The Importance of Acquiring an NBA Superstar
*Photo via Getty Images
All NBA fans realize it. General managers, scouts and analysts often talk about it. "It" being the need for a roster that includes an NBA superstar. These players are the difference between winning a championship and not.
It was incredible watching Stephen Curry evolve into that type of player last season.
If an NBA franchise is lucky enough to sign Steve Nash or Shaquille O'Neal, or to draft Hakeem Olajuwon or Tim Duncan, championship banners are usually hung. With only a handful of these type of players in the league, acquiring one can be difficult.
The Phoenix Suns found that out this summer when LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs, after their impressionable meeting with him.
For the professional basketball fan, the NBA draft is a spectacle. Many Knick fans attend each year, hoping to land the next Patrick Ewing. In 2003, the city of Cleveland brought home one of its own in LeBron James (out of highschool).
The Portland Trailblazers opted to draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in 2007. It's a wonder how the Blazers view that decision these days.
In 1996 Kobe Bryant was taken with the 13th pick overall by the Charlotte Hornets (out of highschool) and then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. This was obviously the wrong decision for the Hornets, and an example of the difficulty of recognizing superstar talent in an NBA draft today.
Drafting high school players was a new rule back then, which makes the Kobe slide more understandable.
However, the element of drafting a college freshman and a high school player, has created an extra layer of difficulty for league execs to project superstar talent these days.
*Photo via NBC
In 1997, the highly coveted Tim Duncan was taken first overall. His skills were recognizably translatable to the NBA, more so than maybe any college player ever. What great fortune the Spurs have had since drafting Duncan.
Tracy McGrady (out of highschool) slid to the ninth pick of the first round, in that same 1997 draft.
Going back further, in 1985 the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan with the third pick overall. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but one can only imagine what the Houston Rockets (they owned the first pick) and the Portland Trailblazers (they owned the second pick) would have done differently had they known what M.J. would eventually become.
It's hard to fault Houston for selecting Hakeem "The Dream" in that Jordan draft though.
Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and many others have epitomized the NBA, and many of them have rings to show for it.
A closer look at these and other NBA superstars; as well as their career paths, is poignant in realizing the dream of an NBA championship in a city near you.
NBA superstars are acquired in various ways, and free agency and trades look to be more viable options going forward. It's still no easy task to acquire one, but dreaming is free here, and Kevin Durant is an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The last time the Golden State Warriors won an NBA championship was in 1975, so maybe it's time that other teams (who have yet to win a title) join them.
Let's look at major acquisitions throughout NBA history, how they transpired, and whether the team won an NBA championship with their superstar player.
*Photo via USA Today
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Draft/Won A Championship
Shaquille O'Neal: Free Agency/Won A Championship
Hakeem Olajuwon: Draft/Won A Championship
Michael Jordan: Draft/Won A Championship
Tim Duncan: Draft/Won A Championship
Larry Bird: Draft/Won A Championship
Magic Johnson: Draft/Won A Championship
Julius Erving: ABA-NBA Merge/Won A Championship
Charles Barkley: Trade/Finals Appearance/Lost
Kobe Bryant: Draft/Won A Championship
Karl Malone: Draft/Finals Appearance/Lost
Scottie Pippen: Draft/Won A Championship
Patrick Ewing: Draft/Finals Appearance/Lost
Isiah Thomas: Draft/Won A Championship
Dwyane Wade: Draft/Won A Championship
Dirk Nowitzki: Draft/Won A Championship
LeBron James: Free Agency/Won A Championship
John Stockton: Draft/Finals Appearance/Lost
Clyde Drexler: Trade/Won A Championship
Jason Kidd: Trade/Won A Championship
Of the 20 superstar players above, 11 of them won a title with the team that drafted them (Jason Kidd does not count), two via free agency, two by trade, one by sale (Dr. J). Four did not win a title but appeared in the finals.
So, there are no guarantees even with a superstar on your roster. Just ask Sir Charles, The Mailman, and Patrick Ewing. But each made at least one finals appearance, which further validates the need to acquire an NBA superstar player (the chances are astronomically better).
You can also ask the 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks.
While the NBA draft has been the front running method to acquire an NBA superstar, it will be interesting to see how future acquisitions transpire. Especially, for the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Lebron James, and among others James Harden.
Good luck NBA fans!
The city of Phoenix has been hungry for their first ever NBA championship, since losing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969.