Published on August 11, 2018 by Jalen Dupree  
NBA: Have Super Teams Made the Game Unwatchable?
NBA: Have Super Teams Made the Game Unwatchable?

If you were to ask the average NBA fan, “What are your thoughts of the NBA free agency this year?”, or “How do you feel the NBA is progressing as compared in past years?”, a common consensus could be reached, especially if the fan you asked was not a Golden State Warrior fan. The average NBA fan may say: “The league is unfair”, “How could the commissioner let one team become heads above the rest?”, “What’s the point in watching if we all know who is going to win the championship?”, and a personal favorite of Los Angeles Laker fans, “Why would the league officials allow this to happen when all we wanted was Chris Paul in 2011?”.

What are Super Teams?

All these comments or questions have always been accompanied by the phrase, “I’m not going to watch the NBA.” This statement made by most of the NBA fan population should put fear in the NBA for a potential loss of revenue, but has that even really happened or did the NBA call everyone's bluff?

Many fans believe that the first super team created was in 2012 with Lebron James’ Miami Heat, but according to NBA.com, super teams can be traced back to the 1990s, with the dominant Chicago Bulls. The definition of a super team is a team with two superstars and an additional star. Going off that definition alone, there have been many super teams in the history of the NBA dating back to as early as the 1970s.

Why Now?

Looking into why people should care if one team is really stacked compared to the competition is simple. The team that fans are rooting for cannot even compete with the super team, and it is viewed as unfair in the fans eyes. Examples of this can be found throughout the history of sports and have not proven negative for sports in general, in contrast, it made for a good underdog story, for example, the NY Giants. Looking at the legacy of the NBA, super teams were made through drafts and trades. If there weren’t many complaints from fans before, then why now?

NBA Today

The NBA today is a totally different landscape compared to previous years. Living in the age of super-max contracts, super teams can be easily and are largely created in free agency. With the abundance of money, the stars that are focused on winning can make their route towards an NBA title easier by teaming up with one another and taking less money. Then not caring about winning, they could accept a 150-million-dollar contract only to be eliminated by a better team. There are many examples that have all been witnessed, especially in the past two free agency periods in the NBA. Some examples include when All NBA center, Demarcus Cousins chose to go to the reigning champion Golden State Warriors this summer, and back in 2016 when Kevin Durant, the second-best player in the NBA, sparked the debate of super teams by joining the Warriors. Free agency is basically giving players the freedom to go wherever they choose, if cap space allows, and in turn breaking the hearts of those who were once hopeful to raise their teams’ chances of an NBA title.

NBA TV Viewing: % by Frequency of Viewing
Item 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
1-2 times/yr 20.3 19.9 25.4 20.0 24.6 25.9
3-15 times/yr 57.4 56.4 51.0 56.3 55.0 52.6
16+ times/yr 22.4 23.7 23.5 23.7 20.4 21.5
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Base: Total Number of Fans Viewing Games on TV 80,967,000 68,451,000 70,029,000 77,946,000 75,989,000 69,088,000

Source: SBRnet/Tag: Frequent

The information displayed, shows just how frequently the NBA is viewed on TV, and in total how many fans watched the NBA. Starting back in the 2012 season when the “first” super team, the Miami Heat, was formed; that season had the highest number of fans viewing that year. The following year there is a massive drop followed by a slow climb, peaking in 2015, while once again declining in 2017, yet in this statement by Lebron James (@KingJames):

“It’s great for our league,” James said. “Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game...”

Why would Lebron say the above statement when TV ratings are not as high as they were in 2012? Well the reason is this, super teams are great for the league. They bring a brand-new excitement to the league that in turn, brings in more revenue and is the reason why NBA players can make more money with max contracts. The reason for the erratic TV numbers is not that fans stop watching, but the fact that there are multiple platforms where NBA games can be watched, meaning more money for players and franchises. All in all, super teams are not as bad as some fans say and are actually beneficial to the NBA overall.

This blog post was written by Samford University student Jalen Dupree. You can learn more about Jalen Dupree at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jalen-dupree-b43b82167/

Aschburner, S. (August 24, 2017). NBA Super Teams and the History. Retrieved from http://www.nba.com/article/2017/07/01/nba-super-teams-and-history

Sports Market Analytics. (2017). Basketball-NBA TV Viewing: % by Frequency of Viewing. [Data file]. Retrieved from http://sportsmarketanalytics.com.ezproxy.samford.edu/research.aspx?subrid=527