NASHVILLE — First it was Wayne Gretzky at the podium, talking about how his ’84-85 Edmonton Oilers team was named the greatest of all time.
Then, Gretzky was joined by his longtime teammate, Paul Coffey.
Then, Charles Barkley showed up.
So yes, it was quite the scene prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, and Barkley — a self-proclaimed hockey nut, here courtesy an invite from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman — wasted little time showcasing his signature bombast.
Before lauding the compelling nature of the NHL postseason — “there’s nothing more nerve-wracking than Stanley Cup playoff overtime hockey, it’s the craziest thing,” he said — the TNT analyst had some critical words for the NBA playoffs.
“I’m not breaking earth-shattering news, the NBA playoffs have not been very good,” Barkley said. “It’s not been a lot of fun broadcasting games this year.”
The NBA has come under fire for most of the last two months. Lack of competitive balance has been a major issue, with Golden State going undefeated through the first three rounds, and Cleveland going 12-1 en route to the Eastern Conference championship.
In the NBA Final, things haven’t gotten much better.
The Warriors raced out to a 2-0 lead, beating the Cavs by 22 in the first game and 19 on Sunday night. And that Game 2 blowout came after NBA commissioner Adam Silver was forced to address the lack of competition issue following Game 1.
“From a league standpoint, you always want to see great competition,” Silver said, per CBS. “It’s what our fans want to see, it’s what we provide in this league.
“But having said that, this is real life. It’s not scripted, and it happens. So, sure, the fan in me would love to see more competition at times, but on the other hand, I’ve said it before, I think we should also celebrate excellence.”
Barkley didn’t necessarily agree.
“That’s one of the things I love about hockey — the uncertainty from round to round,” he said. “It’s been just another great year.”