Commentary: Are ‘Super Teams’ ruining the NBA?

Commentary: Are ‘Super Teams’ ruining the NBA?
June 29
04:00 2017

The Golden State Warriors just dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers in a short five game series to bring home their second NBA championship in the last three seasons.  Both the Warriors and the Cavaliers are full of All-Stars and have very good complementary players coming off the bench. 

These two goliaths have faced off in the past three NBA finals and barring any mega trade or acquisition from another contender, both teams look to match up again next season.  Many fans and pundits say the fact these two teams are dominating the league and look to do so for the foreseeable future is a bad thing.

I am confused by this take on the league because in my mind, we have always had super teams in some way, shape or form in the NBA.  But just like in the past, these two teams will not dominate the league for too much longer.  With free agency, contract demands and player egos playing a factor, parity will eventually even out the league.

Let’s look at a bit of history from the league.  Early on, the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers won five NBA championships from 1949-1954 and are widely considered the first dynasty in the NBA.  Soon after Mikan’s Lakers began to decline, Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics quickly picked up the mantle as the next big thing. 

With players such as Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, the Celtics dominated the era, winning 11 championships from 1957-1969, which included winning eight straight from 1959-66.  Those teams also included Hall of Fame players such as John Havlicek, K.C. Jones and Sam Jones, to name a few.  The 1962-63 Celtics had 9 eventual Hall of Famers on the roster, so they definitely are considered a super team.

The 1970s saw an explosion of athletic talent pour into the NBA, which created teams with multiple All-Stars.  The Lakers of the ’70s included such great players as Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, all are now Hall of Famers.  This trio only won one NBA championship (1972) but was a great team that ran into a better Celtics team time and time again. 

Other great teams from the ’70s include the New York Knicks with Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Winston-Salem State legend Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, which won two championships (1970, 1973); and the Milwaukee Bucks with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robinson.  The Bullets and Celtics also fielded great teams in the decade.

In 1976, the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association, which created an influx of talent that shaped the decade to come. With players coming in the NBA like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, David Thompson, Moses Malone and George Gervin, the league was in good shape. The drafting of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird by the Lakers and Celtics in 1979 didn’t hurt, either.

The ’80s was the golden era of basketball. Magic’s Lakers, who won five championships during the decade (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and the Celtics winning three (1984, 1984, 1986) dominated the era.  The Lakers had Johnson, Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott.  The Celtics had Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton.  The Philadelphia 76ers had Malone, Dr. J and Maurice Cheeks. The Houston Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson and the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons had Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars and Adrian Dantley. Those teams were all great teams in the decade and could be considered super teams.

The ’90s was the coming out party for Michael Jordan and the Bulls.  They won six championships (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998).  The featured greats were Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and later on Rodman and serviceable players like Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc.

The Houston Rockets, who won two championships while Jordan was retired, was also a very good team. 

The Rockets attempted to recreate their championship run later in the decade when they acquired Charles Barkley in 1997 and then Scottie Pippen in 1998 but were unable to recreate their championship magic. The ’97 team featured Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Barkley. All three are Hall of Famers.

The 2000s featured Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers along with the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers, and Sacramento Kings. All had great teams that many would consider super.

The Boston Celtics, Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Miami Heat of the 2010s all had teams many would consider a super team.  This proclamation that super teams are ruining the league is false because there have always been super teams.  The balance of power always jumps from team to team, so even though the Cavs and Warriors seem unbeatable, in one or two years that won’t be the case.  They may still be great but there will also be other great teams to compete.

Many will claim that the term “super team” comes from when a team is created through trades and free agency versus acquiring good players via the draft and developing them.  With players chasing the big payday, most general managers and coaches do not have the luxury of waiting for talent to develop so, when the opportunity comes along to better your team with a great player, you have to jump at the chance even at the expense of younger talent.

The 2017-18 season may be a repeat of this season with the Cavs and the Warriors in the finals, but as always, there will be a team or teams that will soon compete and they will be the next super team.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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