How the 2003 NBA Draft Class Changed the NBA Forever

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How the 2003 NBA Draft Class Changed the NBA Forever
Courtesy of "CosbySweaters.com"

Four of the top five picks in the 2003 NBA draft were used to select LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

This Sunday, that same group will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. If Bosh is eventually appointed to replace the injured Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup, all four would represent their conference as starters.

Besides combining for 32 All-Star appearances along with totaling over 66,000 regular-season points between them, this group has made a profound impact on the NBA game off the court as well.

The 2003 NBA draft class would go on to change the NBA forever by first popularizing the player-generated super team.

This movement would be instrumental in causing the NBA to lock out its players in 2011, as well as helping to write the new collective bargaining agreement that currently governs the league.

Additionally, they also sparked change and discussion about how individual player legacies are viewed along with how the league would be best served in distributing talent.

 

The 2003 NBA draft class first popularized the player-generated 'super team'

Doug Benc/Getty Images
Miami Heat's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh

The Boston Celtics of the 1980s featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson. 

They would certainly qualify as a "super team," along with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy's Los Angeles Lakers.

There were other "super teams" in NBA history as well, besides those Lakers and Celtics teams, who came long before LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade as members of the Miami Heat in 2010. 

But when the Big Three aligned in Miami, this marked the first time in NBA history when those teams weren't necessarily assembled by draft picks or trades, so much as they were by the collective decisions of James, Bosh and Wade.

After their union was first celebrated on that Miami stage during the summer of 2010, others around the NBA would follow suit.

 

Carmelo Anthony follows Heat model and joins Amar'e Stoudemire in New York 

Chris Chambers/Getty Images
New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire

In February of 2011, after being drafted by the Denver Nuggets and spending parts of eight seasons in the Mile High City, Carmelo Anthony successfully facilitated a blockbuster trade that sent him to the New York Knicks. 

It would be there, in New York, that Anthony would team up with Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to form their own version of an NBA super team.

Chris Paul, to a lesser extent, helped dictate a trade from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers to join forces with Blake Griffin.

Then, this past summer—even though it hasn't worked quite the way Lakers fans had hoped—Dwight Howard agreed to a trade that made him teammates with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol in Los Angeles.

 

NBA owners respond to player-generated super teams with 2011 lockout

Courtesy of the AP's David Karp, via Grantland.com

As the balance of power shifted, sparked by the decisions made by James, Bosh and Anthony, NBA owners locked out the players on July 1, 2011.

The work stoppage lasted 161 days and a new collective bargaining agreement was born from those negotiations.

According to Charles Barkley (via the Sporting News), in June of 2011, the goal was to prevent super teams from forming in the future.

"I think there’s going to be a lockout, I think the owners are dug in, I think they want to send a message to these players,” Barkley said in an interview transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews.

“I think they’re really upset by this LeBron James/Chris Bosh situation, because their teams don’t have to be really good, but I feel like if they have a star in their market they can make some money."

While we won't really know if the new CBA will in fact stop super teams from forming in the future, ESPN's Larry Coon believes that tax penalties for going into the luxury tax (to form super teams) will be too much for organizations to overcome.

 

The changing fan perception that a player can bolt to a new city with other stars and still be considered great

Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Courtesy of "Dws4.me"

Larry Bird won his championships for the Boston Celtics. Michael Jordan won his for the Chicago Bulls and Magic Johnson won his titles as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Each superstar, who arrived almost three decades before James won his first NBA championship last season with the Heat, won his rings for the team that drafted him.

The argument was made on sports talk radio stations all over the country that those stars were considered great because they played the hand they were dealt—to a certain extent.

For James to join the ranks of those stars, he needed to win a title for the team that drafted him, too. 

Only it turns out he didn't, winning his first NBA title and third MVP with the Heat, and we no longer hear that same argument we used to just prior to James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami. 



NBA Debate: What's better, competitive balance or star-studded super teams? 

Marc Serota/Getty Images
New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony, Miami Heat's LeBron James

Another question we weren't openly asking prior to the decisions made by the stars from the 2003 NBA draft is what is better for the NBA—competitive balance or powerhouse teams?

An argument could be made for both—to an extent—which is why the well-reasoned Shane Battier posed the question to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel following the Rudy Gay trade earlier this month:

And so the ultimate question is what's better: To have a few powerhouse teams or to spread out talent so more teams are competitive?

While James, Wade, Bosh and Anthony might answer that question differently than the authors of the NBA's current CBA would, only time will tell which way the league will ultimately go.

If an NBA superstar is willing to take substantially less than market rate, however, there's always room for one more super team.

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