NBA

Super Teams Lovem or Hatem

Lebron James and Dwayne Wade at the 2019 All Star Game

Free agency changed the game. Today your favorite team could be suffering through a losing season. However, with the stroke of a pen and the right players, tomorrow, they are coined, instant contenders.

We live the era where social media and news outlets sensationalize everything, overreactions and the need to be the first to report the latest gossip supersedes the importance of truth.  It force-fed to the public for consumption. Everyone goes in a frenzy, claiming they know who is doing what and who is going where.

Hypotheticals have become a part of sports lure and debates. Experts make bold predictions on who will win season awards, who will be crowned the next champion — giving cities and fanbases a glimmer of hope, due in large part to who just joined the team via free agency.

Some franchises can’t keep up, due to the market they are in, so it’s a seemingly endless struggle and each season brings new disappointment and frustration, but with the stroke of a pen, things can change.

I am certainly not claiming to be an expert in knowledge of what it takes to properly run a successful sports franchise or the foremost authority in sports journalism. One thing I am is a fan and lover of sports. I watched and suffered through years of disappointment and lamented as a kid when my teams lost.

It seems rare these days that teams in the NBA are successful at building a championship team through the draft, trade this guy for that guy, cut this guy to clear cap space to hopefully land an impact player or two that can change everything.

When it happens, opposing fan bases become angry. Lashing out, expressing disappointment to the point that it becomes personal between fans. Debates become insults and threats. Understandably the passion that sports generates can incite those feelings.

 Does it solve anything? Does it change the outcome of the events that happened, do the owners and players even care about what we think? Absolutely not, they are worried about securing a future for themselves, ensuring that their families are provided for and the money generated from our devotion to our favorite teams.

More than anything in recent memory that has caused division started heated debates and arguments is the creation of super teams. Fans are left with a feeling of betrayal when their favorite athlete departs to another franchise to team up with a player of their caliber for a chance at championship glory.

In my opinion, this is exaggerated. I am going to spend some time digging my teeth into this concept in hopes to debunk that whole notion it just started. Some will read this and call me an idiot, some will agree. I certainly understand both sides of it, and why they will feel the way they do. I also understand that times are different. Past generations did not have the luxury of free agency and were essentially stuck where they were drafted. I get all that.

So, let’s talk about these super teams. Are they real? Absolutely

Super teams, according to popular opinion, is having three players either of all-star or hall of fame caliber playing together, for another ridiculous concept; chasing championship rings.

How much effort do these men have to put into their craft for it to not translate to any postseason success? Perhaps in some cases, just one chance to play for a championship sets the bar of greatness high. Is that not what sports are about? Is that not what we compare players too, measuring them against the all-time greats? Before they have had enough of losing seasons and losing prime years of their careers?

I do not blame them for wanting that; I do not blame them for taking power into their own hands; I may have my dislikes about it. It won’t change the fact that these are human beings just like us, and they want what is best for them. It’s perfectly fine to be the franchise that happens to be the lucky one to acquire those assets, yet hypocritically it is not okay or fair to the rest of the league.

Are we not allowed to seek employment elsewhere if we are not happy with our jobs? If an employer comes calling and offers you a large sum of money to work for them, are you not going to consider it? Or would you hand in your two weeks’ notice and thank your employer for the opportunity they gave you, I would.

Life is about self-preservation and providing the best possible situation for you and your loved ones.

Why is it any different for these guys? Because they play for our favorite team? Does loyalty mean that much, and does it obligate anyone to have to stay because we say so? Does it tarnish legacy? Do you care what anyone would think of you if you left for a better situation? Probably not. Why should they?

I am going to offer some examples to you of these super teams, that had existed long before we were born and will continue to happen long after we are gone, unless a drastic change is made, which won’t and should not happen.

As early as the 1960’s super trios have been in the league. This would be a book if I noted every five years since then in providing you super teams that have three hall of fame or worthy all-star players on each team.

My focus will generate around those that had the most postseason success, not necessarily championship teams; let’s be real about it. There is plenty of hall of fame players that never won a championship.

 The Celtics and Lakers dominated early, but there were exceptions and plenty of teams along the way that constructed quite a trio of talent.

