will the final stages of the championship sign the end of the “super teams” of stars?

If success were reproducible at will, in the NBA, the formula would probably be called “Super team”. Take a team – ideally established in an attractive city – already possessing a star; add two, even if you have to give in a few players beforehand to obtain them, and complete with “role players”, these players of duty or former glories enticed by the opportunity of a coronation. For nearly twenty years, the formula has been a recipe for the four corners of the North American Basketball League.

One player embodies this trend: LeBron James. With his “Heatles” (contraction of the Miami Heat and the Beatles) Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh at the turn of the 2010s, the one who is probably the best player of the last two decades won two titles, before replicating this winning model in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, then with the Los Angeles Lakers.

After a title in 2020 during a season under a bubble due to the Covid, followed by any season, the Californian team recruited, in the offseason, a third star, point guard Russell Westbrook, to aim for a new sacred. However, while the play-offs – the final stages – begin on Saturday April 16, the Lakers of the trio LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook will not be in the game. Sixteen teams will compete for the title, but the historic Hollywood franchise is already on vacation, weighed down by a catastrophic regular season.

On the other side of the country, on the east coast, the other “power trio” of the League, formed by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden at the Brooklyn Nets, exploded during the season. Bearded guard James Harden left the New York metropolis for Philadelphia, and the Nets, long deprived of their point guard Irving in all home games – because of his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and rules introduced in New York – only narrowly clinched the play-offs.

The sinking of the Lakers, associated, to a lesser degree, with that of the Nets, which remained ric-rac above the waterline, will it mark the end of the “Super teams”?

The symbol of star power

After decades where players looked like pieces of a chessboard, exchanged or sacrificed by their leaders, the phenomenon of “great teams” corresponds to the wishes assumed by some of the greatest players to regain control of their destiny. Thus, in 2019, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving assured that they had agreed to play together, before choosing Brooklyn as their base.

“Business comes first in the league and no one is immuneobserved the French Rudy Gobert this winter, questioned by the world. Even the biggest star can be transferred overnight, you have to be aware of that. » Triple best defender of the year, the pivot of the Blues is once again playing the play-offs this season with the Utah Jazz, and does not plan to leave Salt Lake City – where he signed a huge contract in December 2020 – for join a more competitive team. But the Olympic silver medalist in Tokyo with the Blues does not throw stones at the stars who have chosen to combine their talents.

Even if it means offending the former glories of the NBA. “The guys today have become lazy, assured in early January Shaquille O’Neal, a former dominant pivot in the League, who became a consultant. If I had known in my time that it was okay to partner with a team that just kicked my ass […] I would have teamed up with Michael Jordan, and we would have won. But no, after each defeat, I licked my wounds wanting to beat all these guys. And we did. »

The former Los Angeles Lakers pivot fails to say that he left his first team (Orlando Magic) to join Los Angeles and join a star in the making, Kobe Bryant. But many observers share his analysis.

Last year, the NBA title barely won with the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo scolded the tendency of some of his cronies to associate rather than advance their team. “It’s easy to join a team and win the title with someone else; I could join a great team, just do my part and win a trophy”, exposed the Greek. There was no shortage of temptations for the double MVP (“most valuable player”best player of the season), courted from all sides at the start of last season.

“Great teams, built the right way”

But Antetokounmpo chose to stay loyal to the franchise from Wisconsin, which signed him at the age of 18, when he was an obscure second division Greek player, passed under the radar of NBA scouts. .

Win a title without having stacked the big names – the Bucks don’t have the chance, being a “little market” in the NBA, unattractive – but having agglomerated a “true” team is a source of pride. “What we did, we did it by taking the arduous path, but we succeeded”greeted the “Greek Freak” (the “greek monster”His nickname).

NBA boss Adam Silver acknowledged in the summer of 2021 “don’t be crazy” of these alliances of superstars. For the balance of the League, the commissionaire has every interest in ensuring that the teams are as competitive as possible. The 2022 regular season, which saw the emergence of several patiently assembled teams, like the Phoenix Suns (finalists last year and best team this season), or the Memphis Grizzlies, must have pleased him.

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“The expression ‘Super Team’ can have a positive or negative connotation, assured Adam Silver in February. The negative is when you have players who come together for the sole purpose of winning a championship, especially at the end of their career. On the other hand, you have great teams, built the right way, where it’s recognized as a team sport. »

The final phases will validate, or not, his analysis. This year again, the Brooklyn Nets, who had not gone far from a final in 2021, approach the play-offs with the label of favorites, even if they qualified in extremis (by crossing the dams). But it’s a safe bet that their opponents, starting with the Boston Celtics in the first round, will intend to give a positive answer to this year’s referendum: is the era of super teams over?


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