By: Jeffrey Newholm
Today in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are supposedly the rulers of the NBA Kingdom. It’s important to remember, for sake of contrast, the Vince Lombardi democracy. Each player had an equal voice on running the franchise. St. Vince was really just a gentle figurehead who rubber stamped all team votes. Winning wasn’t everything, or anything at all for that matter. Sound familiar? Well of course not.
This sounds like a horrible gameplan for any football team above Pop Warner level. It sounds more like the laughable Utopian fantasies of the peasant who heckled Monty Python’s King Arthur than any lasting and effective form of governance. And yet we are told that Golden State’s exquisite ball-movement and Globetrotter-esque “smile a minute” loose style of play is ushering in a revolution fundamental to how the game is played. When one examines the franchises that stood the test of time, they all proved to be spearheaded by a key big name player. And that’s what the NBA is begging for right now: a talented star that captures the imagination of fans nationwide, and makes a team a household name.
To provide a quick illustration, I encourage the reader to quickly name the biggest contributor to the dubs’ success. Kevin Durant? Great ballplayer, but one cherry-picked off a lesser team after Golden State was already good. Steph Curry? Certainly a talented three point shooter. But the team was merely good before Steve Kerr took over. Kerr himself? Many casual fans either don’t know coaches’ names or don’t really care. But when the Bulls prime one’s brain, Michael Jordan is unquestionably the first to come to mind. MJ achieved so much success, winning six Finals and Finals MVP trophies, that the Bulls will always be a household name. Jordan’s bar judges the success of any budding talent who aspires to worldwide acclaim and greatness.
The dubs were the lightning-in-a-bottle success in 2015 that became a now burgeoning dynasty. Fans universally adore the dubs-to the point of meaninglessness. A world with universal fulfillment of wishes is one not worth living in when this satisfaction grows boring and stale. The Cavs are a bit less successful and, more importantly, more divisive. The undeniable boost Cleveland received after its miracle 2016 comeback was possible only because of the ‘lands outlier cursed status, and a love him or hate em’ absolutism of common sentiments towards James. The team and fanbase both view Lebron as an unquestionable authority, one above even coaches and GMs, and this cultish loyalty earns the jeers of fans of other teams. And that’s the way it should be.
It takes years of interacting with one’s peers and showing proper deference to those in positions of trust and authority to fully round into a mature and productive part of the whole. All of us need a role model to emulate and turn towards for guidance in moments of doubt. That’s what the NBA needs: a talented star who takes the league by storm and establishes a kingdom, and holds the bar by which pretenders are judged and seek to emulate. With Lebron running out of time, the Dubs are, in the interim, really just a placeholder. What really makes a franchise memorable isn’t the one with the most stars; it’s the one with the star that shines the brightest, and takes command over the night sky.