A funny thing happened on the way to the Warriors winning the NBA Finals. It seems no one wants to take credit for building “super teams.” While we all use that term to describe the Warriors and Cavs, it appears everyone in the league is running away from it. Despite suggesting overwhelming power, the phrase has interestingly taken on a negative connotation, and players are passing it like a scalding hot potato.
When LeBron James was asked about whether super teams are good for the health of the NBA, he quickly distanced himself from it. For an NBA immortal who has made a legendary career on improvisation, this was pretty clumsy.
“I don’t believe I’ve played for a super team,” James said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe we’re a super team here (in Cleveland).” This is hard to stomach even for the most ardent LeBron supporter. While it wasn’t James who created the term (it was coined by the media breathlessly covering his free agency in 2010), if there is such a thing, he has played on at least one.
The forming of the Heat as champions out of thin air gave the term its heft. Miami was a fringe playoff team, getting knocked out in the first round that spring. But the addition of James and Chris Bosh transformed them into the mightiest team in the league overnight. LeBron most certainly wouldn’t have joined the Heat without Dwyane Wade already in place and Bosh coming in tandem, so it felt like Voltron connecting to create a mega force.
No one had called the Lakers or Celtics of the ’80s a super team, not only because it predated the term, but also because those rosters were seen as being built organically. When the assemblance of the Heat was engineered, it felt inauthentic, and thus the phrase was born. Super Teams aren’t grown over time. They are pieced together upon receipt, like a bed frame from IKEA.
If the definition of a super team is three or more already established future HOFers joining together to win championships, the Celtics of ’08 came before LeBron’s Heat and the Bulls of Jordan, Pippen and Rodman were even earlier. Critics derided the ease by which the Heat’s success came. Four years together, four trips to the Finals, two championships. But in distancing himself from the uber team in Golden State (despite assembling his new trio in Cleveland), LeBron showed the world that now this has become a Scarlet Letter.
At the parade, Draymond Green trolled LeBron by saying, “You started the super team, bro!” James countered on teammate Richard Jefferson’s podcast. “I mean in 2003, the Lakers combined Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaq and Kobe. And in ’96, when Jordan was retired, the Rockets joined Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler all on the same team.
“But I don’t look at it as – I definitely didn’t start the superteam, if that’s what he’s trying to say. But I just feel like that it’s great that on the day you’re celebrating your championship, my likeness and my name is in your head. I love that.”
LeBron is right. Those Lakers and Rockets teams tried to do exactly what he has done: assemble stars to win an immediate title. The key is they failed, and so there is no animosity. We merely laugh at the mistake, poke fun at the failure, and move on. The overwhelming superiority of the Cavs and Warriors has caused sheepishness on both sides. LeBron is trying to rewrite history, and Warriors GM Bob Myers is attempting to spin a totally unrealistic narrative.
In response to Jim Rome’s question about the addition of Kevin Durant, Myers said: “He didn’t just come along on a team that was going to win a championship; he came to a team that he proved needed him to win a championship.” This is a flat out absurdity, bordering on lie. While Durant was spectacular in the Finals, why would we believe the Warriors “needed him” to win the title? Without him they won a championship. Without him they were the greatest regular-season team in history. Without him they were one win away from going back-to-back.
If anything, the Warriors needed Durant to make them unstoppable, a level above even the second-best team in the league. But no one on the Warriors wants to admit that, because then the addition seems unfair (which most of the league and fans have griped about). As Ray Ratto wrote, the Warriors’ addition of Durant and this title were like a “billionaire winning the lottery.” According to Myers, the billionaire must need the lotto winnings to prove he’s rich.
Sorry LeBron and Bob, but you guys don’t get to make up the facts as you go along. James has played on super teams even if he didn’t create them. And the Dubs didn’t need Durant to win the championship; they would’ve been right back in the Finals again this year without him. The disrespect organizations are getting for creating these monoliths is interesting, because it should be something to proudly wear. But if you don’t want to take credit for your own success, the NBA has bigger problems than we even realize.
D.A. hosts 9am-12 pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.