In years past, NBA superstars would scoff at the idea of joining forces with their biggest competitors, choosing instead to build their own brand with the teammates they already had. Today, everything has changed.
It’s hard to say when the concept of the super team really began. (May I note that a super team is entirely different from the Dream Team.) Some would argue that LeBron James started the trend when he left Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat. Others might say Kevin Durant‘s move to the Golden State Warriors was when the term “super team” was first used widely. Either way, it seems that the idea of superstars working to form alliances across the league is here to stay–at least for now.
The 2017 off season started off slowly at first, but quickly heated up with the free agency decision of Gordon Hayward and trade orchestrated by Chris Paul shaking up the Western Conference. Free agents are in control of their own destiny to a certain extent, and if you’re a mid to high level superstar you can practically name your own price for almost any team in the league. What’s more, if you happen to rank among the top tier of superstars, you might even be able to dictate what team you play for–while under contract.
At least that’s how things are beginning to appear. In the middle of his multi-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving expressed his desire to move on from Cleveland. The Cavs organization remained quiet on the topic until abruptly announcing that they would be moving Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas just a few weeks later. Carmelo Anthony managed to negotiate a no-trade clause in his contract with the New York Knicks and after yet another losing season he chose to waive that clause to join Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City to play for the Thunder. Last, but not least, Dwyane Wade recently decided to sign with Cleveland to reunite with James and the Cavaliers. Wade agreed to a contract buyout with the Chicago Bulls where he committed to giving back $8 million of his $23.8 million 2017-2018 salary.
"Just because Melo and PG went to OKC and D-Wade's going to the Cavs don't mean you can leave." pic.twitter.com/K5zKmJi7aA
— Jalen (@jalen_j22) September 26, 2017
It’s evident that the NBA is shifting to a business where players are in control, and regardless of contracts, they can make moves and form alliances whenever they desire. While I’m happy that the Warriors will have some better competition this season, I’m not sure how I feel about the way things are shifting within the league. Certainly I believe a person should have a say in where they live and work, but what’s the bigger impact on the league?
This season there will be multiple super teams that have formed solely by superstar players recruiting other superstar players to join forces leaving the other teams in the league with a fairly large talent disparity. This will likely mean more blowout games, and we all know those are a drag to watch. This will impact advertising revenue. Businesses will be reluctant to purchase ad spots for a game between Milwaukee and Utah, but they will clamor for a position during the OKC vs Cleveland match up.
I realize that I’m painting a picture of worst case scenario, but it’s a little naive to think that when major assets move in an industry like this that it won’t send massive shock waves through the organization financially.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m interested in seeing CP3 and James Harden match up against Westbrook, Melo and George just like everyone else. But, it’s important to recognize that the NBA is making moves that could forever change the league as we know it. Change is usually good so hopefully basketball will continue to be wildly popular among the NBA’s high-paying advertisers, but with the players now in control the uncertainty remains.