It's a good thing the NBA is facing a possible work stoppage in the fall of 2011. The Miami Heat's addition of Chris Bosh and LeBron James to Dwyane Wade means the Heat might as well be handed the NBA title over the length of their contract, making playing the season unnecessary.
James said during the Heat's pep-rally/introduction of James and Bosh to Miami that the Heat can win six or more.
Bringing multiple superstars together is never a sure thing. When the Lakers added Gary Payton and Karl Malone to Shaquile O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, they were being proclaimed the best team ever. This was before they ever played a game.
That's why former Jets and Chiefs Coach Herm Edwards said "You play to win the game." You can't win a game without playing it. Nothing is earned by reputation and more than three players are needed to make a championship team.
The Mariners of the 1990’s had the superstar trio of Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey jr. and Alex Rodriguez for two full seasons. They had Griffey and A-Rod together for four full seasons and the Kid and the Big Unit for eight full seasons.
Despite having three of the biggest stars in baseball, the Mariners only made two playoff appearances with any two of those three. After a historical comeback, the Mariners made their first playoff appearance in 1995. They had trailed the Angels by 13 games in August. After coming back from a 2-0 series deficit, the Mariners defeated the Yankees in the League Division series.
After winning game one of the LCS, the M’s lost the next four to get eliminated in five by Cleveland.
They made it again in 1997 after winning the AL West for a second time. Baltimore proved too tough eliminating the Mariners 3-1.
With the Mariners struggling midway through the next season, Johnson was dealt at the 1998 trading deadline. Griffey lasted another year and half after that and A-Rod bolted for Texas in free agency following the 2000 season.
Thad Matta was given credit for one of the best recruiting classes in the history of college basketball with his freshman unit that matriculated in the fall of 2006. Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr, David Lightly and Daequon Cook comprised a class that could only be compared to history.
They barely survived overtime against Xavier in the second round. Only a game tying three point field goal with 1.1 seconds remaining kept the Buckeyes alive. They next had to overcome a 17 point half time deficit to advance against Tennessee in the Sweet 16. They finally rolled into the National Championship game against defending National Champion Florida with a 35-3 record.
The Gators took the lead with 12 minutes left in the first half and never trailed after that. Oden, Conley Jr. and Cook all left for the NBA after their one season in Columbus and the Buckeyes lost their only chance for a national championship with one of the greatest classes ever.
Oden was the top overall pick and Conley went fourth, while Cook went 21st. The Buckeyes have won only two NCAA Tournament games in the three years since their departure.
In the early 1980’s, De Paul and Ray Meyer became one of the pre-eminent College Basketball programs in the nation. The Blue Demons were coming off of a Final Four Appearance in 1979 and had Superstation WGN televising their games.
In 1980 and 1981, De Paul boasted Mark Aguirre, the top pick in the 1981 NBA Draft and Terry Cummings, the second pick in the 1982 Draft.
In Aguirre and Cummings two seasons together, the Blue Demons finished 53-4. They were the hottest basketball tickets in town 4-5 years before Michael Jordan came to Chicago.
Despite being the top ranked team in the country two seasons in a row entering the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Demons were upset in their second round game. This was before the NCAA’s expanded to 64 teams.
After another second round loss as the nation’s second rank team in 1982 and a Sweet 16 Appearance in 1984, 1986 and 1987, De Paul has found it hard to return to its glory years. They have lost five straight NCAA Tournament games and have won only two NCAA Tournament games since 1987.
Elgin Baylor and Jerry West played together on the Lakers for 11 seasons. They went to seven NBA Finals, but never won a title. All but one of those final losses were to the Celtics. Baylor and West are two of the highest scoring teammates to ever play the game and were named two of the 50 greatest players in NBA History in 1996.
The Lakers won their first title in Los Angeles in 1972 after Baylor had retired earlier in the season.
Superstar recruiting classes are becoming more common in college basketball. With the NBA instituting a minimum age of 19 in the NBA, most players have no choice but to go to college. This has created players that are hungry to win a national championship and still be able to move on after one season in college.
John Calipari built an improbable national power at Memphis. When his self described dream job opened up at Kentucky following the 2009 season, he jumped at the chance to move to the bluegrass.
He had recruited a great class to matriculate at Memphis for the 2009-10 basketball season. When he decided to leave for UK, most of those players followed. This led to a super class for the Wildcats. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton all decided to go to Kentucky.
Kentucky began the season 19-0, the greatest start ever for a UK coach in his first season. They entered the East Regional Final with a 35-2 record.
The Debut of NHL players in the Olympics took place in Nagano in 1998. U.S. Hockey was riding high after winning the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. The American team was stacked and they were the co-favorites with Canada to capture gold.
