Super Teams | Not NBA’s Kryptonite
By: Andrew F.
In this, the year of Olympics, if there were medals handed out for the NBA off-season, there would be no doubt that the Lakers would win the Gold.
Not only did they add a Hall of Fame point guard in Steve Nash and a pair of great bench players (one of the Lakers biggest weaknesses) in Antwain Jamison and Jody Meeks, but they added the best center in the league in Dwight Howard.
To get all of that the Lakers only gave up two things of value, the 2nd best center in the league in Andrew Bynum and money.
So another “Super Team” is created in the NBA and more small markets are crying foul over the whole thing. But before they complain about their lack of ability to compete with these so called “Super Teams”, I believe they need a little history lesson to learn why not only are they wrong, but the NBA NEEDS these teams to thrive and survive as an entity.
Let’s jump in the way-back machine to a time before the Celtics created their “Big 3” (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce), and before the Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Hell, let’s go back to when Larry Bird was actually a player, and not a contract stipulation as he is now.
That’s right, the time is 1980, Jimmy Carter is the President, a gallon of gas was $1.19, you could buy a new car for under $4,000 (and it wasn’t a Yugo), The Empire Strikes back was released and the NBA Finals could only be seen on tape delay. Let me restate the last part of that statement, the NBA Finals could only be seen on tape delay.
In the 10 years that followed, do you know how many times the Cavaliers, Bucks, Pacers, Warriors, Jazz and Nuggets won, or even MADE the NBA Finals? ZERO!!!!! Over the entire decade (remember this was long before the Super Teams), only 4 teams won and NBA title and only 5 teams even made the Finals.
Care to take a guess as to who the four title winners were? How about the Celtics, Lakers, 76ers & Pistons. That’s right, the big market bullies who people complain about buying NBA Titles now, were the only ones to win a title in the entire decade.
Take it even further to the 90’s, and only 3 more teams (Bulls, Rockets and Spurs) won a title. That means in a 20 year span, only 7 different teams were able to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and the small market Spurs only won one title, and that was at the very end of this span.
I spoke to a retired Hall of Famer, and he told me that without the Lakers and Celtics, the NBA would cease to exist. He also said that those teams obviously don’t have to be good every year, but they have to at least be able to compete.
So I did a little digging, and the numbers bear out EXACTLY what I was told. Since that same time in 1980, do you know which two NBA Finals were the lowest rated? How about the 2003 battle between the Spurs and Nets (a paltry 6.5 rating) and the 2007 battle between the Spurs and Cavaliers ( a worst in NBA History 6.2 rating).
Apparently not even LeBron James could make that NBA Finals watchable.
On the other side of the coin, the most watched NBA Finals all included the Bulls, the Lakers or the Celtics. All of these Finals were in the 80’s or 90’s, long before Lebron took his talents to South Beach, or Kevin Garnett teamed up with Paul Pierce
So what does all this mean? It means if the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls were all horrible for an extended period of time, the NBA would suffer horribly. The league wouldn’t work if those small markets were the ones dominating.
So before you go bitching and moaning about how unfair the system is Mr Gilbert (Dan Gilbert the owner of the Cavaliers and one of the whiniest SOB’s in the league), just think that if these teams did not succeed, you would not be able to line your pockets with the cash that the NBA generates from it’s big TV contracts (about $930 million per year).
The Lakers (like the Yankees in baseball and the Cowboys in the NFL) are the most polarizing team in the sport. People either love them or hate them. Very few, if any, people are apathetic towards them. It is this love or hate that has people watching them, and in turn has the Networks paying a Kings ransom to get the NBA on the air.
Nowadays, it’s more than just the Lakers as a whole that move the needle. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Lebron James are just as polarizing as the Lakers. With that being said, I can guarantee you two things:
- Nobody will watch a Pacers-Grizzlies Finak
- When, as most are predicting, Bryant and Howard lead the Lakers to face Lebron and the Heat in the Finals, it will be one of the highest rated Finals of all time.
To put a bow on this whole thing, long before the “Super Teams” were formed, there was a competitive imbalance in the NBA, and it is that imbalance that makes the league a ton of money. So quit bitching and complaining about the unfairness of it all, and thank the Lakers and others for being exactly who they are.