What happened to teamwork in the NBA?

Damian Lillard is the heart and soul of the Portland Trail Blazers. This fact is indisputable. If they were planning to do anything important in the near future, their fortunes would end with him. But should Be that way. This is the topic for today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.


I can still hear you say to what extent our future depends on Mrs. Lillard and am not against her but does it have to be? What happened to the soccer team? When I was growing up, I remember rooting for an entire team and everyone involved. Isn’t it bad to be associated with a star even if it’s gorgeous?

Hank in Beaverton

The NBA has become more star-focused over the past 50 years. There are a couple of reasons for that, but before we get into it, let’s admit that our memories as Trail Blazers fans may be a little vague about it, or at least influenced by good PR.

Usually when people refer to teamwork and selflessness, they’re talking about the 1977 championship team. This team was cast as the struggling underdog, beating the “stacked” Philadelphia 76ers (with superstar Dr. J in tow) thanks to Jack Ramsey’s beautifully trained system. Which was performed by players positive chemistry.

This account is not entirely wrong. It just isn’t complete. The 1977 Trail Blazers athlete had one of Bill Walton’s top two all-rounders, as well as a top 3 striker in Maurice Lucas, as well as Lionel Hollins who would go on to be an NBA All-Star as well.

Among these, Walton was the key. What happened to Portland after he got injured and left? They’ve been drowning in mediocre performances for years… A team that has been set an example of working together selflessly has undoubtedly been associated with their star.

Portland’s fortunes soared again when Clyde Drexler surrounded an impressive group of teammates, including Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams. That was the most downloaded list the Blazers had ever sent out. However, the story turned out to be the same. They made it to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, but when Drexler was injured and later traded, they were back in the middle.

You can reach “decent” in the NBA through teamwork. Talent is a prerequisite for greatness. Talent means stars, if you have one, you ride it as far as you can, because star talent is the rarest commodity in the league.

Having said that, we can confirm that this trend has been accelerated by two developments.

The shift from the domestic economy to a reliance on television greatly increased the value of stars. Prior to 1980, teams lived on ticket revenue. Beginning in the 1980s, the balance shifted toward broadcasting rights. Nowadays it’s not even close. The salary cap is not inflated by the number of tickets the Bucks sells on Wednesday nights. ABC and ESPN offer multi-year deals worth billions of dollars that keep everyone alive.

Valuations are the barter for those dollars. Reviews require a product that is easy to market. As Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan have taught us, marketing a superstar is much easier than marketing a franchise. The highlight of LeBron James’ dipping reels is significantly more than playing with five passes from the regular bench. Creating and supporting stars has become the league’s mission statement or a large part of it.

Rule changes in 2000 also made it easier for offensive players, especially guards, to create amazing plays and buckets of points. I was starting to see “star swells”, as good point guards looked great on the stat sheet. Meanwhile, the groove centers have been written into oblivion…in part because offensive bounces and footwork don’t translate well into the video.

If you’ve been periodically looking to de-emphasize high-scoring individuals in favor of old school principles, you’ll be waiting a long time. Even in the old school days, these principles weren’t as strong as we thought. The NBA will look at the total revenue (and franchise values) next, compare it today, and say, “We’re good.” And you know what? Maybe they are right.

Thank you for your question! You can send yours to [email protected],com and we’ll try to answer!

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