By Jelani Scott
SPRINGDALE, Md. — LeBron James’ decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers last year could be the beginning of a trend among All-Star NBA players to join forces to create “super teams” to compete for an NBA title.
But not everyone is convinced that superstars and rivals coming together on one squad is the way to go in the NBA.
When James and former Toronto Raptor All-Star Chris Bosh joined fellow All-Star Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat, the league took notice. Coaches and general managers began to realize that the possibility of players wanting to leave their struggling teams for greener pastures was very real.
A hard reality set in when the financial impact of James’ departure began to kick in. According to the Forbes.com NBA Team Valuations 2011 list, when James left Cleveland in the summer of 2010, the team’s value dropped to $355 million in 2010 from $476 million in 2009. James’ departure proved that superstar players, if they leave their struggling teams, take with them not only their talent, but a piece of the franchise as well. This was bad for Cleveland and, unfortunately, other teams may face the same fate.
Throughout the 2010-2011 NBA season, countless trade rumors have swirled about All-Stars Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. Both players are considered franchise players – or players who could push middle-of-the-road teams to a higher level.
Former Denver Nuggets All-Star Carmelo Anthony finally got his wish to leave Denver and was traded to the New York Knicks to join fellow All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs this year, but clearly the team is much more competitive since the acquisition of Anthony and Stoudemire.
Former USA TODAY sportswriter Chuck Johnson said that “super teams” are good for the NBA because “controversy sells.”
Johnson added that, in the case of the Heat, the move to Miami by James and Bosh was a boon for the league because “it got people talking” and generated even more interest in the NBA. For the Heat, the moves also increased revenue with ticket sales and merchandising.
Kenny Williamson, assistant general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies, is not so quick to applaud the moves by James and Bosh. He said super teams are good for the region they represent, but not for the teams they leave.
Williamson added that “sports parity is important because it gives everybody hope.” But if all of the All-Stars teamed up on five teams, it wouldn’t help the teams they leave in terms of the fan base and team success, nor would it help the rest of the league, he said.
Stars have always been important in the NBA, as was the case in the 1980s when Magic Johnson of the L.A. Lakers and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics engaged in one of the most iconic sports rivalries of all-time.
But legends such as Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, who were rivals in their own right during their playing days, have said they never thought of teaming up with their rivals to form a super team. Remarks like those made by Jordan and Barkley have been echoed by some ESPN and TNT NBA analysts.
The notion of superstars gravitating to one team seems to pit the “old-school” players, who thrived on the competition, against the “new-school” players, who some argue play for the money and fame.
Perhaps Barkley’s comments in wake of James’ announcement to leave Cleveland and go to the Heat sum it up.
“In fairness, if I was 25, I’d try to win it by myself. Not technically by myself, but I would want to be the guy. … LeBron is never going to be the guy,” Barkley said on NBA TV.