Things Done Changed… Or Have They?
Everyone agrees that super teams are evil. What if everyone is wrong?
by Allen Powell II
“To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.” Irving Wallace
“Real niggas do real things.” Christopher Wallace
There is likely no consanguinity between Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G., and Irving Wallace, a Jewish-American author, but everybody knows that great minds tend to share thoughts. In this case, the aforementioned quotes by Messrs. Wallace perfectly encapsulate the way many NBA fans feel about the current trend in the League toward “super teams.”
Basically, “super teams” are an evil scourge concocted by millionaire athletes to destroy small market teams and the purity of basketball because today’s pampered and arrogant athletes lack the testicular fortitude to win rings like men.
Did I get that right?
It’s funny how easily people accept ideas that validate their worst fears or basest biases. Whether it’s rumors of death panels, or claims that the NBA is on the brink of destruction, folks tend to follow what author Terry Goodkind aptly called “The Wizard’s First Rule.”
“Wizard’s First Rule: People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool…”
Despite the harshness of those words they have the bell clear ring of truth about them. Sadly, what most people believe they believe has very little to do with what they actually believe or the truth. The idea that “super teams” will ruin the NBA and force small market teams to fold is probably false because the NBA has been down this road before.
Remember the glory days?
Many NBA fans consider the period from 1980 to 2000 as the greatest time to have been a professional basketball fan. Fouls were hard, shorts were tiny, and superstars had the guts to stick with their teams until they made them into champions. At least that’s the popular myth promulgated by the sports media and lapped up by nostalgic fans.
Sadly, it’s complete balderdash. From 1980 to 1990 only four teams won championships, and two of those teams, the NBA’s longstanding power dynasties in Boston and Los Angles, won eight of the rings. The only other two teams to reach the apex of NBA success were the Philadelphia Sixers and the Detroit Pistons.
Any true basketball fan can rattle off the names that dominated those championship teams with ease: Bird, Magic, McHale, Parrish, Worthy, Kareem, Isiah, Dumars, Rodman, Dr. J, Moses and Andrew “The Boston Strangler” Toney. That doesn’t even account for role players like John Salley, Jamaal Wilkes, Bill Walton, Danny Ainge, Bobby Jones, Dennis Johnson or Bill Laimbeer.
That is a might impressive collection of talent consolidated among only four teams. How did the League ever survive such a ridiculously unfair distribution of talent that clearly favored big markets with established stars? Obviously, the League must have bumbled along during this horrible period with flagging viewership and putrid crowds, right?
Well how about the 1990s? Clearly the League struggled since one team won a ridiculous six championships during that decade. Surely people hated a league plagued by such glaring lack of parity? Obviously, nobody wanted to watch Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the second best swingman in the game, steamroll opponents with what was clearly an unfairly stacked team, right?
Not even close.
Fans say they hate “super teams,” but can’t stop watching them. League officials swear that the consolidation of star players on big market teams will kill the League’s viability, but all established research says the exact opposite. The truth is, casual and hardcore fans love when “super teams” duke it out for supremacy. Casual fans get easy to understand games between recognizable stars, and hardcore fans get to settle longstanding debates about which players and playing styles are conducive to success. In fact, the only people who suffer might be owners. The rich bastards.
Very few NBA teams are in danger of folding as long as the League has fat television contracts and sponsorships. While individual owners in individual cities might not be swimming in profits, the overall league profits are fine as long as fans are dialed in to the NBA’s storylines.
Parity may drive the NFL’s popularity, but the NBA is about dynasties. Dynasties make things simpler during the long slog of a season. Sure, it may be better for the Denver Nuggets’ bottom line if they have Carmelo Anthony to build marketing and merchandising campaigns around, but it has very little effect on the overall health of the League.
In fact, it might be worse for the beauty of the game.
How many fans have complained of poorly constructed teams built to suit the middling talents of players never meant to be “franchise guys”? How often have teams found themselves mired in a morass of horrible contracts because they overpaid for talent simply because “the market” demanded it? Very few players are cut out to be alpha dogs, and many of them struggle when miscast into that role.
Honestly, the angst among fans and sportswriters seems to be driven by a simple fear of change. The world is changing, and the NBA is following suit. Maybe people were comforted by the fact that despite their massive contracts, NBA players still had to depend on executives to create opportunities for them to win. Maybe people believed that since the system worked that way for so long, changing it up would only bring chaos. And maybe, just maybe, it has a little to do with race.
It doesn’t matter. There is no reason to believe that “super teams” will ruin the NBA. Hell, this just might be the start of a brand new Golden Age. Better yet, a “Platinum Age.”
Let the League upgrade you.