigate compared to the East.
The eventual Western Conference champion had a much more difficult road to traverse, and they should be immensely respected by all fans who follow a team in that conference. The Spurs played a huge role in making the conference so daunting, as well as teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and Houston Rockets who’ve already been eliminated. Root for whoever makes the NBA Finals out of this conference, whether it’s the Thunder or the Golden State Warriors.
Choosing a team to cheer for in the Western Conference Finals is difficult, though, and a solid case could be made for either. It’s sometimes emotionally impossible to bring yourself to root for the team that just eliminated your favorite team from the playoffs. However, the counter argument to this is that it makes the elimination less embarrassing if it’s to a team that ends up advancing far in the playoffs past the vanquishing of your favorite team.
If the Thunder were to win the NBA championship, Spurs fans could have solace in the fact that they ended up losing to the eventual champion, and that they just happened to be the next in line to be inevitably eliminated during the championship run. If the Thunder lose to the Warriors in the next round, then the Spurs’ loss looks far worse.
If the Thunder win the championship, then the Spurs could always theoretically call themselves the 2nd best team in the NBA, because no other team was able to beat the Thunder either. However, if the Warriors beat the Thunder, then it somewhat objectively proves not only their superiority to the Thunder, but also to the Spurs, because they beat the team that beat the Spurs.
There’s solid arguments on both sides, and each fan has a different relationship to both the Spurs and the NBA that will guide them towards enjoying the rest of these playoffs, or at the very least making these playoffs emotionally tolerable. To displaced Spurs fans, it’s now a battle between the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, and since their team has helped make the West so formidable, they should pull for whoever gets out of this challenging obstacle course which is the Western Conference playoffs.