The Glorious Return of Competitive Parity

“The world isn’t fair”: This is a phrase that many children have heard from their parents when questioning why they weren’t allowed to do something while someone else was. After hearing this, kids often whine and cry, but eventually, acceptance follows. And it’s true: the world really isn’t fair. But sports should be, and thankfully, because of Kawhi Leonard’s decision, the NBA has become fair again.

It’s called “competitive parity,” a fancy term for an even playing field, and for a number of years, it has been absent from the league. That’s because there have been a couple of dynasties, unstoppable teams who’ve had dominant runs, and have done so by hoarding the league’s most elite players. Think the Miami Heat from 2011 to 2014 and the Golden State Warriors from 2015 to this past season. Maybe even the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2015 to 2018 (this might be a stretch, but they still had LeBron James and two other stars). These three teams were all considered prohibitive favorites in the league for years, with pundit after pundit casting doubt that anyone could topple these monsters. Until this past season. Until Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors destroyed the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Then came the opening of the free agency window on June 30th at 6pm. And all hell broke loose.

After the initial rush of the first day of free agency, various stars found new homes throughout the league, seemingly turning an NBA with one prohibitive favorite (the Warriors) into an NBA with four or five top-flight teams, and another four or five who could easily challenge for those spots. However, the decision by Kawhi Leonard was most eagerly anticipated, simply because his decision was the one that could have the biggest immediate impact. Had he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, the league would have gone right back to the era of one prohibitive favorite.

Leonard decided to go to Los Angeles. But thankfully, for competitive parity’s sake, he chose to go to the Lakers’ co-tenant at the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers, instantly turning the intensity of that rivalry up more than a few notches. Immediately, shock consumed the sports journalism world, mainly because no one had any idea that Leonard would choose the Clippers. But this is how it should be: keep fans on their toes and make basketball fun again. With Leonard’s decision, the NBA has a great opportunity to do just that.

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