If you think super teams are actually damaging to the National Basketball Association, you my friend, are stupid. A little over a quarter of the way through the season and top contenders are floundering, while teams who were pegged for the lottery are floating near the middle of the playoff seeding, some closer to the top. Still though, with the announcement of DeMarcus Cousins’ Warrior debut coming sometime between Christmas and New Years, many fans have taken to the Twitter (@ViewsFromWall) streets complaining that “Here it is! The Warriors are killing basketball!” Which roughly translates to “I’m dumb and I don’t know how professional sports work.” The NBA is really a repetitive cycle, and no, I’m not referring to Golden State being in the finals every year. What I am referring to is the cycle of dominance that has persisted through the NBA since the 60’s. To be honest, inferring that basketball is dying because of this new “super team” trend is insulting to the depth and young talent this league has.
As of right now the Toronto Raptors are in first place in the East. Including Kawhi Leonard, who for certain would’ve been voted in had he not been hurt, that team has two (2) All Stars from last year. That is it. Meanwhile the Boston Celtics, who would’ve had three All Stars, had Hayward’s leg not exploded, AND two members of the Rising Stars game, are currently a game above even and in sixth. Some would consider Toronto one of these super teams, using Serge Ibaka to toss this team into the “big three” category, which is incredibly incorrect. Those people also ignore Milwaukee in second who has one All Star, Philly in third who have two All Stars from last season, Indiana in fourth who have one, and Detroit who had one as well. After the Celtics in sixth, Charlotte has just Kemba Walker in seventh, Orlando rounds out the top 8 with no returning All Stars at all. Yeah, not a lot of super teams out East. Only one and it stinks. Now I know what some dummies are thinking, “Oh yeah, how about the West?! Super teams are dominating the West!”
No they actually are not you fools. Of the top eight teams out West, two have multiple All Stars (Golden State and Oklahoma City) and neither are in first. That honor belongs to Los Angeles, and not the one with LeBron. Yup, the lowly Clippers have somehow risen to the top of the super team-loaded, and also somehow dying, Western Conference. Being led by journeymen Tobias Harris/Danilo Gallinari, alongside Lou Williams and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Clippers stand at 13-6. Meanwhile, Golden State is arguing amongst themselves, resulting in a 5-5 record over their last 10. If that doesn’t destroy the super team myth, then the James Harden and Chris Paul led Houston Rockets ,who are in thirteenth, sure does.
This isn’t a new trend among NBA teams either. Go back and look at every decade in basketball, excluding the 70’s (which was the least watched decade in the league’s history. That is not a coincidence), and it’s more than likely they featured dominating super teams. The 60’s had Russell’s Celtics that had tons of Hall of Famers. Throughout the 1980’s only four teams won a title, and Detroit/Philadelphia only won it once, while the loaded Bird and Magic teams traded shots for the better part of ten years. The 90’s were much of the same as four teams won in that decade as well, with two teams (Detroit and San Antonio) winning just once. Anyone not on Chicago or Houston had no chance winning a title between 91-98. Five teams won the following decade, which featured easily the best team before this Warriors run, the Shaq and Kobe Lakers, whom eventually lost to a team that featured four All Stars. In that decade the Celtics, Heat and Pistons only won once and the majority of the decade was dominated by the Lakers and Spurs. This decade, the one that apparently is bogged down by repetitive finals and top heavy conferences, has featured six champions with the entire league up for grabs this final year. Seven teams have made the finals this decade, and as long as at least Cleveland doesn’t make the finals, this decade will tie the previous one, a decade which dumb fans miss for it’s “competitive nature.”
Somehow morons on the World Wide Web just cannot fathom that their childhood heroes were also on these nefarious super teams. They point at Kevin Durant and call him soft. While what he did was for sure a cop out, at no point in time did any person before Durant who was traded or drafted to an already star studded team say: “Fellas this isn’t fair! One of us has to go play elsewhere for the sake of healthy competition!”. Jordan didn’t boot Scottie out of the locker room to challenge himself. As a matter of fact, on an episode of Inside the NBA, Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said he flew out to Portland in the middle of a season and proposed a plan to the Trailblazers front office that would’ve united himself with Clyde Drexler. Could you imagine the online outrage that would take place if Anthony Davis just hopped on a plane to Boston after a long road trip, with a detailed plan on how to work around the Rose Rule to join forces with Kyrie? Keyboards and phone screens would be ablaze with smoldering hot takes, calling Davis a “coward” and how “This new generation is soft! It’s that damn AAU basketball! None of the guys want to compete! They want it handed to them!! Jordan and Bird would never!” Completely ignoring the fact that Bird’s Celtics literally had rules changed to keep their super team together while adding Bill Walton. They forget how Jordan went out and got Dennis Rodman after getting thoroughly embarrassed the year prior by Shaq and Penny. This silly revisionist history is not just infuriating, but incredibly ignorant, and insults this entire generation of basketball.
On top of all the hypocrisy, the funny thing about this whole debate is that building a super team makes complete sense. Look at the Celtics in 2007. They had just endured three years of pretty smelly basketball, but the East was wide open. Detroit had lost it’s second Conference Final in a row and it was very clear that Dan Gilbert was incapable of building a team around LeBron. Danny Ainge took most of the youth and picks he acquired while being a bottom dwelling team, and traded it for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. That team won a title immediately and once it ran it’s course, Ainge traded Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn for four picks sending the Celtics back to the bottom of the league, killing his super team, and starting the cycle again. Since then, he signed Al Horford and Gordon Hayward as well as packaging picks, prospects and Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving. Across the league, other teams followed suit, like Philly. They tanked for almost a decade until drafting Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Golden State was bad for the majority of three decades before Steph Curry walked through the door. While teams like Boston, Philadelphia and Golden State figured themselves out, San Antonio and Miami had two clash of the titans style series in the finals. When the majority of teams are looking to rebuild, those who are contending do so in an extremely small pool, creating “super teams”, and it’s what every franchise should strive to be.
That’s how sports work, it isn’t just a basketball thing. Teams have to stink to build themselves back up, but while teams are breaking themselves down, the ones at the top have less legit competition. Look at the AFC in football. Since 2003 only four quarterbacks have won the entire conference and at no point has any fan complained about the lack of competition in the NFL. Since 2010 five teams have won the Stanley Cup, and in that span Chicago had a dynasty, Los Angeles won two of their own, and Pittsburgh went back to back. Major League baseball has had the same amount of different teams win World Series Title since 2010 as the NBA has had different champions. This super team problem isn’t NBA exclusive, and it isn’t a problem either. Viewership in the league is reaching all time highs nationwide, and the NBA is on pace to pass the NFL as the most watched league in the country within the next decade. The league isn’t “dying” because of an unstoppable dynasty, it’s thriving. Which it always has.
Do I think some team is going to come out of nowhere and knock Golden State off of the thrown? No, come June, Steph Curry will be a champion again. Do I think this season is null and void because of it? Absolutely not. In this first month alone the NBA has already featured more exciting stories league wide than most leagues see all year. Teams like Sacramento, Los Angeles, Indiana, Denver, Memphis and Detroit shooting up the standings are massive stories themselves, while Boston and Houston’s struggles are big stories for opposite reasons. Plus, you still have people talking about Golden State’s up and downs. The whole Jimmy Butler saga was all anyone could talk about leading up to the season. Of course, any time LeBron James does anything it’s national news. Just because the Finals is a forgone conclusion doesn’t mean this league is in trouble. The chase for a championship isn’t the only story line this league has. It’s been that way for most of its history, and if it hasn’t fallen up to this point, it won’t now.