HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — How quickly we forget Scottie Pippen (as shown here on CSNChicago.com) … and so many others.
This notion that “superteams” or “megateams” being some new phenomenon in the NBA is convenient, but wholly inaccurate. It sounds good, what with new conglomerations of stars popping up seemingly every season from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. But it’s actually a tried-and-true method to winning NBA championships and, like almost everything else from two decades ago, it is being rebranded for this new digital age.
(Hey Lady Gaga, meet Madonna … and high-top fades … and skinny jeans again — really?)
In the NBA universe, anyone upset with the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers for assembling elite talent on their rosters needs to stop hating the players and hate the game. Just because they were built through the free agent/trade lab and not grown organically — like revisionist historians will tell you those championship outfits of yesteryear were built — doesn’t diminish the end result in our eyes.
If the end game is winning championships by any means necessary, why wouldn’t you want a superteam playing in your backyard?
Who cares how they got there?
Fans in San Antonio have never complained about the serendipity that smothered the franchise when David Robinson got injured in 1996-97, just in time for the Spurs to luck into the No. 1 pick in 1997 and pick Tim Duncan.
There are any number of recipes for cooking up a superteam. We have no problem with a franchise stumbling into one (and to their credit, the Spurs had to build on that Duncan-Robinson foundation with shrewd moves and by nailing their draft picks consistently) or making the calculated steps necessary to create your own fortune.
Boston did it with the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen Big 3. Miami did it with the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh Big 3. And the Lakers are attempting to do it with the Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash-Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol Big 4.
There’s no shame in that. No shame whatsoever.
Small-market fans who cry foul over this and claim that the superteam movement doesn’t allow them to compete with their big-market brethren must remember that this is equal parts rub-your-lucky-rabbit’s-foot luck and well-crafted planning by the franchise’s front-office brass.
Oklahoma City has a superteam of their own brewing in the lab at Thunder headquarters. They struck gold with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka in the Draft. Yet no one (outside of Seattle) ever accuses the Thunder of being evil for amassing such an explosive and versatile wealth of talent.
The Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, Bulls and Spurs — the franchises with the biggest piles of Larry O’Brien trophies over the past 42 years — won the majority of their titles with some form of a megateam (or whatever passed for such at the time).
The Celtics of the 1980s, with All-Stars Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson as headliners, was a superteam. The Showtime Lakers of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and others … superteam. Same goes for the Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and the loaded Bad Boys Pistons. Go ahead and check the roster of that Sixers team that interrupted the party in 1983 … Dr. J, Moses Malone and All-Stars Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney = superteam. The list goes on and on.
The only teams of the modern era that might not qualify as superteams are the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets and the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks. Pistons fans want to throw their 2004 team on this blue-collar list, but history will show that a group that included Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Ben Wallace at his zenith and Rasheed Wallace (all four made the All-Star team one year during their time together) was much closer to the megateam end of the spectrum than they were to the other side.
We’re not saying all of this to discourage the perceived “have-nots.” There are plenty of teams that haven’t been afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom that superstars, and superstars alone, win titles.
Just know that breaking into the mix without one of the league’s true superstars headlining a mini-gathering of All-Stars is going to be tough to do. And even when you do have that mix, it doesn’t guarantee anything (sorry, Knicks fans). You don’t always get what you pay for in this league.
So the next time you hear someone bellyaching about the game being taken over by superteams and how unfair it is, remind them that there have been only nine franchises that have won titles in the NBA since 1980. Almost every one was a superteam, or at least a megateam. It’s nothing new.
Pippen knows this better than anyone.