Many people right now are complaining that the NBA Finals is always the Golden State Warriors vs. LeBron. It’s been this way for four seasons in a row. LeBron himself has reached eight straight Finals appearances. The easy answer is to keep teams like the Golden State Warriors from forming; however, if you’ve paid any attention to the NBA in the last decade, the Dubs are not the first instance of a Super Team.
In 2011, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami. Before LeBron left for South Beach, the Cavaliers were a playoff team, and the Raptors and Heat were both falling in and out of the playoffs for multiple seasons. But “The Heatles” were not created simply because all three players wanted to coast towards a championship (although that was what most expected them to do). The players joined forces to compete with an already established Super Team from Boston.
That’s right, before the Heat, there were the Celtics, who in 2008, joined both All-Star Ray Allen from Seattle and 2004 MVP Kevin Garnett from Minnesota with Paul Pierce. The Celtics had already bounced LeBron from the playoffs two out of three seasons, and even if Wade or Bosh fought hard enough to make the playoffs, a grueling series with the four-headed monster that was the Celtics (who now also wielded a budding star point guard in Rajon Rondo) would be looming. So what did anyone expect these guys to do? If the Miami Super Heat were never formed, who was to stop Boston from reaching the Finals in the seasons following (Boston was eliminated in back-to-back seasons by Miami in 2011 and just barely in 2012)? The Celtics would finally concede the reigns of the Eastern Conference to LeBron James (and Miami), eventually disintegrating their Super Team in the 2013 offseason.
I personally have no problem with Super Teams. The short-lived drama between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was fun to watch, and I actually wish it would have been stretched out a little further. What Miami was missing was another Super Team to challenge them after Boston dismantled. And the only way to increase the likelihood of more Super Teams being created is through contraction. I spoke about contraction last time on my previous “3-Step Solution”, but I’m sure there are still many of you skeptical that this is a formula for success. Below is an excerpt from that post, and further proof that Super Teams are here to stay:
Super Teams are going to happen. Bob McAdoo was a more than capable 6th man for the ’82 Lakers, who already had Magic Johnson and Kareem. They later added #1 pick James Worthy. Bill Walton did the same for the ’86 Celtics, who featured Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. They tried to add a #1 pick as well, but it bore a tragic result. Dennis Rodman made an already unfair Bulls squad with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen legendary in ’96. History has shown us you can’t stop a Super Team from being formed. What you can do is ensure that the quality of play doesn’t fall behind by keeping great players playing with good players.
And that’s what fans are failing to realize right now. There are plenty of teams, right now, with fools gold “superstars” on their team. Carmelo Anthony was a star on the Knicks because he didn’t play with anyone else. It was thought that his Knicks didn’t make the playoffs because he didn’t have any help. Now that he has help in Oklahoma City, we can all see now that Carmelo Anthony is just not that good of a basketball player. Russell Westbrook does need help, but perhaps the help he needs is someone (a coach or an elite point guard) showing him how to run an effective NBA offense? These are the things you find out when you combine players with similar talents, which condensing the league should encourage.
I recently got into a Twitter debate (I know, shame on me) with someone who would like to see the NBA branch out into 50 teams, one for every state in the nation. While I can appreciate his gesture to share a live game of professional basketball with all of our United States, I reminded him that doing so would create close to 300 job openings, pushing the total of active NBA players to 600. Meaning, if the NBA were to grant this wish next season, the entire G-League would play in the NBA, and you and I would be playing in the G-League. Nobody wants to watch us play basketball. Hell, nobody wants to watch the G-League play basketball. Can you imagine how terrible the play would be across the entire league if this were to happen (and would the Warriors ever lose again?)?
Now, imagine that it has already happened. Imagine that the NBA has at least six more teams than it should, because it’s the truth. The golden age of basketball was the 1980’s, but not just because Magic and Larry played back then. It was because there were only 23 teams in the league, which coincidentally ended in 1989 when the NBA expanded to 25 teams. Fewer teams in the league helped create the legendary Super Teams in both Los Angeles and Boston, by ensuring that the NBA wasn’t watered down to the point that one Super Team could wipe away the spirit of competition in a single offseason (much like what happened in 2016). Yes, admittedly, it was usually the Lakers or the Celtics in the Finals for an entire decade (sometimes Sixers and Rockets), but at least one Super Team had the other to challenge. Both teams continued to build around their stars until they couldn’t anymore, and the rivalry lasted 10 seasons.
