Jeff Van Gundy Your 2016 NBA Playoffs MVP

By on June 20, 2016

JVG

It has not been easy for ESPN during this year’s NBA playoffs. For the conference finals, rival network TNT got the rights to air the series between Stephen Curry (and the Golden State Warriors) against Kevin Durant (and the Oklahoma City Thunder). It was a series that went the full distance and saw the Warriors bounce back from a 3-1 series hole, becoming just the 10th team to fall that far down the rabbit hole only to claw their way out and win the series. ESPN, on the other hand, was forced to air the Cleveland Cavaliers toying around with the Toronto Raptors for six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, a series that had as much luster and fanfare as the newest Kirk Cameron movie.

While TNT had the best series, ESPN had the best broadcaster. Like the LeBron James of the broadcasting world, he is the best at what he does on the second-best team. I’m talking, of course, about former coach-turned color commentator Jeff Van Gundy, the real MVP of these NBA Playoffs.

The 2016 playoffs have been marred by sub-par quality and a record number of blowouts, but Van Gundy has been a beacon of light for ESPN and NBA basketball. He frequently displays the type of rogue, opinionated personality without sounding like Parks and Recreation’s Craig Middlebrooks that used to separate ESPN from every other sports affiliated rival. Whether he is deep diving about the need to change NBA rules, assailing about the constant disease of flopping, or attempting to quote DJ Khaled, Van Gundy is always ready to entertain and enlighten his audience no matter what the scoreboard says.

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TNT easily has the best studio show before and after a game, but I don’t believe they have anyone who can match Van Gundy during a game, a skill set that I believe is far more difficult to master, especially given ESPN’s penchant to stay as scripted as possible. Now, with ABC/ESPN having sole rights to the NBA Finals, everyone has been able to enjoy the pleasure of listening to Van Gundy rage against the machine without having to resort to A Clockwork Orange type punishment of watching the NBA D-League eastern conference or another Los Angeles Lakers blowout. Just listen to this story about O.J. Simpson he told during Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Van Gundy isn’t all about stories that tug at the heartstrings, however. Here is Van Gundy in 2015 railing against the intentional foul rule, the worst rule in the NBA.

Here is more of Van Gundy’s disdain of flopping. Van Gundy’s rants are all the better when his broadcast partner, Mike Breen, shows the slightest hint of disagreement. Listening to these two go back and forth is about 75 percent more entertaining than most games they are required to call.

In blowouts (Lakers games), Van Gundy knows when to smoothly transition to a different topic and start up a conversation about more important things in life than basketball. Like tortilla chips.

Rumors are circulating that Van Gundy may soon go back to coaching, something he hasn’t done since 2007 when he coached the Houston Rockets. While Van Gundy is a great coach, I hope he sticks around the broadcast table a little while longer. With the lack of a clear-cut MVP on the court, Van Gundy has undoubtedly been the most solid performer in the Finals without having kicked anyone in the groin. Unless James and/or Kyrie Irving go nuclear again as they did in Game 5, Van Gundy’s steady radiating of greatness cannot be ignored. Sure, it may be unprecedented to give an MVP award to a broadcaster, but these whole playoffs have been unprecedented, and much of it an unprecedented bore. So, why not give it to the man who has helped make NBA basketball watchable when most of the games have been anything but? I know where my non-eligible vote is going.

This article, Jeff Van Gundy Your 2016 NBA Playoffs MVP, first appeared on Oregon Sports News.

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