“It’s not fair.”
That’s the cry not just from Cavaliers fans, but also from some online (or with sports talk radio microphones) complaining about competitive balance in the NBA. Last summer Kevin Durant made a move that decimated one contender (Oklahoma City) and turned a team that had already been to the Finals two years running into a juggernaut.
LeBron, is that fair?
“Oh, I mean, it’s part of the rules,” LeBron said. “The difference between my situation is — well, the best thing with Golden State’s situation is a lot of their guys are drafted. They drafted a lot of their guys. Three of their best players were already drafted, so they were able to hold on to them because they own the Bird rights, if everybody knows the CBA. So they’re able to keep Steph, Klay and Draymond and able to go out and sign someone else like they did this past summer by just getting rid of a couple pieces in Harrison Barnes and not re-signing Barbosa and Bogut and guys from last year’s team….
“But is it fair? I don’t care. I mean, I think it’s great. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game. I mean, who am Ito say if it’s fair or not? No matter who I’m going against, if I’m going against four Hall of Famers, like I said before the series started with Draymond, Klay, Steph, and K.D., or if I’m going against two or whatever the case may be, I’m always excited to play the game. And I’m not one to judge and say if it’s fair or not if guys are adding players to their team. So that’s what you want to do.
“Is it fair that the New York Yankees in the ’90s was adding piece after piece after piece after piece? I mean, if you have the opportunity to do that — is it fair that the Cowboys added Deion Sanders?
“I mean, listen. It happens. It’s sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody.”
First, we need to note LeBron is both a Yankees and Cowboys fan.
Second, LeBron is right that the Warriors had to let a couple of people go, but that’s not the main reason they got KD. They landed Durant because the NBA salary cap spiked dramatically thanks to a new television deal. The league and NBA owners wanted to smooth that rapid rise in over several years to prevent this kind of thing, but the players union — of which LeBron is a VP — shot that idea down. So there was a flood of money in the system last year, and that opened the door.
Third, and as noted by LeBron, outside KD Warriors built this team the way the league hopes every team would build — they drafted well and developed their guys internally. They didn’t just buy a team, they built one. Same with how the Spurs built their dynasty. The Warriors added Durant, but it’s not like they violated league rules to do it, so of course it’s fair. They were lucky and smart enough to pull it off, more power to them.
LeBron jumped ships to potentially great teams, but in both Miami and Cleveland there were a lot of new pieces thrown together, and they had to work stuff out. Both teams didn’t win a title until year two The difference for Durant is he stepped into, and fit perfectly with, an existing structure. It was about fitting in, not building.
For all the complaining about competitive balance, these NBA Finals have seen a spike in television ratings from a year ago (and that does not include streaming numbers, which also are way up). It may bother some hardcore people, but it’s not bothering most fans. The NBA got its best ratings in the 1990s when Jordan’s Bulls were THE dominant force — the NBA thrives with its biggest stars on its biggest stage. Dynasties — from the ’60s Celtics though the Magic/Bird era through Jordan — are good for the NBA. Golden State may just be adding to that.
And that is fair.