Super Teams: Good or Bad for the NBA?

When the LA Lakers tried it in 2003 with Karl Malone and Gary Payton it was more of an interesting social experiment.  Even though that experiment yielded the Lakers a trip to the finals, it seems to be washed from most of our brains when discussing the topic of the summer, heck, the topic of the last several summers: The Super Team.  Why was the idea of two hall of fame players in Payton and Malone received so much better than LeBron to Miami or Durant to Golden State?  And while we’re asking, why not throw in the original super teams like the 68′ Lakers with Wilt or the 70′ Bucks with Kareem and  Oscar Robertson?  Super teams have been around longer than we give them credit for yet we are fixated on the “Great players didn’t join them they beat them,” argument. Perhaps it’s because the Warriors now have a starting five with at least one all star appearance each to their name.  Perhaps it’s because LeBron James made his jump to Miami after a 1 hour ESPN special centered around his decision.  I’ll admit, Harden and Paul with the Rockets, Westbrook and George with the Thunder, Kyrie and Hayward with Boston and of course all that’s happening with the Lakers and Golden State it does seem to be overkill.  But is it really bad for the NBA?

According to Forbes contributor Brad Adgate, viewership has never been better, “at the end of the 2017-18 regular season, NBA ratings were up across all four networks when compared to last season. ABC led the way at +17%, while TNT was +13%, ESPN +4% and NBA TV +1%. It was the NBA’s highest-rated season in five years.”  The league also showed a growth in overall game attendance as well.   “Attendance for regular season games increased for the fourth straight season reaching 22.1 million. Average attendance per game was 17,978, with a record high 741 sellouts. By the end of the season, the league had sold 95% of all tickets available,” Adgate noted.

It shouldn’t be that shocking to see those numbers, really.  Take this offseason for example.  On The Hull Show alone, we’ve heard from more texters and social media followers that never talk about the NBA throw in a thought or two about the recent free agent transactions.  Even non fans see what’s happening and have a strong opinion on it.  And why not?  It’s good TV.   In a day and age where TV dramas have never been better, it’s clear consumers want controversy, betrayal and triumphant revenge.  In Game of Thrones on HBO, everyone HATED Joffrey.  I mean really hated this guy.  Every week viewers begged for a slow and agonizing death for the fictional character.  It was that common hatred that helped sky rocket that show to breathtaking results.  Breaking Bad teased and tortured us with one man’s descent into darkness and we couldn’t get enough of “the one who knocks.”  Fans root for the drama and when one star joins another or leaves a team because of some sort of “beef” it peaks our interests.

Why should our TV cravings be any different when it comes to sports?  Tom Brady is one of the most despised athletes but if he’s in the super bowl you know you’ll be watching.  You’re rooting for the lovable underdog to dethrone the dreadful king of football.  LeBron James turned heel when he left for Miami and when Dallas, a semi popular franchise, faced the Heat in the finals fans found themselves rooting for the Mavs to take down the evil regime.  And now here we are with Golden State.  They just added yet another star to their ranks in DeMarcus Cousins and the animosity towards the Warriors has never been greater.  Yes, many fans are throwing up their hands wondering how anyone can possibly beat this dynasty already responsible for 3 out of the last 4 championships.  But most will tune in to see if the impossible might happen.  That’s why people watched the 2018 NBA finals between Cleveland and Golden State; to see if maybe, just maybe, LeBron could drag the Cavs across the finish line no matter how unlikely.  Some assumed the ratings would take a major it but given the predictable outcome, things weren’t as bad as you might think.  According to’s Dominic Patten, “although Game 4 was down 12% in the metered market ratings from June 6’s Game 3, overall, the four-game 2018 NBA Finals averaged 12.2 in metered market ratings, an uptick of 7% over ABC’s traditional average for the NBA championship series. Game 3 of this year’s Finals brought in a total audience of 17.9 million sets of eyeballs watching on ABC on Wednesday night.”

It was expected that this years Finals game 4 would be a snoozer but the dip wasn’t very detrimental to their overall ratings.  That’s because there was still a small hope that the Cavs could take down the Evil Empire. And that’s why I believe NBA ratings will continue to surprise; the super team. Hated? Sure seems that way.  But entertaining? Without question.   Hulk Hogan turned heel when he joined the unstoppable force known as the NWO (Sorry non wrestling fans.) Ratings were through the roof during that time for the WCW.  Everyone suddenly rooted against their beloved Hulk Hogan.  We love a hero but in order to find one, we need the villain.  Batman needs the Joker otherwise he’d be running around beating up boring drug dealers and murderers.  The Avengers needed a common enemy like Loki or Thanos to “assemble.”  So like TV and those wonderfully nerdy superhero movies,  The NBA thrives off the drama.  And the 2018/19 season will have more than plenty of that.  Enjoy it, Hulligans.