DAR Sports: NBA Super Teams

By @TrueGodImmortal 

In the NBA today, it seems the growing "trend" is building up a Super Team. While the definition of said super team tends to vary depending on bias and opinion, that term has been tossed around so much over the last 10 years in the NBA. The truth is however, Super Teams have always existed in the NBA and will likely always be around. The concept of the Super Team is to build an unstoppable force that no other team could defeat in a 7 game series. In other words, you are attempting to build your team to win a championship. In the past, it would seem to be lesser, but upon reflection, we probably have seen more super teams in the past decades than in the 2010s, or at least just as many. Regardless, many people feel that the Super Teams ruin the NBA season and the competitiveness of the game. Is that necessarily correct? Not exactly, as many super teams in the past just didn't work or win championships. It all comes down to team chemistry, skill, coaching and ability, so even if you have a long line of great players on your super team, if they don't mesh, it won't really work. Today, we look back at some instances of super teams in the NBA over the years, some of which will likely be debated as actual super teams (they were in retrospect). Whole a few of these super teams worked well, some of them really missed the mark and failed. Let's get into it.

*The Lakers In The 80s

-Though many seem to forget, the mid 80s version of the Showtime Lakers was hands down a super team. Magic Johnson, the greatest PG of all time, "Big Game" James Worthy, a certified Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest big men in the history of the league, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, along with a supporting cast that was damn near unstoppable as well. The supporting cast changed over the year, but I think the peak had to come early on in the 80s, when former MVP and multiple time scoring champion Bob McAdoo joined the team, along with a 5 time All Defensive First Team player in Michael Cooper (and eventual Defensive Player of The Year winner) and Byron Scott, who was also a threat. The formula was there for the Lakers to win and throughout the 80s, that's what they did. They dominated, just as a super team is supposed to. 5 NBA Championships, and 8 NBA Finals appearances during the decade confirmed that the Lakers were truly a Super Team, possibly the greatest Super Team of all time. Don't be surprised, the Showtime Lakers were definitely a Super Team.

*1994-1995 Phoenix Suns

-You might have read this and stopped like, "wait, how", but when you take into consideration the fact that the Suns had one of the best three point shooters of the era in Dan Majerle, and acquired a recent All Star in Danny Manning, along with the power of Charles Barkley and the sensibilities of Kevin Johnson, this was an attempt to go after a ring after the last two seasons saw the Suns come up JUST too short. Barkley was chasing a ring and had enough of a core with A.C. Green, Wayman Tisdale, rookie Wesley Person, and of course Danny Ainge to really make a run, and if they were healthy, they might have been able to make something happen. The reason this attempt at a Super Team is a bit forgotten is because it didn't yield any results and injuries plagued them, but the intention was to create a Super Team for Sir Charles... it just didn't work.

*The Bulls Go For 72 Wins

-Is this far fetched? Slightly perhaps when you consider they had Jud Buechler, an older John Salley and James Edwards, along with Jason Caffey on the team, but after the loss of Horace Grant, and the return from retirement of Michael Jordan, the Bulls added a central piece to their success, former Defensive Player of The Year Dennis Rodman. So, we have the greatest player of all time in Jordan, a top 5 Small Forward of all time in Scottie Pippen, and the man widely considered the greatest rebounder of all time in Rodman on the same team? Add to that, a solid core that features Luc Longley, Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, and Steve Kerr, the Bulls managed to breeze through the league for a 72-10 season, before capping it off with a NBA Championship.

*Shaq And Penny Go For A Ring

-When Horace Grant came to the Orlando Magic, they were the most inexperienced super team, as neither of the two star players were more than 3 years in, and they had to build veteran pieces around them. Brian Shaw would be acquired as well, and with the effective shooting of Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson, it seemed like the Magic had the most deadly starting lineup during this season. They would end up as the no. 1 seed in the East, and manage to go through the white hot Indiana Pacers and a returning from retirement Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls team to make the NBA Finals. However, they couldn't finish the job and defeat the Houston Rockets. The still young Orlando team had potential to go really far, unfortunately they split up shortly after.

*Barkley Joins The Rockets

-In what was one of the first deliberate outright attempts at chasing a ring, Charles Barkley joined the Houston Rockets, who had two championships during the mid 90s. As the 1996-1997 season arrived, it looked as if the Rockets were teaming up three star players in Barkley, Hakeem Olujawon, and Clyde Drexler to finally stop the Chicago Bulls. Imagine, a top all time power forward, a top all time shooting guard, and a top all time Center all on the same team. The only issue here? Age and injuries. Hakeem, Barkley, and Clyde had already seen their best years pass them by, and would not be able to compete for a title.

*The Lakers Start A Three Peat

-In retrospect, the Lakers run in the early 2000s was honestly a super team run, though we might not have realized it at the time. Arguably the greatest center ever in the game and easily the 2nd greatest shooting guard of all time on the same team along with Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Glen Rice, former Bulls champion and veteran Ron Harper, as well as a few others in the supporting cast. That lineup was deadly for the NBA to handle, leading to three championships, though the roster would change slightly over the years. Regardless, the fact remains that the first championship year was one of the more unstoppable seasons in  NBA history.

*2001-2002 Sacramento Kings 

In retrospect, that 2001-2002 Sacramento team was mostly certainly a Super Team in essence. Sure, they didn't have a top 5 player in the league on the team (though you could argue Chris Webber as top 5 during this period... maybe), but they did possess some of the most consistent shooters and efficient players. With a hard to stop starting 5, along with a solid bench, this wasn't a feared super team like some of the more infamous ones, but this was a nightmare for many teams. Mike Bibby, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu, and the rest of the bench made this team a deadly weapon, one that was poised to dethrone the Lakers and win the NBA Championship, but they were stopped short in a very controversial NBA Conference Finals series with the Lakers. One has to wonder what would have happened had the Kings got beyond the Lakers. I think they would have won the title.