The United States had a veteran team. Some of the biggest stars in the NHL traveled to Nagano to earn Gold. Chris Chelios, Pat LaFontaine, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano were superstars that donned the American sweater.
The U.S. lost to Sweden and Canada in pool play before being eliminated by eventual Gold Medalists the Czech republic in the quarterfinals. The United States added to the embarrassment of losing three times in four games. About ten hours after being eliminated, an unknown group of players trashed their rooms in the Olympic village causing about $1,000 in damages.
The United States entered the 2004 Olympics looking to restore the image of American basketball after a seventh place finish on homecourt in the 2002 FIBA World Championships.
They had lost 10 of 12 players from the 2003 qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. Players like Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Karl Malone and Jason Kidd elected not to play at Athens 2004.
Most of the roster was young, with the exception of the NBA’s two previous MVP’s Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan. They lost their opening game to Puerto Rico 92-73 in the opening game of the tournament. They lost a second game to Lithuania before qualifying for the knock round by defeating Angola in the final stage of pool play. They finished fourth in pool play. That set up a quarterfinal against undefeated Spain.
After defeating Spain 102-94, they seemed to be back on track. Encouraged by the win over Spain, most fans expected the team to keep playing well. Argentina eliminated the U.S. 89-81 in the semifinals. They bounced back to capture the Bronze over Lithuania.
Blame was spread all-around. The missing players, no outside shooting and the minutes players received or did not receive. The Bronze medal in Athens led to changes about selection process. There is now a permanent US Team that stays together for a few years.
The University of Houston advanced to the Final Four in 1982 with a very young team. Led by Rob Williams and Clyde Drexler, the Cougars made their surprising run a sixth seed.
Williams left following the 1982 season, but UH had most of its team returning. Drexler was the star of the 1983 team and with Michael Young, Larry Micheaux and Hakeem Olajuwon.
They advanced to their second straight Final Four and defeated Louisville in the most explosive game in NCAA Tournament history. The game had a seemingly infinite supply of dunks. Houston won 94-81 in what most people considered at the time as the De-facto NCAA Championship game.
They then lost when Houston coach Guy V. Lewis got stubborn and tried to slow the game down with a lead. Missed free throws and a failure to block out on the last play cost Houston the NCAA Championship.
They lost Drexler following the 1983 season. With Olajuwon and Young back and adding freshmen sensation Ricky Winslow, many thought the Cougars had another chance at a title. They would match-up with Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. The Hoyas would not be denied and Houston suffered its second consecutive NCAA Championship game loss.
Lewis finished his career with five Final Four appearances and no title to show for it. Houston has made only four NCAA Tournament appearances in the 26 years since without winning a game.
Nebraska rolled through the 1983 College Football season with only two teams getting within twenty points of them. They outgained their opponents by 200 yards per game and outscored them by an average of 52 to 15.5. They also averaged over 400 yards per game rushing.
They entered the 1984 Orange Bowl as a 10.5 point favorite in what amounted to a road game against Miami. After Miami raced out to a 17-0 First Quarter Lead and 31-17 after three, Nebraska rallied to cut the lead to 31-30 with under a minute to go.
Coach Tom Osborne made the gutsy decision to go for two and the win instead of kicking the PAT to tie the game and likely still win the national championship. The Hurricanes batted away the two-point conversion and knocked off what some consider to be the greatest team in college football history.
The 1983 Cornhuskers had Heisman Trophy Winner Mike Rozier, eventual top overall draft pick wide receiver Irving Fryar, the undisputed best lineman Dean Steinkuhler and one of the best option QB’s in College Football history, Turner Gill. They sent 14 players to the NFL. A team of true superstars lost to a team that road the emotion of the crowd to an improbable national championship.
When the Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the 2003 off-season to roster, already boasting Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, many were proclaiming that the 2003-04 Lakers would become the best team ever. The 1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins wasn’t even in doubt.
This was a team with four future Hall-of-Famers and there was no doubt they would dominate the NBA.
The Lakers stormed out to an 18-3 record. Karl Malone went out with a sprained MCL in his knee on December 21 and did not return until March 12. He missed 40 games. Bryant missed 17 games and O’Neal 15.
Despite the injuries, the Lakers beat Houston, enacted revenge from the previous year on San Antonio (including Derek Fisher’s miracle in game four) before eliminating Minnesota in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
They went into the NBA Finals as prohibitive favorites against Detroit. The Pistons stole Game one in Los Angeles. The Lakers then evened the series at one, before the series returned to Detroit.
The Pistons swept the three games in Motown to shock the World and Capture the World Championship. Payton and Malone were total busts in the finals. Neither player scored double figures in any game. The Lakers were embarrassed and they finished the season far from the best team ever.