Just yesterday five years ago, Lebron James won his first ever championship. He didn’t do it alone, and he didn’t do it on his hometown team. He did do it in Miami with two other prominent players (Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh), and a cast built around those three players. Many fans and players (*cough* Draymond Green *cough*) believe that this was the modern start of the NBA Superteams. However, these strong Superteams are so simple to construct they almost happen by accident. When a team has a starting five and you replace a player with an All-Star, the effect can be predicted by a toddler, much less a General Manager.
The Superteam trend is alive and well in 2017, but debatably goes back to the 1960’s, with Wilt Chamberlain scoring an iconic 100 point game in 1962 (no one has ever matched this.) However, this phenomenon is most recognized in recent NBA history by Lebron’s move to Miami in 2010, again with his move to Cleveland in 2014, and then last season Kevin Durant moving to the Warriors for his first championship and their 5th.
Whether built at once like the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics or piece by piece like the current Warriors, the NBA has always and will always experience the power of Superteams. It’s the only American sports league where a team’s performance and success can be dictated by gaining one key player, and completely flipped by having two. (I know what you’re arguing, that Quarterbacks can completely change the climate of an NFL team, and this is true, but that’s the only position it works for. Change just one safety or tight end and you might see improvement. Change your center, point guard, shooting guard, power forward or small forward and you may see a championship.)
Perhaps this is why Durant has gotten the cold shoulder by NBA fans after this championship. He went from being a loved MVP in 2014, leading the Oklahoma Thunder with Rusell Westbrook to the Western Conference Finals, to being seen as spineless, cocky player abandoning a franchise to play on possibly the most stacked roster since the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. It was a personal decision that gave him a ring, but will he ever be given the proper credit for it? Unlikely.
Despite the boring championship series and overly well-predicted result the Warriors Superteam created this year, the NBA is actually financially thriving and the viewership is some of the highest ever.
So what does this mean going forward, as major power players will continue to want to play together versus build franchises and rivalries from the ground up?
Probably a lot more sleepy championships series, little to no surprises throughout the season, more obvious underdogs, more stretched betting spreads, and people who are fans of players (because of how quickly they move) versus fans of teams (who rarely move).
It just isn’t enough anymore to have a coach build, mold and grow a team, players find short cuts to a ring, and with the salary cap inflated another five million dollars for this season, they don’t have to take a pay cut.
As the NBA draft airs tonight, another likely Superteam is brewing: The Philadelphia 76ers.
Considering the Philadelphia 76ers as a Superteam just a week ago was nonsense. They hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2011-2012, they have no outstanding records, they have been infamous and almost hated for their recent “tanking” tactics for fresh talent, heck, even their star player is nicknamed “The Process,” and what a process it’s about to be.
On Monday, the Boston Celtics traded their first overall pick in the NBA draft to the 76ers. This will likely acquire them Markelle Fultz, a guard from Washington and the clear top recruit in this draft. He will join a brand new “Superteam-to-be.”
This will build a 76ers core around:
Joe Embiid aka “The Process”: Despite having only played 31 games ever in the NBA, he has still proven he’s an impressive 7-foot beast of a center with versatility in defense, shooting and playing in the post. This made him a competitive All-Star candidate and rookie of the year front-runner last season.
Ben Simmons: The overall #1 pick last draft, missed his entire first season due to a foot injury, but has already shown high potential in college, being compared to a Magic Johnson style point guard. He has a lot to prove, but with a season off he seems more than ready to hit the ground running.
Markelle Fultz: Presumed first overall pick. A 6’4 guard with an orangutan 7-foot wingspan, he’s been described by talent scouts a shoe-in Allstar, franchise-changing player who can score, assist and defend.
If these three young players can stay healthy, they’re the super team to watch out for. And the whole league is watching.
The NBA draft starts tonight at 7 p.m. EST.