There really is no time like the postseason in sports. It is the time when the best of the best assert themselves, and the pretenders go home. Every sport’s postseason features its best competition and the most intense games. However, which sport has the very best postseason?
This is very difficult debate, as even the “worst” playoff sports have set the stage for some of the finest moments in all of sports. But without further ado, here’s Overtime’s take on which sport’s playoffs truly are the best.
Kicking off the list is the NBA Playoffs. While the NBA Playoffs have nothing on NCAA March Madness, the months of May and June constitute the finest exhibition of professional basketball the NBA can offer. Some people complain during the season that professional basketball players don’t give maximum effort at all times and play parts of games at low speed. However, this couldn’t be more inaccurate of the NBA Playoffs. The NBA Playoffs feature numerous series of high-octane basketball.
A common criticism of the NBA Playoffs is that the same handful of teams win every year. Now, the runaway favorites every year are the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, or LA Clippers. If another team can win it all, it would be an upset for the ages. While seeding definitely creates a few unbalanced series, many of the early series in the NBA Playoffs are toss-ups. The NBA playoffs’ first couple rounds are lots of fun, but the predictable Finals matchups cause the NBA Playoffs to lose a bit of their luster.
This may seem like a surprise, but the NFL Playoffs just don’t stack up when compared to the other major sports. That said, the Super Bowl is still the biggest sporting event in America. In fact, it has morphed into so much more than merely a sporting event at this point, as its ultra-expensive commercials, innovative broadcast technology, sky-high ratings, and sold-out stadiums can attest. The games have only gotten tougher over the years, as most of the best Super Bowls of all-time have come in the last 15 years. However, the rest of the NFL playoffs fall flat comparatively.
The first two rounds are often chock-full of blowouts, and expose several mismatches. From there on though, the NFL postseason has some of the best games of any sport. But the road to get there can oftentimes be anticlimactic. On top of that, the NFL playoffs don’t have series, but rather single game elimination. This is necessary in as demanding a sport as football, but if you blink, you miss a game.
If we were ranking just the sports’ Final Fours themselves, the NFL would be far and away the best. But the rest of its playoff experience is just so brief and sometimes dull that the NFL’s postseason falls in our rankings.
As the NCAA is to March, the MLB is to October. The MLB regular season is extremely long and arduous, as players compete each and every day for the right to make it to the postseason. Baseball is also the toughest playoff sport to get into, as only 33% of teams make it on any given year. Three long series in potentially adverse weather conditions await those clubs fortunate enough to make it to baseball’s final stage.
Many of baseball’s finest moments have taken place in the postseason. The rich history of postseason baseball permeates the playoff atmosphere, and makes every clutch moment feel that much bigger as the pressure mounts. This environment helps to make each series very intense, as teams that have already faced off multiple times in a year now face off with so much more at stake. And when the World Series kicks in around Halloween, the hype is at a fever pitch.
Coaching and strategy in the MLB postseason is crucial to advancing. Some teams live and die by the home run, which is much tougher to do when you’re facing the best pitching staffs in the game. Teams with weak bullpens or shallow benches are also exposed in the playoffs, and only the best managers can push the right buttons to field a winner. The amount of variables in the MLB playoffs makes it so that only the very best team advances.
There are simply no playoffs better than those of the National Hockey League. There is a distinct difference in watching a regular season hockey game versus a playoff hockey game, and it is hard to explain exactly why. Hockey teams just kick it into another gear in the Spring, as the adrenaline pumps and the tension mounts.
The NHL playoffs feature more upsets than any other sport, which makes any series fun to watch. Hockey is such an unpredictable game that can turn with just one fortunate bounce of the puck. It surely takes a little bit of luck to win the Stanley Cup, as the number one team rarely wins the coveted trophy.
There is more of everything fans love about hockey during the playoffs: more shots, more fights, more overtimes, and more historic moments made. They don’t call the Stanley Cup the toughest trophy to win for nothing. Players often play through broken bones and wired jaws for a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. Every sport takes discipline, desire, and dedication to win a championship, but none requires more sacrifice than the Stanley Cup, which gives the NHL the most enjoyable postseason to watch out of any sport.