*Malone, Payton Join The Lakers

-The origin of super teams to most of the 2000 and beyond fans, this was the biggest experiment for the Lakers, who unsurprisingly have attempted to make super teams multiple times throughout the years for dominance. This was the first ever "Big 4", with Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq. Four Hall of Famers all on one team. If this was 1999 or 2000, I think this team would have been unstoppable and easily won the championship, but during those years, the Lakers were already contending for titles without them. The issue here was that Payton was much older and no longer in his prime and Malone was right at the end of his career. This Lakers team still made the Finals, but the age factor for Payton and Malone along with injuries and a decline for Shaq is what managed to see them fail. They made the Finals, but couldn't deliver on a title, so this Super Team is considered a failure.

*Celtics Big Three

-When The Celtics decided to put the big 3 together, it was a shock to say the least and probably the first time in many years that a Super Team was put together and became successful. Unlike the Lakers, who got Kobe on draft night in a trade and let him grow, along with some of the other players on that team, the Celtics acquired a former MVP in Kevin Garnett and a multiple time All Star in Ray Allen. Alongside Paul Pierce, this Celtics team brought us the first real big 3 since the days of the failed Rockets team with Clyde, Barkley, and Hakeem. They clicked instantly, going 66-16 in the regular season and coasted to a NBA Championship and seemingly set the tone for dominance going forward. However, after that first title, they were faced with more threats in the East and the moment the Miami super team was formed, the Celtics run came to an end. The Miami super team was essentially started because they couldn't beat the Celtics "alone" with their respective teams. The Celtics Big 3 is probably the most instantly successful super team of the 2000s.

*LeBron, Wade, and Bosh In Miami

-The most infamous Super Team on this list. When LeBron said he was taking his talents to South Beach, and Bosh joined the Heat, everything changed. Though I can't blame Bron in retrospect for doing this, many people hated that he left his hometown instead of continuing to build the team around himself. Regardless, this Miami Heat super team did what they set out to do and that's win a championship. Two championships, four straight Finals appearances and solid regular seasons later, the Heat is seen as the true prototype of Super Teams and I can't really dispute that. The Big 3 in Miami showcased dominance unlike any other team and when you consider the players they also stacked the team with like Ray Allen, it is no surprise the Heat team was so successful and alongside the Celtics Big 3, they've kicked off what can only be considered the Super Team era of the NBA.

*2012-2013 Lakers

-The most disappointing Super Team ever. Steve Nash. Dwight Howard. Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol. One issue. With no depth on their roster and a lack of chemistry, this Lakers super team was poorly managed and when injuries began to plague them, they struggled immensely. Dwight and Kobe never got along, Nash wasn't the MVP Nash that we knew from before, and Kobe was slowly declining due to age and injuries/fatigue. This team in 2009-2010 might have been able to do much damage, but surprise, the Lakers were winning titles without Nash or Howard. They only went 45-37, and despite the calls to Dwight to stay in LA, he left and went to Houston and Steve Nash would not stick around much longer due to injuries that ended his career. Another Lakers super team that came about just a little too late.

*LeBron Rebuilds The Cavaliers 

-For the false narrative of "Bron has no help", this is a prime example of another Super Team built by LeBron. Kyrie Irving, an All Star and Former Rookie Of The Year, alongside Kevin Love, also an All Star, make this another example of a Big 3, much like Bron had in Miami, but with a younger core so to speak. The team was built to be a super team that could contend and win a championship, and the Cavs have been very lucky to get some amazing players over the years, like Shump, JR, and most recently Kyle Korver. Add them up with the solid players like Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye off the bench, and you have the best team in the Eastern Conference. I'm not going to make the argument that Bron needs a super team to win championships, but I will make the argument that without the three vital pieces combining and the role players doing their job, there would be no third ring for LeBron and no championship for Cleveland. However, much credit has to be given to LeBron for the way he builds his teams, as he tries to met every need the team has so they can always be a front contender. That may seem weak to some fans, but LeBron is a win at all costs type, and you have to respect that. Right?

*KD Joins The Warriors

-If you respect Bron and his ability to make super teams, then I don't want to hear a word of slander for the Golden State Warriors and their win at all costs mentality as well. The most recent Super Team so to speak has turned out so far to be as good as we expected, and maybe even better. Don't believe me? Well currently, the Warriors are the top offensive team in the league, the highest scoring, and in addition to leading the NBA on most points scored per game, they lead the league in assists, steals, and blocks. They are also top 5 in rebounding, which is something most people didn't expect them to do. Now, how did we get to this Super Team? Well, two things happened. Klay Thompson grew as a player, Draymond Green became much more developed, and Stephen Curry became a two time MVP. Though the Warriors went 73-9 in the previous season, I still think the label of a Super Team is a bit generous, but I'm not opposed to calling them that, since they had 3 All Stars on the team last year. However, this season saw Kevin Durant join the team and saw the Warriors in a rebuilding process that really has them coasting to a very cozy record atop the Western Conference. Is this team due to win a championship this year? Only time will tell, but they definitely look like they could, and the best part for this team is that their big 4 of Durant, Klay, Draymond, and Steph are all under 30, meaning they could have a long run together atop the game. You'd have to also mention the bench play of Iggy, Livingston, Ian Clark, David West, and Javale McGee as they have been vital parts for the team as well. Hate them or love them, the Warriors have taken the Super Team concept and made it work wonders for themselves.



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