NBA Dynasties: A Look at the Increasing Concentration of Talent in the NBA

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NBA Dynasties: A Look at the Increasing Concentration of Talent in the NBA
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After the Boston Celtics created what was the original Big Three with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, other teams have followed suit.

The Miami Heat assembled one of the more controversial Big Threes (LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) and the Los Angeles Lakers nearly had Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum donning the purple and gold together.

With Dwight Howard nearing a deal with the Brooklyn Nets, it looks like the latest Big Three (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Howard) will join forces in the NBA. Of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a star-powered squad in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

That means half of the top 20 in player efficiency rating are on five teams.

The culmination of all these factors leads NBA fans to take a stance similar to that of the Occupy Wall Street Movement that protests the so-called "one percent." Fans of teams that dwell in the cellar of the NBA are not happy because they have virtually no chance of making a championship run.

They aren't crying out unreasonably, either. In the past 28 seasons not including the Mavericks' 2011 championship, only seven different teams have been crowned kings of the NBA (Lakers, Heat, Bulls, Spurs, Piston, Celtics and Rockets).

So while there may be a dramatic concentration of talent in the NBA, there has always been an exclusivity in winning championships. With that in mind, what should be taken away from the trend toward Big Threes?

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Put simply, it is good for the NBA and basketball fans. It creates fanbases in populous cities (New York, Boston, Los Angeles) and that provides obvious financial advantages for the NBA. Moreover, it provides a surplus of what I call "secondary teams" for NBA fans.

For fans of the Bobcats, Warriors and Kings, the season has ended in May. But the basketball fanatics don't stop watching until the end of the postseason. Late May and June are when stars are born and legacies are created.

So those fans latch onto a perennial playoff contender or particular player they like, and that makes things interesting. LeBron, Kobe and Durant all have fans outside of their city because of this effect. What's so bad about that? Everybody likes rooting for a good player and once the Davids are out of the contest, it is only natural to choose a Goliath.

And fans don't root for all of the big names simultaneously—they choose one. Each elite player has their own characteristics: Kevin Durant is the likable scoring machine, LeBron is the polarizing all-around great, Kobe is the shoot-first Black Mamba and Dwight Howard is the monster in the middle.

All of these greats have intricacies in their game that contrast one another, which leads to the creation of rivalries within the NBA's elite. Kobe fans are generally the most vehement LeBron haters and vice versa.

The reality is that 30 teams can't compete for a championship every year. In fact, 30 teams can't compete for a championship every decade.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
24 is in the process of transferring his scoring torch to 35.

 

Modifying the salary cap isn't the answer. Baseball, for example, has the New York Yankees and their 27 championships but small-market teams like the Florida (now Miami) Marlins have taken home the World Series trophy in recent memory.

So while it may seem intuitive that a salary cap increases competition, it depends on the strength of the team. Baseball is much less based on the individual because a great batter is diluted by the other eight players that are in the lineup. A great pitcher only pitches every five days.

Baseball may not have a salary cap and basketball might, but the wealth of talent is actually spread more evenly across the playing field than it is in basketball.

Part of that is due to basketball being much more based on the individual. Only five players on a team are on the court at a time which puts a much brighter spotlight on each player. So the great players will take over games more often.

And they will win more championships.

It's just a matter of what team they are on and if they join forces, so be it. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird had Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, and Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen.

All it means is that the dynamic duos have added a piece to become the big trios.

So let's watch to see how the newer Big Threes perform against the defending champions. More team-oriented squads like the Pacers and 76ers will also give everybody a run for their deep pockets of money.

The NBA will still undoubtedly be exciting—and what's so wrong with that?

 

Read more of my sports writing at Bases and Baskets.

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