At its heart, basketball is dominated by individual players. No matter how much we talk about teamwork, at the end of the day, only five players from each team can play on court at one time. With so few players, the value of each individual player is magnified. Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh realized this, which is why they teamed up and signed with the Miami Heat. They realized that if they all played together, with their level of talent they would be almost unstoppable.
And that's why the Heat must lose.
Normally, the NBA has a thing called the "salary cap," which is supposed to at least make it easier for smaller market teams to compete with big market teams. It's not perfect, but it makes it harder for teams like the Lakers and Knicks to pay a lot of money to sign lots of talent. It's based on the theory that players will sign contracts close to their value. Superstar players will sign maximum contracts. Role players will sign smaller contracts. If a team wants to compete for a championship, they have to build through the draft, and then maybe sign some players willing to accept a lower salary for a chance at a championship ring.
But then James, Wade, and signed with the Heat for less money. Haslem gave up a full mid-level exception to re-sign with the Heat. And the first championship team (and possible dynasty), created entirely out of free agency, was created. It wasn't about drafting. It wasn't about savvy trading. It was simply about getting superstar players to sign for less money.
If the Heat win the championship this year, other players around the league will be looking at what they did. Superstars players may think, "hey, maybe we should team up and sign for less money under the salary cap, so we can and compete for the championship." Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams all have their contracts coming up. What if they all signed for less money on the same team? What then?
This isn't about the Heat, or egos, or "The Decision." This is about the competitive nature of the NBA. The NBA championship is supposed to about the struggle to the top. It's not supposed to be about three superstar players signing for the same team to form a dynasty. It's not supposed to be this easy. It eliminates any sense of the struggle. It's no longer about the journey, but the end. The ends justify the means.
This is also about the future of the NBA. James, Wade, and Bosh have set a dangerous precedent. The NBA has always had superteams. What angers me the most, and what makes me want the Heat to lose is that their actions can be easily copied. Are superstar players in their prime expected to join together? Are all the players in the All-Star game expected to come from one or two teams? Is talent supposed to become concentrated into one or two teams? It's no longer about drafting through the lottery. Yes, Miami drafted Dwayne Wade, but he was a free agent when he re-signed with the Heat. The point is that the three of them could have signed with ANY team, since they were willing to take less money. It won't be about trading, or smart moves, or anything like that. It'll be about bending over backwards trying to attract superstar free agents and form a dominant superteam. That's something I never want to see again, after last summer's "Decision." In addition if this becomes the norm, there really isn't any reason to believe in small market teams anymore. Larger markets will always have the advantage in attracting free agents. There will be no competition in the NBA, except between the top three or four teams, all of whom are filled with superstar players.
The Heat must lose. To show that championship teams aren't built in a year through free agency. To show that drafting, trading, and smart signings still have value in this league. To show that this is not the path that other players should take.
Sorry if this is a little ranty. Or a little tl;dr. Or that I mentioned the Mavs.