In every other sports league, there is competition among the franchises. The NFL has new teams rising and falling every year. Baseball is a whole new season, come October. The NHL playoffs are perhaps the most exciting competition in all of sports. In college basketball, a 16 beat a 1. Yet in opposition to its fellow sports leagues, the NBA is entirely predictable.
The offseason has brought excitement with the long anticipated relocation of LeBron James. But him landing in Los Angeles was the guess of most pundits amateur and professional. The Lakers are now a playoff contender barring injury. But even away from the Cavs, LeBron is still no match for Golden State.
Superteams are bad for sports
Having the best players fall on one team is fine and dandy when it is natural and done over time. The New York Yankees are among the top contenders in baseball. Contrary to stereotype, they are talented because they established an excellent farm system. It is completely fair for them to end up being the best (again). If Derek Jeter’s strategy works in doing the same, the Marlins will turn themselves around.
The Warriors are a different story. Yes, they drafted well and traded well. But then they sign Kevin Durant, a top player. Then they sign DaMarcus Cousins, another top player. Cousins. Both of these players shamelessly sold out for the privilege of being on a winning team. Durant joining the Warrior is the equivalent of Ovechkin joining the Penguins. Ovechkin didn’t because he cares about his legacy and not just his rings. Cousins was perhaps just as bad, seeing as he took a deal well below his market value even if injured.
Centers making roughly 3x or more than Demarcus Cousins next season:
Joakim Noah: $18 Million
Tristan Thompson: $17 Million
Bismack Biyombo: $17 Million
Timofey Mozgov: $16 Million
Ian Mahinmi: $16 Million
Gorgui Dieng: $15 Million
Robin Lopez: $14 Million
Cousins: $5 Million
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 3, 2018
One cannot blame the Warriors from preserving their dynasty which increased the team value 19% in the last year according to Forbes. It’s good for their business, in a league where several teams can’t break past $20 million in operating income. But the league will suffer. The NBA has largely benefited from people enjoying the ride, but it’s inescapable how anticlimactic the end is. The Warriors win. The 2019 NBA finals is already similarly boring, in that, everyone who isn’t a hopeless dreamer already knows the outcome.
The NBA needs to save the competitiveness of its league. So far they’ve been content to let ESPN dictate their trajectory and competitive strategy. It seems worth it to leave the elephant unaddressed so long as there’s a raging debate between Team Jordan and the Bronsexuals. Such contentment now has James in the same conference as the Warriors making 2019 a much less exciting finals. A handful of teams now compose the NBA, whilst the others are relegated to being developmental feeding grounds. Top players aren’t interested in rivalry with each other. Rather, they prefer to join forces even to the point of destroying the competition the league was known for. An NBA ring is depreciated in its value, at least if you are a Warrior. Yet players aren’t against colluding for a piece of jewelry at the expense of their honor. This fundamental cultural flaw won’t go away on its own. The NBA should strongly consider curbing this trend either through stricter salary caps or some other creative means.