c/o nba.com

c/o nba.com

I remember when I heard that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were teaming up and coming to the Brooklyn Nets. I was at summer camp, walking around with a group of friends, when a younger kid came running up to me with the news. I sprinted back to my bunk, grabbed my D’Angelo Russell jersey, and paraded around with it on for the rest of the day.

A few months ago, the Nets got yet another superstar. I had just finished playing a game of basketball outside in the freezing cold, and as I scrolled through my phone with gloved fingers, a notification popped up: JAMES HARDEN TO NETS. This shocked me, yet after a few minutes, I simply accepted the news and went on with my day.

By now, I’ve gotten used to the Nets, an underdog team for years, filling up ESPN headlines. So when a friend told me Blake Griffin had signed with Brooklyn a few nights ago, I wasn’t too surprised. My ambivalence about a player of Griffin’s caliber joining my favorite team is indicative of how much the NBA has changed, how tampering with teams is now less of an illegality and more of a normalcy, and how superteams like the Nets are taking over the league.

As an almost decade-long fan of my hometown Nets, it’s pretty hard for me to start this article by ripping into them and their front office, so I’ll go back about 10 years. In 2010, LeBron James left the Cavaliers and joined the Miami Heat, creating the first “superteam.” He joined his buddy Dwayne Wade in Miami, while also recruiting Chris Bosh from the Raptors. Three superstars from three different teams joined together to make a superteam. To me this was the first instance of modern tampering, because it satisfied two key things. First, Wade and James were close friends, so they obviously discussed their possible union. Second, the city that attracted these three players was a big, popular one with cultural influence. A third potential part of the concept of tampering is that a player publicly expresses that he is upset with his current team. James didn’t do this outright, but it was clear he wasn’t too happy in Cleveland. Still, I’ll give him credit, especially because any public complaint would’ve caused a whole ruckus.

LeBron James tampered in a few smaller ways after his stint with the Heat, luring Kevin Love to the Cavaliers and recruiting Anthony Davis to join the Lakers. Davis’ move to LA was marred by an actual tampering accusation by the NBA, the only legitimate case of this happening in recent years, that was followed by Davis getting fined. Kevin Durant was also painted as a bit of a “snake,” for a lack of a better word, when he joined Steph Curry, and the Warriors created another an obvious superteam. However, none of these instances compare at all to what the Nets have done in the past year or so. And trust me, I love Brooklyn, I love the Nets, I love general manager Sean Marks, and I love most of the players. But they might be ruining the NBA.

There’s two things that set the Brooklyn superteam apart from any other superteam. First, there’s the trade that brought over Harden, a trade that was fueled by Harden intentionally playing poorly on the Rockets. Second, the Nets have made three headlines with major deals. Three! Two years ago, the four stars in Brooklyn were averaging a combined 110 points per game. It’s crazy to think about, and it’s even crazier how nonchalant it’s all become. It was a big deal back in 2010 when LeBron created a championship team out of thin air. While the superteams of the later 2010s weren’t as influential or historic as that Heat team, they paved the way for the monstrosity of the Brooklyn Nets to emerge into the limelight. In the back of James Harden’s mind, and the back of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s minds, and even the back of Blake Griffin’s mind, was the knowledge that they could be on a championship team with the snap of their fingers.

I’ll end with a commentary on the future. Kevin Durant is already a great player of our generation, a Hall of Fame bound star with a revolutionary skillset and persona. But when he wins a few more championships with the Nets and comes close to catching Jordan’s record, it won’t be a question if he’s a top five player of all time. What certainly won’t mar his legacy are the three different teams he was on. LeBron has already been on three teams as well, setting the table for greats to come. It’s only a matter of time before every superstar will have won championships on multiple teams.


Lewis Woloch can be reached at lwoloch@wesleyan.edu

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