Think about the meaning of competition; it is defined as “the activity or condition of competing”. Okay, simple enough. When I think of that simple definition to a very simple word, I can immediately conclude that there is no competition in the NBA. It’s become so laughable that star players want to team up with each other and completely dominate the game to the point where no one can stop them. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cavaliers last night capturing the NBA Finals championship which really should not surprise anyone. I’m not blaming the Warriors. I’m blaming the players.
If you listened to our podcast last week, Alec and I went on a little bit about how the game of basketball is being ruined by this “SuperTeam” nonsense. First, let me say that if you’re someone who argues a player’s validity in the legends talk of sports around a championship and the number of rings he has, you’re an idiot. There are plenty of players who have unfortunately not been able to win who have astronomically amazing numbers and individual stats. In today’s day and age, there’s always the talk of “Well, how many rings does he have?” It seems like the typical Philadelphia fan cop-out answer but think about it; does a player’s status really hinder on winning a championship or multiple ones?
Kevin Durant, drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007 as the second pick in the draft set out to become one of the best players he could possibly be. When the Sonics folded and became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, Durant became the face and franchise of a brand new expansion team. Sure, the Thunder drafted Russell Westbrook to accompany him, but the Thunder were always that one player, or in basketball terms, a few shooters away from becoming a legitimate force in the Western Conference as well as the NBA as a whole. Often, OKC as they’re known as, would match-up against the Spurs or eventually, the Warriors in a “winner goes to the Finals” or “winner gets within a series of the Finals” match-up. The Thunder made one appearance in the Finals in the Durant era in 2012, but were defeated by LeBron’s Miami Heat. In 2015-16, the Thunder were knocked out by the Warriors which then prompted one of the biggest decisions of any player’s career: either stay on the current team he’s on and recruit some help, or, ditch your team and join a SuperTeam. You know the story by now and you obviously know how it ended, but this is why Kevin Durant’s decision will now affect basketball forever.
Honestly, I think all those reports of “If LeBron loses, he’ll pack up and go to LA, Boston or Chicago” are complete BS. But then again, LeBron has left Cleveland before, so it’s not totally out of the question. I know that this SuperTeam thing is going to become a norm in the NBA and there are those who have opened up to the idea and argue “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” Okay, fair, but are you really going to tell me you’re going to want to watch the same damn team run haywire every single season? Let me put it like this: LeBron started this whole thing in 2010 when he left Cleveland for Miami. I’m not counting the Celtics formation of their “Big Three” because it didn’t involve the best players in the world (no disrespect to Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, they’re Hall of Famers, sure, but they’re not LeBron and KD) LeBron became the biggest villain in sports and quite possibly dethroned the Joker as the biggest villain in the world. Eventually, people got over it, LeBron won his rings and people just waited for the next team to rise up and challenge him. Well, the Spurs beat LeBron’s Heat in 2014 which prompted him to go back to Cleveland to get that ring. He did. And then KD did the same thing in 2016, but the point is, I don’t blame the Warriors for this SuperTeam. They drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. All three players they hit on beautifully and that’s just a testament to their scouting department. The issue here is, KD willingly joined an already dominant team to take the easy way out into getting a ring. Think about it; the Warriors won the Finals in 2015, granted the Cavs didn’t have Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving due to injury. In 2016, they went to 7 games and lost, but still, they made it close (although they blew that 3-1 series lead) and established themselves as the class of the Western Conference.
If KD had joined, say, the Suns or the TimberWolves, this really wouldn’t be much of a discussion. He paired himself up with three players who are All-Stars in their name, and one of whom will probably go down as the best shooter overall in the game of basketball. He easily could have gotten OKC management to look for more shooters to take the pressure off of him and Russell Westbrook and allow them to do their thing on the court, making that team much more difficult to stop. Did Michael Jordan ditch the Bulls and join the Lakers when he lost? No. Did John Stockton ditch the Jazz when he spent his entire 16 year career never winning a championship? No. Did Larry Bird flip the bird to Boston and pair up with the Bulls when MJ and the Bulls knocked him out? No. That era of basketball really is the best because those guys prided themselves on facing each other. Sure, it took time for other players around them to develop, and those guys like Jordan, Bird, Isaiah Thomas, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwan etc. don’t just grow on trees, but they worked their asses off to face each other in the clutch moments. If the other guy won, they simply shook his hand and exclaimed they’d see him next year. They didn’t cop out and try to form SuperTeams, because no one wants to see five legends on one team while the rest of the NBA is a pile of shit teams vying for the lottery. I understand as well as anyone that there is no second place; you play the game to win and you play the game to win a championship. Unfortunately, you can’t always win in life, that’s just how it goes. You pick yourself up and work harder and come back the next season as determined as ever. Man, imagine if KD and Russ had stayed together and taken down this Golden State team in a Western Conference Finals rematch. All that talk about Golden State being the best team ever wouldn’t even exist.
Again, I know the NBA is drifting towards this SuperTeam mentality and I believe the NBA needs to look into something to make it harder for that to happen (listen to our podcast for that) If Kevin Durant had spent his whole career in OKC and never won a ring, I promise you he’d still be a Hall of Fame player. If LeBron had never run down to South Beach and stayed in Cleveland all along, I promise you he’d still be considered one of the greatest. It has gotten to the point where these larger market teams gobble up all the star players and just cruise their way to a championship. It’s ruining basketball. It’s ruining their credibility as a sport. This whole SuperTeam needs to stop and I hope it stops because there’s more to basketball than just teaming up with other players who are greats.
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