The NBA Finals are set with the Milwaukee Bucks taking on the Phoenix Suns. These NBA Finals are shocking as two small market teams are facing off for the top prize in the sport of basketball. At one point everyone thought stars needed to play for large-market teams like the Lakers and the Knicks to win in the NBA, but stars like Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo are winning in these small markets.
Chris Paul has been bounced around the NBA for the last few years and had great success in the regular season but always failed to reach the NBA Finals. Playing in LA with the Clippers and then with the Rockets and Thunder, the all-time great point guard was unable to reach the NBA Finals. That all changed this year when CP3 joined Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in Phoenix. Paul helped lead the Suns to the second-best record in the NBA and was able to lead the Suns past the defending champs LA Lakers, a series sweep of the Nuggets with MVP Nikola Jokic, and defeating the LA Clippers in the Western Conference Finals to reach his first ever NBA Finals. CP3 needed a Finals run to help solidify his resume as one of the best guards ever and chose the lowly Phoenix Suns to take with him.
Another superstar who chose a small market was two-time MVP and former Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis was getting a reputation for not being able to perform well in the playoffs after the Bucks flamed out in tough losses to the Raptors in 2019 and the Heat in 2020. Some experts believed Giannis needed to leave the Bucks to try and play with other stars to win a championship. Giannis ended those rumors when he signed a max deal to stay in Milwaukee for a long time. Giannis then justified that move this year by helping lead the Bucks to the NBA Finals while having some amazing performances during the run, notably in Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets.
The next question will be to see if the young stars that will have the opportunity to leave their small markets to pursue lives in the larger markets stay home. Superstars like Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, and Donovan Mitchell have all been rumored that they might want to leave and play in a larger market with better co-stars. Teams like the Lakers will always be rumored to have chances to get these stars like they got Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James in free agency to build dynasties. Will the next generation continue to make the move to larger markets, or have Giannis and Chris Paul shown the world that you can win in small markets and should consider loyalty over the next super team? Only time will tell, but the two stars in this years NBA Finals have opened up the question of staying home, which is great for the NBA.