When The Going Gets Tough, NBA Superstars Run

Nick SachsCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2010

BEIJING - AUGUST 11:  (L-R) LeBron James and Chris Paul of the United States men's basketball team watch the United Staes women play against China during their women's basketball preliminary game on Day 3 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium on August 11, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Whatever happened to competition, to the insatiable desire to prove yourself the best by beating the best?  Lord knows this topic has been discussed, debated, reheated, and beaten like the dead horse it's fast becoming.  However, with the news that Chris Paul "wants to follow LeBron James' business model", I figured I'd take a stab at commenting.

The NBA in the 80's and even the early to mid 90's was a far superior product, at least in this writer's eyes.  If there happened to be a "super" team, it was typically the product of smart drafting, of young players peaking while the vets on the squad were still capable gamers. 

Never was there anything like the farce going on in Miami, or what's likely to follow wherever Chris Paul winds up.

I'm not going to quote Jordan, Bird, or Magic.  You've all undoubtedly heard and/or read the quotes somewhere by now.  I'm sure some people doubt how genuine they are, given that they never had an opportunity like the trio in Miami did.

I fully believe them, and truth be told I despised Jordan when he was playing (I used to like the Knicks until they became a running joke).  They wore their hearts on their sleeve, and the only thing that got their blood pumping was competition and a chance to prove themselves against worthy opponents.

They didn't want to "become a global brand", play with others of their elite ilk, or ever give reason to think they didn't leave it all on the court every night.

The NBA was fun when there was an obvious dislike apparent on the court, regardless of how genuine it was.  In most cases, it was blatant that the dislike was not a performance, the players genuinely despised each other on and off the court.

My favorite player in the 90's: John Starks.

If ever there was a player who could unite a fan base and make the opposition and their fans despise him, it was John.  A notoriously streaky shooter (2-18 still makes me nauseous), he would headbutt Reggie Miller, clothesline Scottie Pippen, and go toe to toe with Michael regardless of whether his shot was falling that night.

What he lacked in pure skill, he more than made up for in substance.

I'm not digressing, simply contrasting.  LeBron, CP3, Bosh, etc., all have skill and physical abilities far beyond those Starks possessed.  They rival some of the greatest to ever play the game in those regards.  You know when you tune in to watch those guys you're likely to see at least a play or two that makes you question what planet they're from.

It's what you won't see that is beginning to ruin the NBA for some fans of old-school basketball like myself.  Most of the current crop of players, particularly the superstars, lack the edge and intensity of yesteryear.  They're more likely to hug the opposition before the game than do anything approaching a confrontation during it.

That's why I'm proud to say that I'm a Celtics fan.  Love them or hate them, they're the closest thing to an old school team we've got left.  They don't smile and hug before games, nor do they even do so little as to help opponents up off the floor.  They have that edge, that "us against the world" mentality that used to be so common but is now reserved for them and the Lakers.

Is it any coincidence they've combined for five of the last six Finals appearances?

This is probably the part where you call me a hypocrite for calling out LeBron, Chris, and others for uniting when the Celtics had done the same.  There's quite an obvious difference though, and I'm suprised you didn't see it.  Of the Boston "Big three", only Paul Pierce was still firmly in his prime when they united.

They'd accomplished everything they could on their own, and by uniting were acknowledging that they needed a little more help to win a ring.  Each player sacrificed personal stats and achievements to allow something greater for the team.  They dedicated themselves to defense, and allowed their coach to lead them.

Could that happen in Miami, or on another "super" team should one arise starring Chris Paul?  Possibly, but there's some super sized egos that need to be checked, and it remains to be seen if that can be done.

In addition, whatever glory or accolades will be heaped upon the "Miami Thrice" should they win it all will be diluted to a great degree.  Wow, you guys won a ring with arguably the best collection of high-end talent ever assembled.  Way to really defy the odds; they had better win several rings during their time together to make it relevant.

Now imagine the hype if Wade hauls that team back to relevance with only one other quasi-star, or if LeBron could have brought a Finals victory to the championship-starved city of Cleveland.  One done that way is easily equal to two, maybe even three after they took the easy way out.

CP3, why don't you give Drew Brees a call, find out what it's like to bring some championship accolades to New Orleans?  Call Isiah Thomas, find out what it's like to finish where you start as one of the greatest point guards of all time.

I'm very curious as to whether this issue is actually a reflection upon us as a society, or if it's some strange phenomenon that is limited to the NBA, it's superstars in particular.

What ever happened to, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again?"