That’s why it boggles my mind that there are people right now who are damning Kevin Durant’s name, claiming he has “ruined the NBA” by joining the Warriors. This isn’t true. The Warriors were just crafty assholes in creating the necessary cap space to sign a max player following a season in which they won 73 games. It was completely fair and all within the league’s salary cap rules. And, in Durant’s defense, who wouldn’t want to join a team that plays this well, and play for an organization that is sharp enough to figure out how to set a NBA record for wins and still put themselves in place to improve? Especially considering the job market right now isn’t exactly brimming with intelligent and ethical employers.
What the NBA needs now is not to punish the Warriors for being a vastly superior organization. Rather, the league needs another team to figure out how to do this, and challenge Golden State. Take a good look at the landscape surrounding the league right now. It’s not just Magic and Larry. It’s LeBron, it’s Curry, it’s Durant, it’s Kyrie, it’s Davis. And so many more. In the ’80’s, Magic and Larry were able to create two Super Teams in Los Angeles and Boston. Just how many Super Teams could be created in today’s NBA if only 23 teams existed? LeBron making a jump to Houston would create a Super Team mean enough to shake even the hardest of Warriors fans right out of their Under Armor kicks (the ones who were fans when Steph was a rookie, now that is loyalty!). But, of course if the Rockets improve this way, then Cleveland becomes yet another basketball wasteland (again), and would save us all some trouble if they just forfeited the season.
Which is ultimately the underlying problem with Super Teams, isn’t it? It creates a league full of the Haves and the Have-Nots. Right now, the Warriors are the Haves, and the rest of the NBA are the Have-Nots. So, as a fan base, we’re asking the Warriors to split up their talent among the rest of the league in the spirit of competition. But why should we as fans be trained to accept a lesser style of play because there are too many Have-Nots complaining about parity in the NBA? I don’t want a league full of teams with one-star each, where teammates watch and hope that their star Jordan’s their way to the championship. I want to see teams of players sharing comparably equal talent, passing the ball and actually running plays. Why eliminate the Haves when it’s the Have-Nots who are the boring ones? All we’re asking for is to watch the Warriors play basketball on an even playing field. But, how in the hell is that supposed to happen when Devin Booker is wasting away on the Phoenix Suns, or while Giannis Antetokounmpo is trying to make the Milwaukee Bucks appear decent? In a perfect world, they would already be playing together, and at least six fan bases would be spared from humiliation.
Unfortunately for all of us, the NBA has made this bed, and we all have to sleep in it now. Contraction sounds like a well enough idea, but it would take an epic Mr. Deeds type speech to get the NBA and it’s owners to all start hating money. Because that’s what expansion is all about. Sure, the competition across the league would suffer, but if there truly were teams in all 50 states, make no mistake that the NBA would create even more revenue than it’s currently generating. Which is why it worries me when I hear about stories such as the one going around that the NBA is looking towards Kansas City as an expansion team. No offense to Kansas City, but the competition in the NBA is shitty enough. We don’t need to call up 12 more bodies that are currently keeping the G-League open for business.
If Kansas City is in such dire need of some pro hoops, let’s simply gift them a current team from an unappreciative fan base. Because there are plenty of them! Los Angeles doesn’t need the Clippers, Brooklyn doesn’t need the Nets, Atlanta doesn’t want the Hawks. There’s no reason why we need to go through another expansion draft, further diluting the competition in the NBA, when there are teams in the league right now begging for someone to give one shit about their existence.
Perhaps, one day, contraction will be a reality. Until then, enjoy watching “The Warriors Road to the Championship” each and every season.
Follow me on Twitter, for my next great Twitter debate, as well as some takes and re-tweets from this year’s NBA Finals. And, while I can recognize Kansas City perhaps has a serious basketball jones, before we all even think about putting a new team anywhere, let’s make sure the good people of Seattle get their basketball back. They were wrongly done by then-NBA Commissioner David Stern (weren’t we all?), and there is a very well done documentary called Sonicsgate, available on YouTube, detailing the tragic events leading to the Sonics departure for OKC. Clay Bennett is the devil.