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NBA super teams lead to growth in league popularity

Shea Beaumont, Opinion Editor

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The professional sports world has witnessed multiple teams that flourished during the era in which they played their respective sport, but some of those teams stood above the others in terms of success rate. Those teams are considered the outliers, but more specifically, the super teams. These are the teams that have rosters loaded with a few superstars, but also a unique supporting cast consisting of rising stars and role players in order to create the ultimate team.

Some say that creating super teams is bad for leagues and that it takes away from the competitiveness, but I must disagree and say that super teams create a positive environment for the league and its viewers.

Normally, we do not see super teams outside of the NBA, but the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys in the ’90s and more recently the MLB’s Chicago Cubs have shown us otherwise.

The Cowboys were led by the future Hall of Fame foursome of quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Michael Irvin and defensive back Dion Sanders. All four superstar athletes helped lead the way to three Super Bowl victories in 1992, 1993 and 1995.

This past MLB season saw the youth-driven talent of the Chicago Cubs overcome their 108 year-long draught of winning a World Series Championship. Though they were a product of great team management and an amazing minor league farm system, they still had the National League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Kris Bryant, the National League Cy Young-winner Jake Arrieta and the National League Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger Award-winner Anthony Rizzo.

As far as the NBA goes, the phenomenon of a super team started during the creation of the U.S. 1992 Olympic basketball team, known as the “Dream Team.” This was the first year that the American Olympic team featured active NBA players. According to Bleacher Report, the ’92 Dream Team is considered the “greatest team ever assembled,” highlighted by the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan, along with 10 out of the remaining 11 players being current Hall of Famers.

Along with quite possibly the greatest team to ever play professional basketball, the NBA has also witnessed many other super teams since the Dream Team was established.

The 1996 Chicago Bulls had six-time NBA Champion Michael Jordan along with Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman when they won the NBA title and set the record for the most wins in a season with 72 victories before last year’s Golden State Warriors won 73 games in 2016.  The 2004 Detroit Pistons were loaded with talent, which helped them outlast the Los Angeles Lakers, another super team that included four Hall of Fame talents, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, in the NBA Finals.

The 2008 Boston Celtics were known for assembling the first “big three” of the NBA’s modern era when they signed veteran superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Celtics veteran Paul Pierce, and the result was 66 regular season wins and an NBA championship in their first season together.

After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, he and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami in the summer of 2010, and a dynasty was immediately born. The Miami Heat made it to the NBA Finals in all four seasons that James was leading the way, ultimately winning championships in 2012 and 2013, which began to solidify his legacy before he returned to Cleveland in 2014. James immediately had firepower back in Cleveland with all-star point guard Kyrie Irving already rostered, but the Cavaliers also traded for superstar forward Kevin Love to help build yet another big three. It was not until 2016 when the Cavs and James matched up with the Golden State Warriors, the clear favorite after winning a record 73 regular season games, to overcome a 3–1 lead in the series to win their first ever NBA title.

After the Warrior’s crushing loss, they decided to make some major moves in the offseason, which brings us to the current NBA season.

The NBA has seen a significant rise in popularity compared to other major professional sports leagues and their fan bases over the last couple of years. This explains why the NBA signed a massive media rights deal worth about $24 billion back in 2014 to start at the beginning of the current season and extend through 2024-25. The 9-year deal with ESPN and Turner Sports will pay the NBA around $2.6 billion annually which aided with the ability to increase the league salary cap. With the consistent increased revenue that the NBA was bringing in, they had the ability to exponentially raise the salary cap from $70 million to $94 million for the current season. This gave many teams the option to go for a max salary superstar in free agency during the offseason meaning they could offer the best players the most amount of money available.

That is where the Golden State Warriors took advantage of the system and signed the 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant to a 2-year $54 million deal thus creating a legendary super team.

Durant joined two-time MVP point guard Steph Curry, three-time all-star shooting guard Klay Thompson and two-time all-star forward Draymond Green in the hopes of winning his first NBA title despite leaving his championship-contending team, the Oklahoma City Thunder and his longtime teammate Russell Westbrook, who won the NBA-scoring title a year before.

This causes a potential problem in the NBA. With the continuous rise in the salary cap predicted for upcoming seasons, team owners have the ability to assemble super teams with little effort. Golden State now has arguably the best three shooters in the NBA with Curry, Thompson and now Durant which is really all you need to create an invincible team. But I do not see this as an issue. If you are a team owner and have the money available to spend on superstar talent during free agency, then why not go after these types of players and take advantage of the league’s system?

Super teams are often seen as a negative aspect of the league, but I disagree. When I saw Durant go to the Warriors, I thought every team was in trouble and that they would easily run through every opponent en route to an NBA title, but the Warriors are capable of losing, not to mention that all 29 of the other teams in the league go into every game against them trying to prove something and knock them down the NBA totem pole. Super teams create a competitive edge within the league that puts a constant target on the backs of the teams at the top, which is good for the NBA. With more competitive games, more fans and viewers will tune in to watch in hope of a super team being defeated, which ultimately brings in more revenue for the league.

Although it will begin to come down to whichever team has the most money to spend on superstar talent in terms of creating a legendary caliber team in the future, the league will begin to see a lot of super teams constructed in the NBA which will only help the cause.

The NBA will begin to gain more popularity over the other major professional sports leagues with the main leading cause being the viewing availability for fans. In addition, the more profitable one league is over another creates a marketing advantage as well. With the continuing competitiveness in the NBA, we will see more and more fan growth as more super teams are formed.

The NBA has the economic platform to create super teams, which attracts viewers and leads to a rise in competitiveness within the league and ultimately adding to league revenue significantly. Without the construction of super teams, the NBA would be nothing.

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NBA super teams lead to growth in league popularity