In the frenetic world that is the NBA, conventional wisdom has the balance of power residing in whatever division houses the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics or Chicago Bulls.
But nothing can be further from the truth.
Since the NBA realigned for the 2004-05 season, the Southwest Division has won a league-high three of the seven NBA championships. That includes two by the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and '07, and the Dallas Mavericks' title last year.
By contrast, the Pacific Division has won a pair of NBA titles since 2004-05 -- by the Lakers in 2009 and '10. The Southeast Division's Miami Heat won the 2006 NBA championship, and the Atlantic Division's Boston Celtics won the title in 2008.
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Despite the lack of buzz and hype, the NBA's power division is the Southwest Division. That's the division that houses the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets, Spurs and Mavericks.
Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Josh Smith, John Wall and Steve Nash play in two divisions -- the Pacific and Southeast -- that have combined to win as many NBA championships over the past seven seasons as the Southwest Division teams.
Even the Southwest Division's "bottom-feeders" -- the Grizzlies and Hornets -- have gotten in on the act. New Orleans was seeded No. 2 in the Western Conference in 2008, and the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies upset the No. 1 Spurs in the first round of last year's playoffs. That sums up the overwhelming power of the Southwest Division.
The teams in the Southwest Division don't create the buzz of the Lakers, Heat and Knicks. All they do is win.
TNT analyst Steve Kerr (who helped win NBA titles in 1999 and 2003 for the Spurs) credits a lot of the winning and overall dominance to Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki and Spurs forward Tim Duncan.
"You have two of the strongest organizations in basketball in Dallas and San Antonio in that same division," Kerr said. "You have two very, very special players in Dirk and Tim, who happen to reside in the same division and grow up in really strong organizations that knew how to sustain their success.
"Throw that in with the emergence of Memphis... [and] Houston's usually been a pretty solid team, too. Yeah, the Southwest has probably been the best division."
Under that backdrop, the Southwest Division likely will be waving another NBA championship banner sometime next month.
The No. 1-seeded Spurs start a best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series at 7:30 tonight at home against the No. 2-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. Armed with a team that needs a magnifying glass to find its weakness, the Spurs are overwhelming favorites to capture their fifth NBA title dating to 1999 and give the Southwest Division even more bragging rights.
Also, in the nearly eight years since the NBA's realignment, there have been eight times where at least four of the five teams in a division qualified for the playoffs. The Southwest Division accomplished that feat four times. No other division did it more than once. The Atlantic Division has never done that, and it features Philadelphia, Toronto, New Jersey, the Knicks and Celtics.
That led TNT analyst Reggie Miller to say: "You just look at that Southwest Division and all the teams. On a nightly basis, you've got to bring it."
So, feel free to get caught up in all the hype about the Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Celtics, Bulls, Bryant, Wade, James and Howard. When it comes to NBA championships, the balance of power resides in the Southwest Division.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760