Once upon a time long ago, life used to be simple for NBA franchises, you draft a player, and then he is yours until he retires or you trade him.
Alas, those days have passed, but some players still transcend the mutiny that is the NBA free agency and the cap system to still stay with one team a majority of their career as a dominant player.
But even those times are fading, being replaced by this idea that greatness or success only comes from winning a title.
This line of thinking has in sinuously wormed its way into the brains of all involved in the NBA. Now only one team may have a successful season a year.
Stop the madness! This thought process that only a title makes a season successful or a player great is simply going to lead to frustration and poor decisions for all involved.
I have to admit that my own perspective has been shifted somewhat by a certain former Cavaliers savior who decided to abandon a chance at real eternal greatness for the cheap watered down beer that is the ‘win-now’ mentality.
Although he may win titles with Miami, it will never be what it would have been if he stayed with Cleveland. Even though I know it is just sports, my heart aches just a little for those loyal long-suffering Cleveland fans (not Lebron’s band–wagoner’s).
And so, after much rambling I get to my point: titles do not make a great player. Whoever said titles don’t fade would be wrong.
Look how fast Kobe’s fifth title has gone away in the wake of ‘The Decision.’ Even when he is in arguably the best market in America, his victories are last week’s news (or the week before!).
Bill Russell had 11 rings as a player, and yet even with his massive ‘success,’ his accomplishments are minimized by the fans as ‘well they only had 8 teams back then’ or ‘he was an athletic tall black guy among slow white stiffs’ (like that stiff Chamberlain…).
Rings can be marginalized and will be marginalized to satisfy the fans need for the ‘flavor of the month team’ to be the ‘best ever.’
Many non all-time great players have won titles, (see: Sasha Vujavic, Robert Horry, etc.) so to use them as a measure of greatness is not an accurate reflection of a players greatness.
I think a better indicator might be a player’s impact upon a franchise. A truly great player will change the fortune of a franchise for years to come, and even though he might not win a title that doesn’t make his career a failure.
A great example of this would be Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers; he didn't get a ring, but he gave the fans almost 20 years of great entertainment, and made that franchise worthwhile.
This idea that we need to be ‘winners’ has made us as fans of the NBA not recognize the good times when we have them, instead leaving us feeling bitter that our team was not the ‘one’ to win the title.
And so we try and move on with our bitterness and marginalize the success of other teams in the hope that our team will one day fulfill our dreams and win a title (so we can gloat while others try and marginalize our success).
I remember an interview on Letterman a few years back with former Yankee manager Joe Torre. He had just been fired because of his inability to bring a title frequently enough to Yankee fans, even though he had put the team in a position to contend, year after year after year.
Letterman started out by saying something about how if making the playoffs ten years straight wasn’t success, he didn’t know what was.
I completely agree. All you can do is give your team a chance, if your team is contending year in and year out, don’t get spoiled and stupid, enjoy it for what it is: success.
Just because a team fails win a title doesn’t make your team a failure. Losing in the semi-conference finals is not failure. We need perspective!
A team like the Minnesota Timberwolves that repeatedly for years and years misses the playoffs is a failure. The Oakland Raiders of the last decade are a failure. But making it to the playoffs and losing is not failure.
So I am going to try and unwind myself a little, and just appreciate the good times my team, the Magic, are having. After all, Dwight might break my heart soon and bolt in FA, letting me know what real failure looks like.