Thursday, June 12, 2014

Net Loss

NBA All-Stars teaming up in Miami, we’ve seen this movie already, right? Well, sequels to big budget productions are as predictable as a Michael Wilborn name-drop on “PTI.” The sports world is abuzz with talk of Knick forward, Carmelo Anthony, joining up with his besties in South Beach. Making the “Big 3” the “Fab 4” aka, the Heatles.

So every sports radio talk show, website and sports related twitter feed are on fire. Most everyone is adamantly against this union. Minus those who are Heat fans, of which there’s maybe 30,000 legit Heat fans and another 3,000,000 enjoying their spot on the bandwagon. Of course, as a Knick fan, I think this is a horrible idea. Losing your best player in 20 years is almost always a negative, and having him join a conference rival that already has the best player in the game (maybe ever. Yes, I said it) isn’t exactly raising my expectations for the Knicks. I don’t care how many rings Phil Jackson has in his closet.

This potential union is bigger than the Knicks. It would also be bigger than the NBA. What? No single player, or team is bigger than the sport. Well, yes. That’s always been the case. While the “Big 3” shifted the balanced of the league for four seasons, uniting four members of the 2012 Olympic team is a whole new monster. Ultimately, it would be bad for the game of basketball.

On one hand, any time there’s a historically great team playing, it’s good for the sport. No matter what sport it is. The Yankees of the late 90’s, Jordan’s Bulls, Showtime, the Celtics, and Brady’s Patriots. They were all among the greatest teams in their respective sports, and put fannies in the seats and television’s tuned in. Just as we saw when Lebron initially took his talent to South Beach.  

And “the Decision” had a greater impact, than just further breaking Cleveland’s heart into a million more pieces. Chris Paul first tried to join Carmelo and A’mare Stoutemire in New York, before changing his focus to joining Kobe and Pau on the Lakers. A move the NBA itself blocked, before shipping him off to the Clippers. So Dwight Howard joined the Lakers, along with future Hall of Famer, Steve Nash. That didn’t work out, so Howard went to Houston. The Rockets had recently acquired James Harden from the Thunder, because they couldn’t afford to sign him to a long term deal. Turns out, they dealt him a year too soon for a ton too little. But that’s neither here nor there. For now. Kevin Love has asked out of Minnesota, and the belief is that he is looking for a chance to join a winning team. The point is, the league changed. Superstar players are trying to join forces. It was the only way to remain competitive. And the money remained largely unchanged. The best players were going to get their max deals.

But for Melo to join James, Wade and Bosh in Miami, all four players will have to take significant pay-cuts. I’m not saying just a million or two (how can you ever say “just a million or two” and not throw up?). No, they’ll have to take over 50% in pay cuts to make it work under the NBA salary cap. In the end, they’ll each have to give up between $50 and $70m. But shouldn’t we applaud them? Shouldn’t we appreciate that four friends want to work together and live in a beautiful city, while making millions of dollars? Sounds good like a pretty good gig to me.

And this is where I start questioning if this whole idea is really that bad. As fans, we’ve become accustom to calling athletes greedy.  But we can’t say that if this happens. We can’t say they don’t care about winning, just their stats and paychecks, if they’re willing to sacrifice so much just to win. Even if they’re creating a super team and also depleting the level of the competition as a direct result of joining forces. Like when Hulk fought alongside Iron Man and Thor in the Avengers. It made them a whole lot stronger, and they didn’t have to worry about fighting the Hulk anymore. Win-win, right?

Only not so much. We saw the stars of league quickly trying to team up in sets of threes after “The Decision” and if there’s a sequel, the rest of the league will have to act accordingly. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can’t compete without teaming up with two additional great players. Kobe, who would love to do it alone, would have to play nice in someone else’s sandbox. Basically, the rest of the league has to put together their “Superman V Batman” cast, just as Zac Snyder is trying to do in Hollywood to compete with the Marvel Universe.

This could really be a great thing, if we weren’t such a greedy society. Rather than 30 NBA teams, imagine a league of 10 teams. 10 rosters filled up with the best of the best. The level of competition would be insane, although there wouldn’t be a team in Oklahoma City or Portland. There could be a second league, and maybe players could play their way into the top tier. I’ve long thought that all four of the professional leagues should contract some teams. It’s one of those situations, where less really is more. Less teams would mean the remaining teams would have more talent.

After thinking it all through, I’d like to stand at the wedding and object. Not because it’s unfair, or because it kills any chance my Knicks have of winning a title, but for the same reasons I object to Time Warner and Comcast merging. Or Sprint and T-Mobile, okay, bad example. That one is purely personal. Corporate mergers make for boring news and even more boring basketball. 

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