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You may hate superteams but players don’t see it that way

Heat James Basketball

FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2012 file photo, Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, left, Chris Bosh, center, and LeBron James pose with their championship rings during a ceremony before an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Miami. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, David Santiago, File) MAGS OUT


Plenty of fans have vented their distaste for superteams, particularly ones where the players themselves push to make it happen (as with LeBron/Wade/Bosh in Miami, or Kevin Durant jumping to the Warriors, or the Chris Paul/James Harden Rockets). Plenty of former players — Charles Barkley is the loudest cheerleader, but even ironically Scottie Pippen — have denounced the trend.

NBA players don’t get the objection. Take this quote from Paul George, something he said at the USA Basketball mini-camp last month, courtesy Tim Bontemps at the Washington Post.

“No team has won [a title] where one single guy was the lone star and it was their team. It’s not that era. I’m not sure how the veterans, the legends, don’t understand that part,” said George, who stayed with Westbrook by re-signing with the Thunder this summer. “It’s a different game now. For those guys to chime in and say we’re not built the same . . . I never understood that, because who would we be fooling if we went out alone and tried to go up against the Warriors?

“The best guy in our league right now couldn’t do it. [James] got swept [in the 2018 Finals]. So that just goes to show you at this point what it takes to win. Because you need guys that are alike talent-wise and skill set-wise to win championships.”

That was Paul George, but a lot of players echoed the same sentiment, such as the Rockets’ Eric Gordon.
“A lot of people need to understand this: Players want to win,” the Rockets’ Gordon said. “They want to go to winning situations. When you have a winning culture, things become so much easier. It’s good to see all these super teams, because [it means] guys are willing to win.”

While the elite players do work out together and spend other time with each other, it’s at USA Basketball camps where a lot of the bonding happens. However, in a world of texting and social media — not to mention the elite camps, AAU circuit, and more as they are coming up —today’s players have more contact with each other than in the past. Guys know each other. And the idea of working with a friend at your job is something a lot of people — not just NBA players — want.

George is right, no player ever won a title on his own. The teams we think of as the greatest ever — the Bill Russell era Celtics, the Showtime Lakers, the Jordan Bulls, etc. — were superteams stacked with Hall of Famers. The difference was in the past the star player had to count on a competent front office and ownership to put the right team around him. Now, players are taking charge of that themselves. That’s the change.

Players like that change, and it’s not going away.