Internet and media outrage was unleashed this week on the Brooklyn Nets for putting together an unfair, “super” team. ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith decried both Griffin and Aldridge for trying to steal a championship by joining Brooklyn.
Are the 2021 Brooklyn Nets really bad for the NBA? In earlier generations, NBA stars were always tied to their teams and represented the city they played for in a big way. The front of the jersey seemed to be almost as important as the name on the back.
Sorry to the old-timers still hanging on out there, it’s a different time in the NBA. We’re in the LeBron James era in the NBA. Whether you like that fact or not might be indicative of where you stand on the current state of affairs in the NBA and the new strong favorite to win it all, the Brooklyn Nets.
How The Nets are great for the NBA
The Premium National TV Product
The NBA makes its biggest money on prime-time television, and super teams are great for super profits. The Nets emerging as the foil of the league, the juggernaut of a super team, will only boost ratings from the increased viewership of the casual fan. These fans like to watch the greatest players in the world be great in high-pressure game situations, like in the playoffs, but they are not watching the regular season games on a nightly basis.
These casual fans will come out to see if Brooklyn can be stopped in the playoffs. There was little interest in the NBA Finals in the bubble last season, as shown by lower ratings than ever before. I would argue that this had everything to do with the common understanding that nobody was going to be able to beat LeBron and the Lakers.
Everyone who thought that was right. No disrespect to Jimmy Butler, but there was little need for the casual fan to watch all those finals games. There will be a very different feeling for this year’s finals.
Who’s in Charge? The Stars
James Harden got a lot of heat for his early-season trade demands in Houston. Even though Harden was still under contract, it was evident by any observers that the Rockets would eventually grant Harden his wish in a trade to Brooklyn. Durant made a similar decision years prior, in leaving the small-market Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that he almost literally put on the map, for a chance to pretty easily win multiple rings with Golden State.
Durant did not always love the idea of a super team, though, and he was actually forced to eat an old tweet from 2010 that came back up this week:
Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 16, 2010
What resulted, though? Durant won his rings, not caring at all about what the haters said. He cemented his legacy as an all-time great player, like it or not.
If this new dynamic bothers you, let me ask you one question: How many more rings would Jordan have won if the Bulls let him choose the rest of the Bulls roster in the 1999 season? The Bulls management chose the abstract future of the franchise over the twilight of Jordan’s greatness. How did that work out for them?
If the great players shouldn’t decide the league’s power structure and whom they should be able to team up with, then who should?
Why the Nets are terrible for the NBA
What about the Little Guys?
These shifts in the NBA power structure are not welcome changes to all fans. If you are a die-hard fan of a team that isn’t the Lakers or the Nets, you might hate the current makeup of the NBA. Fans of my hometown New York Knicks are pumped about the team this year, even though they know that it doesn’t matter how good they are; they will never be good enough to win it all in LeBron’s NBA.
Fans in Philadelphia or Utah may be thinking they have a shot to supplant the Lakers or Nets in the finals. Maybe they do, if the right injuries happen. For fans of all the other teams, it’s pretty hard to remain invested in a team that has no chance. Why have 30 teams if so many of them become irrelevant so quickly?
It’s not all bad for you small-market fans. Giannis could have easily been on the Lakers this season. But instead, the two-time MVP decided to stay in Milwaukee, earning a big payday for his family and a big win for the city he calls home. Small market fans loved this move.
But, are these the same fans that will tell Giannis that he wasn’t a truly great player because he was never able to bring a championship to Milwaukee?