It’s been a dozen years since the NBA’s “superteam” era started when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce on the Boston Celtics.
Since then we’ve seen several superteams formed with varying results.
The Miami “Heatles” won two championships, as did the Golden State Warriors once Kevin Durant joined the team.
But other superteams have been disasters. The 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash didn’t even win a single playoff game.
A former Laker who won three championships with the team has some thoughts on superteams and shared them Tuesday night on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Kimmel asked NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal if he would rather play with today’s Lakers team featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis or the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. O’Neal has his No. 34 jersey retired but the Lakers, but he gave a surprising response to the question.
“Not one of those teams,” he said. “I’m from the era where guys wanted to compete and beat each other. So I would wait to see who’s teaming up and doing that, and I would go on a team that needs a superstar, and I would teach those guys how to beat the superteams.”
Despite the show being taped in Hollywood, the answer was met with a hearty round of applause, though it’s unclear if that was because the crowd agreed with O’Neal.
Most would agree that during Shaq’s era in the 1990s and 2000s, the best players wanted to compete against the best instead of teaming up with them.
When O’Neal left the Orlando Magic for the Lakers in 1996, he joined a team whose best player was journeyman Cedric Ceballos.
Likewise, when O’Neal joined the Heat in 2004 the team’s best player was Dwyane Wade, who would go onto a Hall of Fame career but had just completed his rookie season and was still relatively unproven.
However, toward the end of O’Neal’s career, he did join some superteams of his own. He teamed up with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009 and then joined the Boston Celtics and their “Big 3” a year later.
Another all-time great who shunned superteams during his career feels the same way as O’Neal does. Two years ago, Michael Jordan said superteams hurt the competitive balance of the league.
“I think it’s going to hurt the overall aspect of the league from a competitive standpoint,” Jordan told Cigar Aficionado magazine. “You’re going to have one or two teams that are going to be great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage. Or they’re going to have a tough time surviving in the business environment.”
While we’ve seen various Big 3s over the last decade and a Big 4 on the Golden State Warriors, there doesn’t appear to be one team that is discernibly more talented than the rest of the contenders heading into next season.
That should bring some sort of parity back to the NBA, which is something it’s missed for most of this decade. That would make for a more interesting season, something Shaq and just about everybody else would enjoy.
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