Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Gold Medal Superstar Theory

So I'm chillin' in my place on this lazy Sunday (no church this week, yes! lol), browsing the web for sports/news/porn when I come across a very intriguing article.

Robert W. McChesney stipulates that in basketball, unlike the other major professional sports, NBA teams need elite players in order to win a championship.

Now I wouldn't say this statement is a major relevation in itself, considering MLB and NFL teams in recent memory (2002 Angels and 2005 White Soxs in baseball and the 2005 Steelers in football) have proven that championship squads in their respective sports are team-oriented. And even casual NBA fans would agree that every year a NBA superstar carries his squad to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Where the article gets interesting is when McChesney states that NBA teams must have either the one of the five best current players or one of the 20 top players ever (a Gold Medal Superstar) in order to win it all. He provides statistical evidence and strong analysis to support this claim:

Shaq, Duncan, Jordan, Bird, Magic and Olajuwon led teams account for 23 of the past 27 NBA titles. (Dr. J, Moses Malone, Isiah Thomas and Ben Wallace led the other four, and they are hardly stumble-bums.)

The best individual players are the best individual players because they make their teams win. And the nature of basketball is that a single player can dominate the game in a manner that is not true in any other major team sport. Having a Gold Medal Superstar does not guarantee a title; it is only a necessary precondition.

McChesney atrributes this stipulation not only to how the NBA game is played, but also to how teams are constructed:

Expansion and especially free agency have diluted the quality of NFL champions... NBA champions led by Gold Medal Superstars, on the other hand, invariably are capable of becoming teams for the ages.
He describes teams such as the '90s Pacers and the '00s Kings as examples of this phenomenon. Indiana and Sacramento failed to win championships because they emphasized adding quality role players as opposed to acquiring legitimate superstars to push them over the top. While the former strategy is a sound one in baseball and football, it is a doomed scenario for basketball GMs: in the NBA the part is greater than the whole.

Of McChesney's Gold Medal Superstars, only Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor and Karl Malone never won a ring. He attributes their failures to playing against better Gold Medal Superstars (MJ, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell) and having inferior teammates.

So who are the best players to ever play in the league? Who are the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal Superstars in NBA history? McChesney has a simple system for the selection process, awarding points according to a player's All-NBA selections and MVP votes. The list is certainly debatable, but most NBA fans would agree it's a reasonable snapshot of the best ballers to ever play the game.

But enough rambling from me, just read the damn article.

UPDATE 8/14/06: Part two of the article is here.

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