Don’t expect Charles Barkley to be celebrating the greatness of the Brooklyn Nets any time soon.
“I’m not a fan of super teams,” Barkley said in a recent interview with the New York Daily News. “If they win it, they win it. But I want to make it perfectly clear – I’m rooting against those guys. I’m rooting against all super teams. I’m old school.”
The Nets are the latest team to stack the deck in the era of the “super team” in the NBA. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant chose to team up after the 2019 season and were followed a year later by James Harden, cementing the Nets as a bonafide super team with perhaps more offensive firepower than any roster ever assembled.
When healthy, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how lethal the Nets are with Harden, Durant, and Irving steering the ship. As always, there will be those who correctly point out that most teams who have won NBA championships have had multiple stars, but the difference is how the “super teams” were constructed back in the day, and how they are put together in the modern era.
The dawn of the “player empowerment” era changed everything, with shorter contracts allowing players to bounce around from team to team more frequently, and superstars being able to align their contracts and team up. As is the case with the average American, players increasingly want to be where the action is, preferring to play in larger cities and markets. Players would much rather be in Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami than Salt Lake City, Portland, or Orlando. The result is stacked teams on the coasts, with smaller markets being left to fight over the scraps.
“When Kawhi [Leonard] left Toronto — other than Chicago, that’s my favorite city in the world, [but] I’m never going there again,” Barkley said, noting that the Raptors are no longer a contender since Leonard left in free agency. “When LeBron left Cleveland, I’m never going there again. When James [Harden] left Houston, I’m never going to Houston again. Same thing when LeBron left Miami. Oklahoma City, once KD left, we’re never going back there again. And I don’t think that’s good for the game.”
The issue of players choosing to play in a different city when becoming free agents is not going anywhere. The NBA didn’t like how long the contracts were becoming in the 1990’s, and now they are reaping what they sowed. The bigger issue facing the NBA is the new phenomenon of players — like Harden — forcing their way out of bad situations in order to team up with other stars for a chance to win a championship.
We saw it two years ago when Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans in order to play with LeBron James and the Lakers. The move resulted in an immediate championship for Davis, and it’s looking more likely by the day that Harden will have the same result.
“If I’d known you guys were going to make fun of me for not winning a championship, I would have joined a superteam back in my day — me and Patrick [Ewing] and Karl Malone and John Stockton,” Barkley continued. “But I feel good about my legacy. I’m pretty sure Patrick and John and Karl do, too. LeBron [James] started this superteam thing [in Miami], and hey, it’s the way the game is played now.”
The NBA has always dealt with a lack of parity. Generally speaking, there are a handful of teams each year with a chance to win the championship, but it seems to have become even more exclusive in recent years. The regular season has become increasingly meaningless, with players sitting out games for “personal reasons” and “load management,” simply waiting for the postseason to flip the switch. And when there is one team so clearly better than the rest, the excitement of the NBA playoffs gives way to inevitability.
The Nets playoff run has been interrupted by injuries to Harden and Irving, but before the latest injury to Irving, it certainly seemed like a championship was in the cards for Brooklyn. Lack of competition is the real killer for the NBA, and if the league wants to continue keeping the fans engaged, eventually they are going to have to do something about “super teams.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.