Over the last decade the NBA has experienced a rampant trend of its very best players taking the easy way out to earn their championship rings. Modern day spectators are quick to blame one of the game’s greatest players for the uprising of “super teams” around the league; however, it’s been happening for a quite a while. Super Teams don’t ruin the NBA, they are the NBA.
What is a Super Team?
Considering the term started gaining steam around the time of Decision 1.0 it’s only fair we define a super team based off the Miami Heat roster at that time. James and Wade had become established superstars in the NBA, and Chris Bosh was coming off arguably the best season of his career to date, averaging 24 PPG and 10.8 RPG in 09-10. He never grew into the superstar-caliber player that James and Wade were, but he was still remarkably talented and often praised for his contributions to the team. The drop-off in talent after James, Wade, and Bosh is harsh. Whoever you consider the fourth-best player of the “Healtles” era is unimportant. The bottom line is the team ran through James, Wade, and Bosh, and that means we can define a super team as a roster containing at least 3 of the NBA’s most elite players. Of course, there will always be role players that can make a vital impact (see 2013 Finals Game 6), but the point remains that a super team lives and dies with its star players.
History of NBA Super Teams
You wouldn’t need to do a ton of research to uncover the NBA’s longstanding super team epidemic. In fact, roughly 50% of the league’s championships have been won by just two franchises, the Celtics and the Lakers.
It’s necessary to note that this list doesn’t account for the failed attempts at winning a title via building a super team. It’s also worth considering that some of the powerhouses of the past weren’t assembled in the same manner that they are today. Basically, it’s the same justification people use today when debating the legacies of Michael Jordan and LeBron James: The game isn’t the same as it used to be. Taking that into account, we must adjust the way we look at some of basketball’s greatest teams.
You rarely hear criticism of the Minneapolis Lakers dynasty that won five consecutive titles in the early 1950s, and no one ever tries to discredit the 11 titles that Bill Russell won with the Celtics. It’s mainly because those teams were built through the draft rather than free agency. It’s a fair argument, but surely those rosters fit the same definition used to classify the LeBron James era Miami Heat teams as super teams. You would struggle to find many people who will tell you the Celtics’ and Lakers’ rosters didn’t have a collection of some of the league’s absolute top talent, so why aren’t they regarded in a similar fashion to today’s best-assembled squads?
Now this is where the league’s commercial value comes into play. The NBA’s rise in popularity happened to coincide with the rise in media centers across the United States, but success among teams in larger media markets is no coincidence. Naturally, a sizable market like Los Angeles or Boston is a tantalizing destination for players to seek during free agency because it enables the player’s marketing team to capitalize on the monetary value of his popularity. You can list any number of reasons LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach, but at the forefront were winning an NBA title and further developing his personal brand, and Miami satisfied James’ needs and wants the most.
Notice the similarities between where NBA teams rank, in terms of monetary value, and U.S. media markets rank, in terms of size. Because of the money and fame associated with sports in cities like Boston and L.A. it should come as no surprise that the NBA’s super teams originated there, and there’s little doubt that future high-profile players will continue to gravitate towards the buzzing media hubs around the country.
The NBA doesn’t have a super team problem. It’s only natural that athletes would do whatever it takes to win titles and make the most money possible while doing it, so don’t blame the Warriors or LeBron for being better than everybody else at it.