Does Bringing in the Stars Guarantee Anything?
July 18, 2008
Professional sports is a business that thrives on its stars, some that are either skilled enough athletically or marketed well enough to end up as household names in places like China. And while these people sell tickets and fill seats, they don’t necessarily win, and sometimes, they even have a tendency to lose. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in my view about sports today – people expect the stars to perform well above their original standards. Being from the land of the Lakers, I have always followed my team as closely as possible. From attending Laker games from 2004 ‘till today, I have learned a lot, but most importantly, the only way they can actually win, with teamwork. In the year 2003, the Lakers stunk. If anyone remembers, with Kobe and Shaq feuding, team chemistry was not exactly blossoming. But that summer, Jerry Buss (the head of the club) brought in two wiser blockbuster players, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who both never had a championship ring and was making one last stretch to get one. The team flourished up until the finals, but I didn’t like their style one bit. It was essentially an all star game, where the fans would cheer only if Shaq made an amazing dunk, and remain silent when Kobe made a great assist to a role player. And as I predicted, they faltered in the finals against a team who played well together and didn’t have any overpaid superstars. That year ended up being the end of Karl Malone’s illustrious career and the end of Gary Payton’s Laker stint.
Another effect like this is what I like to call the Jordan Phenomenon. Ever since his rookie season in 1984, Chicago Bulls fans always predicted that MJ would always have a game better than his last and expected him to always have a few great dunks and always assumed he was a robotic basketball freak that made virtually every shot he took. And this is what made him so great and famous – he did. By living up to those standards he created an unwritten rule, a prestigious group if you will that includes the only athletes that can handle the fan pressure and live above it. Members of this group include Kobe Bryant, Jessie Owens, Michael Phelps, and Hank Aaron, just to name a few. These people really fed off of the pressure and rose above it, but their teams (with the exception of Jessie Owens and Michael Phelps who are in a class alone) did not do as well as they did. They did rise to the occasion, but their teams didn’t win consistently. My point here is that to have a great team you need a group of human beings who know each-other’s athletic abilities and have chemistry together. You don’t necessarily need great players.