By Channing Flatt—
As the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have faced off in the NBA finals for the past three years in a row, many basketball teams have been stacking their rosters for the chance to take down the Eastern and Western conference powerhouses. Many teams are either trading away their future for an aging superstar or packing their roster with as many high-profile players as their cap space can allow, all for a shot at the increasingly elusive title. But is it worth it?
Is trading off the future of your franchise, or draining its cap space for a superstar, worth the damage it may have in the long run? Packing your team with all-stars is a gutsy move. When LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach to join Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, it seemed like a new reign of Heat supremacy in the NBA was upon us, but that isn’t exactly how it turned out. In LeBron’s tenure, the Heat managed four trips to the finals and two NBA championships, but since LeBron’s departure things haven’t been so well in Miami. The Heat have only managed one playoff run in the last three seasons. With Chris Bosh retiring, and the numerous NBA super teams taking over, it seems the Heat may lie dormant for a while. Was this the consequence of the Heat’s acquisition of the league’s best player? It very well may be. The Heat were by no means a bad team before they signed LeBron, but since his departure it is unclear whether they will find the same success anytime soon.
Signing a superstar can have adverse effects on the future of the franchise, but not letting them go can be just as damaging. Superstars can hold a special place in the hearts of many fans, but sometimes it’s best to see them go. A recent trade that has had many Texas Rangers fans upset was when ace Yu Darvish was sent to the LA Dodgers. Many Rangers fans were sad to see Darvish go, especially for the prospects they received in exchange. No big names came to the Rangers, instead they received three players who weren’t even in the Major Leagues. This trade had many fans angry, but this trade represents the future of a franchise. A similar situation happened over ten years ago when the Rangers sent rising star Mark Teixeira to the Braves for five minor leaguers. If you think that sounds like a bad trade on paper, let me tell you who they got in that particular deal. The Rangers acquired short stop Elvis Andrus, pitcher Matt Harrison and reliever Neftali Feliz, all of which were crucial to the Rangers back-to-back World Series trips. Andrus was just a minor league prospect that no one had heard of, but since has become a beloved all-star and staple of both the defense and the offense. Without that trade, the Rangers would’ve still had one of the best first basemen at the time, but think of the adverse effect the absence of those three players would’ve had.
There are definitely ups and downs to superstars. Signing a big name can add energy to not only a franchise, but also the fan base. However, does it compare to building the loyalty of fans when a team is a consistent contender? Take the San Antonio Spurs, for example. The Spurs are on a historic 19-year post season run, have won five NBA championships and were ranked second in the NBA in brand loyalty in 2016. A Forbes magazine article written in 2013 was even titled “10 reasons no one hates The San Antonio Spurs,” The Spurs have earned the respect of the NBA by being a contender every year without chasing the contract of the NBA’s greats. The great players that have come from the franchise, have stayed with the franchise, and it has paid off year after year.
In the end, signing the greatest player in the game, whichever sport that may be, will be beneficial for your favorite team, but is it the best way to go about it? A superstar can vault a team to championship caliber, but for how long? Building a team from the ground up can take years, even decades, but it can pay off immensely. What’s more satisfying? Rooting for the team with the greatest player in the world? Or getting to watch the world’s greatest player as a rookie?
Chasing a championship, chasing superstars or chasing history can be beneficial, but also detrimental. Is the present worth more than the future? That’s my only question.