Skip to content

Olajuwon doesn’t think “super teams” are good for NBA

Sep 9, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

Sacramento Kings v Houston Rockets Getty Images

We’ve heard this all before. Part of what fueled the owners during the lockout was what happened in Miami — that was well behind the financial motivations for the owners, but it was there. Owners didn’t like players controlling their own destiny to form a “super team.”

The argument is that super teams not good for the NBA — small market teams need to have a chance and be able to compete or the NBA becomes MLB with a handful of rich teams and everyone else playing catch up. That argument looks at the NFL’s parity as a model to strive for.

I don’t buy it (and we’ll get to that). But a lot of people do, a lot of people think the super teams are bad for the league.

And Hall of Famer and current big man guru Hakeem Olajuwon is one of them. Look what he told the USA Today.

“That’s the dilemma the league has to balance to make sure each team at least has the opportunity to have a superstar and has the opportunity to be a championship contender. That’s the goal of every team, but now the quality of players, true franchise players, is less than what it was…

“There are superstars and then there are franchise players,” Olajuwon said. “There are superstars in their own right, but a franchise player is a player who can carry his team to the next level. There are always very few of those in any era, true franchise players. Once you have that player, you can build your team around him. Today, the ones who are franchise players are teaming up together, which makes it more difficult for the teams without a superstar or a franchise player.

“I think in time, when you have guys coming from college who have the potential to be a superstar, they’re going to be drafted by a losing team that can then ultimately be a contender, and that’s what we need to see more of. We need to see college players who are superstars or can be franchise caliber players who can take those teams from being average teams to being a contender.”

Here are four reasons I don’t think this holds water.

First, the NBA has always been a league of super teams. What do you think the 1960s Celtics were? So the Lakers went out and had to get Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain together to compete with them. It was true in the 1980s (Boston trades for Robert Parish and pick that becomes Kevin McHale for peanuts to pair with Larry Bird). Yes, those teams were assembled differently in an era before free agency, but they were still super teams. And for the record, Olajuwon himself was part of one, his Rockets went out and got Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, they needed more star power to compete.

Second, fans love super teams. Look at the television ratings from the past couple years. Fans watch the Heat more than anyone else. It’s the same way fans were drawn to the Bulls in the 1990s and the Lakers and Celtics before them. Some NBA fans claim to want parity, but their eyeballs don’t lie and they tune in to watch these super teams in a way they do not parity.

Third, you can never have NFL style parity in the NBA anyway because great players can control the game in a way no single football player can. If you have LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant or even peak Olajuwon you have a player who can change the game on both ends of the floor for 80 percent of the game’s plays. Superstar basketball talent has a huge advantage and if you have one of those 10 or so guys franchise guys at any given time you are going to win a lot whether or not you pair them up.

Finally, fourth and to Olajuwon’s point directly — small market teams in the NBA do have a chance if they are smart. Oklahoma City is a small market that is smart and drafted well. San Antonio is a small market. New Orleans is a small market that just got potential franchise player Anthony Davis. Cleveland is a small market and the reason they lost LeBron James is not the bright lights of Miami but their own missteps in building a team and how they let LeBron have too much power around the organization. LeBron didn’t have to grow up in Cleveland, they enabled him in a way Pat Riley didn’t in Miami.

The same is true in Orlando — they had a chance with Dwight Howard, they lost him. The fact he went to L.A. may gall Magic fans, but the organization lost Howard long before a destination was chosen.

Small market teams in the NBA have a chance — their margin for error is smaller than for Los Angeles or New York, but they have a real and legitimate chance. Fans will tune in to watch a small market super team just like they will a big market one. So long as they have the star power in uniform.

Because the NBA is a league of stars. Not parity.

Latest Posts
  1. Wednesday NBA grades: Kevin Durant ends season exactly like you think he would

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:10 AM EDT

    Kevin Durant Kevin Durant

    On the season Kevin Durant averaged 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists a game. Not too shabby.

  2. Kevin Durant’s game-winning dunk clinches two seed for Thunder (VIDEO)

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:31 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Kevin Durant was simply unstoppable with the game on the line against the Pistons.

  3. Finally the NBA playoff match ups are set

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Miami Heat Victory Parade And Rally Getty Images

    The West is loaded with great series: Thunder vs. Grizzlies, Clippers vs. Warriors, Rockets vs. Blazers.

  4. Wagers on season win totals still undecided for four teams heading into final night of NBA season

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT

    Vegas nailed the lines for season win totals for four NBA teams almost exactly.

  5. NBA announces preliminary schedule for Game 1 of the playoffs

    Apr 16, 2014, 9:14 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

    The matchups aren’t all set, but this gives us an idea of who plays when as the playoffs open this weekend.

  6. Knicks announce signing of Lamar Odom for remainder of the season

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:48 PM EDT

    odom phil Getty Images

    Knicks make it official and announce they’ve signed Lamar Odom for the remainder of the season.

  7. PBT Extra: Giving out MVP, end of season awards

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder vs Miami Heat Getty Images

    Durant and LeBron at the top of the MVP ballot is easy, it’s filling out spots 3-5 that is the challenge.

  8. New Bucks owners say all the right things, that they are committed to Milwaukee

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Herb Kohl Herb Kohl

    Kohl is going to pitch in $100 million to get a new arena built in Milwaukee.

  9. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson officially declares for NBA Draft

    Apr 16, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    Arizona St v Texas Getty Images

    Teams will like his speed, but he’s destined for a second round pick.

  10. Report: Kobe Bryant already vacationing in France as Lakers end ugly season

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant

    While the Lakers end their dreary season Kobe Bryant is already on vacation.

  11. Blake Griffin would vote yes on NBA allowing medical marijuana use

    Apr 16, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

    Blake Griffin AP

    Clippers forward: ‘It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit’

  12. Mavericks, Grizzlies both motivated to win Wednesday, avoid Spurs in first round

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game One Getty Images

    The Spurs have crushed the Grizzlies and Mavericks this season, so those teams are motivated to avoid a trip to the Riverwalk to start the postseason.

  13. 2014 PBT Awards: All-Rookie team

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT

    Tim Hardaway, Mason Plumlee Tim Hardaway, Mason Plumlee

    First team nearly a clean sweep, but one top teamer didn’t even make other two ballots

  14. Report: Sale of Milwaukee Bucks for record $550 million agreed upon, team to stay in Milwaukee

    Apr 16, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    Image (1) Bucks_logo-thumb-250x346-20140.gif for post 4121

    New York based hedge fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wes Edens are buying the team but keeping it in Wisconsin, they just need to get a new arena built.

  15. Tyson Chandler: ‘I’m not into wasting seasons’

    Apr 16, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT

    Jimmy Butler, Tyson Chandler Jimmy Butler, Tyson Chandler

    Knicks center knows, though, he might have no choice

  16. Shaq smashes Brent Barry’s guitar ala Animal House (VIDEO)

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT

    Shaquille O'Neal AP

    You can’t do enough Animal House references to make me happy.

Featured video

Woodson, D'Antoni's coaching futures
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Williams (4152)
  2. K. Love (4145)
  3. D. Wade (3994)
  4. L. James (3732)
  5. G. Dragic (3668)
  1. S. Curry (3626)
  2. R. Rondo (3356)
  3. C. Anthony (3336)
  4. D. Howard (3187)
  5. R. Westbrook (3055)