I am not in support of “super teams,” but I also realize that they are nothing new. Rather assembled thru draft or player assembled through free agency, they have been happening for ages. Before Boston’s “Big Three” in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, there was Magic, Kareem and Worthy, which made up the Showtime Lakers. Or how about Bill Russell and the 16 Hall of Famers that he played with? What about the shrewd drafting of Oklahoma City’s General Manager, Sam Presti, who selected Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook and James Harden via the NBA draft? Or San Antonio’s mastermind, RC Buford who paired a young Tim Duncan with veteran, David Robinson, then gained draft rights to future Hall of Famers, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and defensive specialist, Kawhi Leonard? Is it then ok if these stacked teams are organized by a General Manager but it becomes not ok when players take matters into their own hands and formulate stacked rosters? Hmmmm….

From a person that watched Kevin Garnett give the Minnesota Timberwolves 11 years of his prime in which he never reached the NBA finals, I was ecstatic when Minnesota dealt him to Boston, so The Big Ticket could have a better chance to contend. Even still, I envied the “help” that he had in past teammates like Sam Cassell, Troy Hudson, Stephon Marbury, and Latrelle Sprewheel. As a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, I personally witnessed the Cavs struggle for my entire childhood, until one local kid changed the team’s trajectory.

Once Akron’s own, LeBron James was drafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, we were all witnesses as to how great the kid really was but to win it all, the road was rocky. While Kobe had reportedly alerted teams, including the team that drafted him, the Charlotte Hornets that he wanted nothing else but to be a Laker, I saw LeBron stick it out for seven years in a Cleveland uniform.

I remember vividly the summer of 2005, when the Cleveland Cavaliers had cap space to attempt to get James some help and Ray Allen said no, Michael Redd said no, shoot even Bobby Simmons turned down a move to Cleveland. As an alternative not to come up empty handed, I saw Cleveland unload 70 million dollars to Larry Hughes on a 5 year deal. This of course after LeBron saw his best teammate in Carlos Boozer depart in free agency, off what was said to be a broken verbal commitment on Boozer’s part.

Meanwhile, Kobe had completed a 3 peat with the most dominant man in sports, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwade hit the jackpot when, Guru, Pat Riley pulled off a blockbuster trade to land the big fella via trade. Out west, in another small market, San Antonio was improving via draft, while Cleveland was going backwards via spotty draft selections and bad draft positioning. Luke Jackson, JJ Hickson and Jason Kapono anyone? Even still LeBron always carried his team to the playoffs with a top 3 record in his respective conference. In 2009, his Cavaliers team won a team record high, 66 games with the likes of JJ Hickson, Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams.

There was no Scottie Pippen, prime Shaq, Kareem, KG, Tim Duncan, David Robinson caliber teammates. In the past, a Miami Heat team stacked up with Antoine Walker, Alonzo Mourning, Dwade, Shaq, and Gary Payton and the Lakers souped up with Payton, Malone, Horace Grant and Rick Fox but all we hear about today are complaints about modern day “super team formation.”

In 2009, LeBron got an aged and overused Shaquille O’Neal and in 2010, LeBron had enough of such limited teammates so he decided to take matters into his own hands via free agency.

In a very controversial move, he decided to take his talents to South Beach and team up with pals, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. It was a move disliked by many, including me but a key detail to note, is that LeBron James had never competed against Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat in the post season. In fact, the Miami Heat was coming off a rebuilding stage, as Shaq had departed and the team was a 5th seed in the previous post season, in which they lost in the first round. This seemingly is a trivial detail to some but an extremely pivotal one to others.

Fast forward 2017, LeBron James is back in a Cleveland uniform and playing in his 3rd straight Finals with the team and 7th straight overall. Following LeBron’s exit from Cleveland in 2010, the team took 10,000 steps back to take 50,000 steps forward. They managed to set the NBA’s longest losing streak at 27, but they were rewarded with the number 1 draft pick in the 2011 NBA draft. With that pick they selected Duke’s star Point Guard, Kyrie Irving. The following years the losing did not stop, but the team would go on to draft at the top of the draft for all 4 years that LeBron was in Miami. Can you say sacrifice anyone? Cleveland had to get him better teammates somehow right?

While LeBron was away in Miami, in the finals, Cleveland was losing and getting better via the draft and they would use some of those picks in trade to gain the rights to All Star forward, Kevin Love in 2014.

