Wednesday, June 26, 2019

When the Wizards selected John Wall with the first overall pick during the 2010 NBA Draft, everyone across the DMV knew they were getting someone special. I remember watching his first game and as soon as his name was announced, he danced his way into our hearts as fans.


Six years later, Wall has not only added being a four time all-star to his resume, but he’s done it with the same franchise with which he started. 


In game six of the playoffs this past season, Wall took matters into his own hands during the final seven seconds of the game. As time was expiring, he sunk a go ahead game winning three pointer that ultimately forced a game seven. Once the game was over, Wall stood on the announcer table, looked into the crowd, and told everyone in the arena that no matter what NBA team they were a fan of, “This is my city.” What stood out to me most about that statement wasn’t the fire and passion he displayed in saying it, but rather him owning his franchise, his home, and his platform. 


In the past six years, John Wall has really grown up before our eyes. He’s made it known that he doesn’t want to be anywhere else; I think it’s safe to say he is a Wizard for life.


With this being said, what I see out of John Wall is that he possesses a trait that seems to go unnoticed nowadays, which is also one of the most unspoken attributes in sports— loyalty. 


The Basis


I think legacies are indeed defined by championships. To save an argument, I can list a few players as examples without any explanations: Michael Jordan, Le’Bron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, and the list goes on. My argument starts here—people don’t realize how much loyalty can play a part in someone’s legacy.  Thus, it has become such a devalued part of the game, which in turn takes away from the competition within the league. And this, my friends, is how the “Super team” became the NBA’s next big thing.


I came across a tweet the other day that claimed the Golden State Warriors were interested in picking up Paul George next summer in free agency. This led me to retweet a tweet that read, “RT if you would never watch another NBA game.” I thought that tweet was hilarious not because of the joking nature of how the tweet read, but because of the feeling of “damn, someone feels the exact same way as me.” 


This past season, the GSW won their second championship in three years after signing NBA Super Star Kevin Durant, who was seeking his first championship ring. However, the downside of Kevin Durant’s first championship was the circumstances of how he won it. Not only did he join what is easily said to be the best team in the league, but he also joined this team that he had had the chances of beating the season before in the Western Conference Finals, after being up 3-1. Where is the honor in that? Everyone knew it was going to be a cake walk for the GSW, and that’s exactly what it was. It not only paved the way for Durant to become a champion, but also to be a named Finals MVP. To be honest, I think it’s safe to say that having a Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant combination could easily be seen as the greatest shooting attack ever in the NBA. 


After that move I really figured out what a Super team really was.  It’s a bunch of players that really lost a will to compete at a higher caliber—they’d rather take the easy route to winning.


After expressing my reasoning to a bunch of friends, a few of them really couldn’t understand as to why I considered Durant’s move as “weak.” They all continued to give me the same reason why they thought it was a good move for him:


“The NBA is a business, he doesn’t owe OKC anything.”


I understand the business aspect of the game—whatever situation is best for you and your life is typically contingent on where the most money is. However, after having all you needed with OKC in order to beat the GSW, wouldn’t you feel somewhat obliged to get that franchise a Finals victory? Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I look at the game. Situations like these are what drive competition, embrace the ideology of loyalty, and make your legacy that much better. Also, from a spectator point of view, I’ll take a tough competitive matchup over watching a team walk its way to an NBA championship with ease, which is exactly what the GSW did this past season. 


The Diagnosis


At the Championship Parade, Power Forward for the Warriors Draymond Green took a shot at LeBron James in his speech, basically talking about how James started this Super team wave.  He was describing James’s move to the Miami Heat in 2010 after spending his first tenure in Cleveland. James teamed up Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in what was known as the Big 3. They went on to become champions in two of their four years together. 


I do agree with Draymond statement about LeBron and how the Super teams wave started. However, there is a key difference in how Kevin Durant and LeBron James went about joining their Super teams. 


When James left Cleveland for Miami, he had already taken them to an NBA Finals once. During that NBA Finals run, we as fans all knew that James had done everything in his power for a less than subpar team. They ended up coming short of a victory, and for the next couple years, they could never match that success. I was a big LeBron James supporter in his first stint with Cleveland. Then the decision for him to leave Cleveland came, and at that point no one could tell me anything else about LeBron. I’m not going to lie, I hated him. I never wanted to see him win a championship, ever. When not just a team, but a whole city embraces you since you were in high school, and you up and leave? There was no loyalty in that.  I had had this notion that since Jordan was able to do it, LeBron should have too, and obviously that wasn’t the case.


Now to compare Kevin Durant’s move. As I had stated before, while Durant had everything he needed in Oklahoma City to become a champion, which included superstar Russell Westbrook, LeBron James did not with Cleveland. While I think LeBron took the easy way to his first championship, Durant’s was way easier. The GSW were not a Super team before the addition of Durant. What they had was a well-coached organization and two shooters that revolutionized our previous notions as viewers of what an offensive threat was. This is why they were previously able to become champions. What LeBron did with the Heat was join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in order to once again make them contenders (and let’s not forget the addition of shooting legend Ray Allen). Despite this favorable combination, in the end, the Heat were never once the outright favorites to win the NBA Finals like the Warriors were even before adding another superstar. 


I consider LeBron James’s move much more of a maturing process for him as more than just a player, but also as a man. Ohio had been his home forever, and while he had given his all to his home in the game of basketball ever since he was young, it was time to focus on himself. Although I still see his leaving in the first place a weak move, one thing that has kept LeBron in good spirits with me was ultimately his decision to come back to Cleveland, and being able to give them their first championship. Another point to mention is that in his two losses in the NBA Finals during his second stint with Cleveland, I literally saw a man put a whole team and city on his back, almost to the point where he could have still been Finals MVP even after losing. Moreover, I still believe Cleveland and Golden State are pretty evenly matched; however, with the addition of Kevin Durant, Golden State appears to be more in sync. 


Where the NBA is now, due to Super teams, leaves them with an over stacked Western Conference of elite players that are joining forces in order to try to take down the GSW.  On the other end there is the Eastern Conference that has little competition, and will have LeBron James in his eighth straight finals appearance. Because there is no loyalty, there becomes a lack of competition, which leads to Super teams, and in conclusion, leaves the fans going into the season with nothing special to look forward to. One could say that I’m outdated in my thinking, but I can say confidently that loyalty is the foundation of a legacy, and I hope that it becomes a staple within the NBA once again. Once this happens, I think the whole Super team wave will die out. 


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