The 60’s Boston Celtics; Bill Russell had the benefit of having Bob Cousy and John Havlicek. Granted, there were only as many as nine teams up until 1970; the league expanded to 17 by 1975. They were still by today’s standards considered a super team.

 The 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers; Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, and Hal Grier, by all estimations; that was a super team as well.

The 1970-71 Los Angeles Lakers were loaded; Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, and Jerry West. That was a super team.

The 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and Bob Dandridge, an NBA championship trio and a super team again by today’s standards.

1970-71 New York Knicks; Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, and Dave DeBusschere. A super team without question.

I am going to fast forward a bit to the 1980s, by then the league expanded to 23 teams.

1980-81 Los Angeles Lakers; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper, and Magic Johnson. Without a doubt, a super team.

1982-83 Philadelphia 76’ers; Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones and Moses Malone, an NBA champion super team and one of two teams in that decade other than the Lakers and Celtics to win a championship.

1985-86 Boston Celtics; Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale, would have to wait one year to claim their championship. Again another super team, by today’s standards.

1985-86 Los Angeles Lakers; Arguably one of the greatest teams ever. Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You guessed it, a championship super team.

1985-86 Houston Rockets; Hakeem Olajuwon, John Lucas, and Ralph Sampson. A super trio.

1988-89 Detroit Pistons; Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Dennis Rodman, a loaded roster, and one of the best teams ever and the second of two teams in the ’80s to win a championship other than the Lakers or Celtics.

Two super teams dominated the 80’s. The Sixers were competitive early that decade; the Rockets got by the Lakers twice. Other than that, the Lakers and Celtics, ran that decade.

1988. Free agency started, and that changed everything. League expansion was at 25 teams, would expand again to 27 a year later. Would not expand again until 1995.

1991-92 Portland Trailblazers; Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth, and Clyde Drexler. Perhaps a Championship trio if they had not run into the loaded Pistons back to back team, or Michael Jordan. They were close to being in three straight finals.

1991-93 Chicago Bulls; Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant, a debatable super trio, a dynamic duo. That alone should speak to how great Jordan was, that’s for another column perhaps. A championship trio, you bet.

1992-93 Phoenix Suns; Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, and Tom Chambers. A loaded roster with a super trio for sure, who the three are, is up for debate.

1993-95 Houston Rockets; Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Horry, and Kenny Smith. A back to back championship trio.

1993-94 New York Knicks; Patrick Ewing, Doc Rivers, and Charles Oakley, a trio that gave the Bulls everything they could handle. It took an unexpected Jordan retirement for them to get their championship chance finally.

1994-95 Orlando Magic; Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway and Dennis Scott, a finals appearance trio.

1995-98 Chicago Bulls; A trio that broke the single-season record for wins at 72-10 and a three-peat; Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.

I could keep going with plenty of more examples of great teams that had trios, by today’s standards and opinions would be considered a super team.

This wasn’t coined until the anything is possible championship trio of the 2007-08 Boston Celtics; Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Some would perhaps argue that it started with LeBron James leaving Cleveland to join the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

I am telling you that super teams have always been around, it has been excessively over dramatized and given too much attention. Thus, creating all this unnecessary bickering amongst fans and hatred for players doing what they see best for their chances to win.

Some will read this and realize hey, he didn’t mention the great Spurs teams, Lakers of the early ’00s or the great Jazz teams of the ’90s.

My focus was to offer some, not every team in the history of basketball that had a trio of players that could be considered a super team. This concept is what is ruining the league by the complete overreaction of its fanbase, the force-feeding of it from the media.

Great teams usually have a trio of players that are above average. Putting three superstars on a team together does not mean that multiple championships will happen. It is possible, even probable a team might win one or two even, but to three-peat championships is nearly impossible. Given the level of talent and rules changing, players having the ability to go wherever they want once they are no longer contractually obligated sets up a new dynamic of potential super team formations.

The concept of a super team did not just start; it’s always been around; it’s just overblown these days and given to much publicity. I think we need to step back a bit and reevaluate the hate we have when they leave for greener pastures, if you want to hate, blame ownership and management for either not building something to keep them around or for having poor talent evaluation when drafting a team to build around said “superstars.” 

Super teams are not the player’s fault; it’s ours for feeding into it.

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