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Doug Robinson: Super Teams are hurting the NBA

SHARE Doug Robinson: Super Teams are hurting the NBA

NBA fans are the biggest suckers in the sports world. They are totally deluded. They think their team has a chance to win a championship someday.

They don’t.

Sorry to spoil the ending. The vast majority of teams are just there to fill out the schedule and sell tickets. A championship chase is an illusion for their fans.

That means you, too, Jazz fans.

The NBA wants you to believe that your team has a chance, but the trophy is just a carrot the league dangles to keep you coming back for more. As fellow columnist Brad Rock says, “The NBA sells hope,” but it can’t deliver, and it never will unless the business model is changed. The flaws in the system have been exacerbated in this era of the Super Team — the artificially created collection of superstars orchestrated by one franchise or even one player.

This is LeBron James’ real legacy.

Look at the ongoing playoffs. The Warriors have advanced to the NBA Finals for the third straight year and haven’t lost a single game — they swept the Blazers, they swept the Jazz, they swept the Spurs. They’re 12-0 and trying not to yawn.

The Cavaliers are two games away from joining the Warriors in the Finals for the third straight year; they swept Indiana, they swept Toronto and then won the first two games at Boston — by 13 and 44 points — before losing the other night by three points and a fluke. James missed 9 of 13 shots and Boston’s Marcus Smart made seven 3-pointers.

This will mark the seventh straight year James has been to the Finals, all courtesy of Super Teams — four times with Miami, three times with Cleveland. If James hadn’t orchestrated those teams, he might still be looking for his first ring.

The NBA has only itself to blame because it created a system that allows Super Teams. What the league needs is the NFL’s revenue-sharing plan. The NFL doesn’t think of itself as 32 separate businesses, but one big business with 32 locations. It shares the wealth, which in turn creates equal opportunities to win the championship (unless you’re the Cleveland Browns). It’s socialism and it’s essential in sports to foster competitive balance. Which is why the Green Bay Packers can survive and thrive in the NFL.

Instead of a hard salary cap, the NBA has a soft cap. Teams that exceed the cap pay a “luxury tax.” The result is that rich teams spend whatever they want and gladly pay the tax. The Cleveland Cavaliers had a payroll of $115 million last season and paid $54 million in luxury taxes en route to the championship. The Cavs' payroll is $130 million this year — by far the highest in the league, again, and $50 million higher than the Jazz payroll.

This system enabled James to create the first Super Team in Miami and then another one in Cleveland. And then the Warriors did the same by acquiring Kevin Durant (the only way a Super Team can happen in the NFL is if some mad genius does it with his wits rather than his owner’s bank account — think of Bill Belichick here).

And so there is no parity in the NBA. There are vast differences between the haves and the have-nots. There have been 13 playoff series completed so far this spring and only one of them ended in an upset — and a very mild one at that, with the No. 5-seeded Jazz beating the No. 4-seeded Clippers. In every other series, the higher seed won.

For a certain segment of fans, the NBA can only be enjoyed as entertainment, not as competition, because their teams have no chance, ever. The NBA has become performance art, like the ballet, not a league-wide race to a title.

Email: drob@deseretnews.com