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Debunked: The Myth of the One Man Basketball Star
Flashback to 1989 and 1990. The Detroit Pistons, affectionately known as “the Bad Boys” won back-to-back NBA championships. It was Hall of Fame guards Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas that got most of the love, but the fact of the matter is that team never would have won championships if not for the likes of Bill Laimbeer, John Salley and Dennis Rodman. The Bad Boys were eventually dethroned by Michael Jordan and the upstart Chicago Bulls, who three-peated on two separate occasions in the 1990s.
Again, while Michael Jordan gets all the love and publicity, don’t forget about Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright, essential players to the Bulls’ championship run. Larry Bird had a supporting cast in Boston. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kobe Byrant had Shaquille O’Neal, then Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
The point? It takes a team to win a championship, not just a superstar player. Just ask Patrick Ewing, a valued member of the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” and one of the best NBA centers of all time – he doesn’t have any rings because he didn’t have any help. It was the same case with LeBron James in Cleveland. Management did its best to surround the so-called “King” with a supporting cast, but a past-his-prime Shaquille O’Neal, and other would-be role players that didn’t fit in weren’t enough to get it done.
Hence the reason why LeBron signed with the Miami Heat, along with fellow stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch, who have made back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, having won the most recent of their appearances. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers, minus LeBron James, have been one of the worst teams in the league the past two seasons. It’s not hard to see who was carrying the slack with that ball club at the time.
It’s an old cliche, but an extremely accurate one: There’s no “i” in “team.” Everybody needs to be working together, and on the same page, in order to truly achieve success on the hardwood. Take for example, the starting five players a coach begins every game with. If you have one superstar player and four average or mediocre players, that’s only 20 percent of your team that will likely be operating with above average efficiency. While it’s enough to win some games and possibly make the playoffs, consider the case of the 2010 Cavaliers, who when LeBron wasn’t “on,” there was nobody else to pick up the slack. This team came crashing to a halt in the playoffs that spring.
Yes, there are instances when star-studded teams sputter. The 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers are proof of that, having been loaded with the likes of Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone and Derek Fisher only to get beaten in five games by the Detroit Pistons, a team that arguably didn’t have any bonafide “stars” per say, but a team of exceptional players who bought into a system of play and worked well together to bring a title back to Detroit.
One player, no matter how good he is, can’t do it by himself. It’s why Grant Hill left Detroit in the early 2000s and why Dwight Howard wanted out of Orlando and Steve Nash out of Phoenix this summer. Both examples are instances of players that had no help – no supporting cast to accomplish their ultimate goals. Jordan, Bird and Magic were all phenomenal players – but it was far from an individual effort that helped them achieve their basketball glory.
- LeBron James Isn’t Clutch and the 7 Biggest Myths in the NBA (bleacherreport.com)
- Will LeBron James Retire with the Miami Heat? (bleacherreport.com)
- Barkley thinks LeBron can be better than Jordan (espn.go.com)
- Kobe Bryant Closer To Surpassing Michael Jordan Than LeBron James (atlantablackstar.com)
- LeBron says goal is ‘to be the best of all-time’ (espn.go.com)