Rewind to the summer of 2016. The Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA Champions after an unexpected comeback on the Golden State Warriors, who had a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finala. A former league MVP, is on the free agency clock and news hits that the Warriors are on his radar. Besides, the fact that the Golden State Warriors and Kevin Durant have fresh blood in an open wound because KD and his Thunder had just choked up a 3-1 series lead to those same Warriors, no one really saw possible that KD would really go to such an arch rival…..Or so we all thought.

 

I mean the Warriors were coming off 2 straight final appearances, one in which they had won the year before and to make matters worse they had just broke an all time record in most wins in regular season history at 73-9. They were a moving ship if their ever was one and Kevin Durant surely would have enough pride not to jump aboard right? WRONG!

He did jump aboard and join that 73-9 team that had just beat him the post season before. Where they do that at? Many people suggested that you look at LeBron for having “started the super team formation.” Many more suggested that what KD and LeBron did was the “same,” which could not be further from the truth as FACTS clearly show.

I am not here to tell you what is weak and what is not but I am here to tell you that you cannot call an apple an orange just because they are both fruit. What LeBron did, is not what Kevin Durant did. LeBron never played with a James Harden, Serge Ibaka or a Russell Westbrook type player his first go around in Cleveland, like KD did in OKC. He never squandered a 3-1 lead and went on to join that team a few months later, as if it never happened. I mean losing to a team in the conference finals and joining them two months later? That would be like LeBron ripping off his Cavs jersey, sitting home watching Boston play LA in the finals and joining them in the off season. WHAT!? This never happened folks!

“I was telling one of my friends, Rich (Kleiman, his agent), who’s here, we were watching Game 7. Well, as it started to unfold, it was, ‘No question, no way could you go to this team.’ And I was just like a kid, like, in a candy shop. I’d get wide open 3s, I could just run up and down the court, get wide open layups. I was basically begging him. I was like, yo, this would be nice.” ~ Kevin Durant

 

He never fantasized or hopped on any bandwagon, even when it was against the better judgement of his agent. LeBron built a bandwagon and that wagon stopped moving after he departed. There was no former teammates averaging a triple double, shoot there was not even any post season the year following his departures from both Cleveland and Miami.

In terms of super team formations, I get it. It takes much more than one man to win a NBA championship. Luckily for some players, they are drafted to teams with great coaching, great personnel and great structure. If the team you are drafted to affords you the opportunity to play for legendary coaches, Hall of Fame players and solid organizations then like Duncan and Kobe you could possibly play your entire career in one spot and win some rings along the way. Why in the world would you leave? But if Kobe had to play more years with Kwame Brown and Smush Parker would he have stayed a Laker or would he had forced his way to Chicago as he threatened to? Management sent him numerous life lines in Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Ron Artest and Chris Paul until it was vetoed by David Stern. Meanwhile, LeBron is ridiculed for attempting to utilize his same earned leverage to plead for more playmakers. Instead, he’s accused of being a brat, a cry baby, the general manager and needing a “super team” to win.

What if Duncan decided to join Grant Hill and Tmac out in Orlando? Would we call him a traitor? What if KG was drafted to San Antonio, would he played in one spot? What if Chicago never drafted Pippen or hired Phil? Would MJ have stayed? Sometimes, leaving your career trajectory and team success up to those guys in the ties and button ups is not enough. For other players, you have to be a bit more proactive in your career, otherwise you will just be another Anthony Davis with great stats and crappy teammates.

The league wants to talk parity issues but perhaps Damian Lillard, Russ Westbrook, AD, PG13, and John Wall are all at home pondering on possible collaboration. All we can do is hope that they do it with PRIDE and Competitive nature if they do make a move. Everyone can’t play for the Warriors and not everyone needs to play with them to win a ring. If you can’t beat them join them doesn’t fit for everyone, so lets not act like it does. LeBron has a ring with Dwade, as he does without. Kobe has rings with Shaq, as he does without. Steph Curry has a ring without Kevin Durant. Will Durant ever win one without the successful team he paired up with in Golden State? Probably not, so put an asterisk on his finals victory if he does in fact win.

There are no easy roads to success but KD is defying that truth right before our eyes and the fact that people are cosigning his anti competitive move is whats more disheartening. Maybe next year the Warriors will win 74 games thanks to KD.

Free agency has been happening, but guys joining teams that beat them is something new. Now is it cool or easy to overlook? Well thats a subjective opinion dependent on who you’re talking to.

What are your thoughts? Tweet us at @theblack_juice

~TayJordan

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