Early June means we're down to the last two teams in both the basketball and hockey playoffs. It's the only time of the year when multiple major pro sports leagues in America have dueling playoffs. So, what better time to pose the question to you: Of the four leagues, which has the most exciting postseason? Start with the NBA: When you have the great rivalries with transcendent superstars that we’ve seen through recent decades (i.e. Lakers-Celtics, Celtics-76ers, Bulls-Pistons, Knicks-Heat, Bulls-Knicks, Lakers-Blazers, Heat-OKC, Mavs-Spurs), I’m not sure any of the other leagues can top the NBA. The downside is that officiating drives the playoffs too often and the last 5 minutes of the games are often all that matter. The NHL: Many argue that hockey’s postseason is second to none. More games go down to the wire in the race for Lord Stanley’s Cup than in any other sport. In a split second of a Game 7, it’s all over. Somebody’s moving on and somebody’s going home. Unfortunately, too many teams make the playoffs, diminishing the relevance of the regular season. The NFL: Popularity-wise, football wins out by a landslide. You could say that football is the only sport left that’s not a niche sport. There are no series. It’s 1 and done. I just think more often than not, the Superbowl gives us a fizzle of an ending to it all. Finally, MLB: The postseason is in a fantastic place. The current Wild Card format gives us the thrill element of a 1-and-done and keeps more teams playing meaningful baseball later in the year. And while 2 Wild Cards get in from each League, it still puts the emphasis is on winning the division and what you EARN in the regular season. The division winners earn the advantage of rest, pitching matchups, and home field advantage. I think MLB has gotten it right. So to rank them, I’d go 1) MLB, 2) NHL, 3) NBA, 4) NFL.
Tom James is a 2-time Edward R. Murrow Award-winning sportscaster, who does play-by-play & studio work for the ESPN Family of Networks (including ESPN Wide World of Sports, ESPN3, college football, basketball, & a wide array of other sports), CBS Sports Network, Lax Sports Network, & Pro Watercross. Tom also hosts and produces sports documentaries & is part of the weekly regionally syndicated college football radio show, "Southern Pigskin Tonight."