If you can’t beat them, join them.
This phrase seems to be the mindset of star players in the NBA and it’s now seeped into the front offices around the league too. This ‘Super Team’ ideology is current headlined by Kevin Durant’s decision to join forces with the Warriors who accomplished the most successful regular season in NBA history this past year. Because of Durant’s decision, the Warriors could very well be the favorites to win the Larry O’Brien trophy for the next five years. With a starting line-up that will include Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and MVP Stephen Curry, how can anyone stand up to a team of this calibre?
Insert the four time MVP, 12 time All-Star, and three time NBA champion LeBron James. The king of Cleveland finally brought a title to the city that had been without a major championship for over 50 years and found himself in tears during post-game interviews after accomplishing what he set out to do when he was initially drafted. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, the same player, who is currently being held up as a hero by an entire city, was hated to an extent where his jerseys were burnt to ashes by almost every sports fan in Ohio.
Rewind to July 8th, 2010.
I sat on my couch watching LeBron James on national television make a decision that would change the NBA. As a Bulls fan, I prayed that somehow the self-proclaimed king would make Chicago his new home, however when James finally said, “I’m taking my talents to south beach”, I was in shock. The best player since Michael Jordan ditched his hometown and joined what was at the time a top shooting guard in Dwyane Wade and one of the best big men in the game in Chris Bosh to form one of the most talented teams in NBA history. At that moment, the league changed its mindset and general managers everywhere changed from, “how can we win a Championship?” to, “how can we beat LeBron James?”. We know where the story goes from there, with the Miami Heat appearing in four straight NBA finals and LeBron winning multiple MVP awards.
The effect of LeBron’s decision was the creation of the “Super Team” era. The Knicks tried to be contenders when adding the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, but ultimately failed in their aim of becoming a championship contender. The L.A. Lakers also tried to follow suit in 2012 by creating a ‘Big 4’, when they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The plan ended catastrophically, with issues on and off the court forcing the team to disband prematurely.
Even after LeBron James decided to leave Miami and return home to Cleveland, he was still linking up an emerging star in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, a double-double superstar to form yet another super team.
The image for a team of superstars and a supporting cast of lower-paid bench players seems to now be in the mind of every NBA team. Whether it’s the Bulls trying to grab glory again with Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Rajon Rondo or the Knicks grabbing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to add onto Carmelo Anothony and a budding Kristaps Porzingis.
Am I an old soul for thinking that the NBA should be run by stellar coaching with players that fit the system? I’m still the biggest admirer of coaches like Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs who built their team by drafting players to fit a system. The Spurs were a championship contender for a decade because they built their team with a long-term mindset, similar to the Warriors in the past few years. The Dubs drafted three all-stars within years of each other that all compliment each other’s play style and happened to lead to a championship.
The Warriors basically had a abundance of cookies on their plate. What more did they need? But if any sane child were given the option, they’d ask for one more. That new cookie was Kevin Durant.
It’s obvious that ‘Super Teams’ will run the NBA for the next few years and will most likely only end with LeBron James’ retirement. There’s nothing that anyone can do besides pray for a cinderella team to upset the balance. For now, I’m going to prepare myself for next year’s NBA finals: Warriors vs. Cavaliers.