"Hopefully the league can figure it out one day to go back to the situation it was in the '80s, when you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall-of-Famers on the same team. The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is. You had more (All-Star) players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game." – Miami Heat forward LeBron James, December 23, 2010.
I have to preface this post by saying I can’t stand LeBron James. I firmly believe he is the most narcissistic athlete in professional sports, and when I see news items like sponsorship opportunities for his upcoming birthday party all I can do is shake my head and think this coddled man-child is Exhibit A of what is wrong with today’s professional athlete. But when he told reporters the NBA would be better off with fewer teams, I thought to myself how the NBA was back in Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rookie year and realized King James might be onto something.
Back in the 1979-80 season, the NBA was a twenty-two team league. Every team had at least one All-Star caliber player and it was common for even the bottom feeders to have a Hall of Famer on their roster. Even my sorry San Diego Clippers had World B. Free and Bill Walton, when healthy, in their lineup. The Detroit Pistons, who were the worst team in the league that year with a 16-66 record, boasted a lineup with Hall of Famers Bob Lanier and Bob McAdoo.
Maybe the NBA should contract up to eight teams so the bottom feeders have a chance to field a halfway decent team? Do we really need the Toronto Raptors? The Memphis Grizzlies, who failed in Vancouver? The New Orleans Hornets, who failed in Charlotte? The Los Angeles Clippers, who failed in San Diego and Buffalo? The Charlotte Bobcats? The Minnesota Timberwolves? We don’t. In fact, we didn’t need any of the expansion teams that entered the NBA after the 1979-80 season.
If I were the NBA Commissioner I’d keep the strongest 26 teams and hold a dispersal draft of the players on the other teams that would be contracted by the NBA. If that choice were up to me these are the teams that can take a hike:
- Charlotte Bobcats – This team is nothing more than a depository of failed first round draft picks and underachievers. The New Orleans Hornets need an owner. I’m willing to bet they would be welcomed back to Charlotte with open arms with George Shinn out of the picture.
- Toronto Raptors – Has this team ever been competitive? After the Leafs, Blue Jays and the CFL’s Argonauts the Raptors are an afterthought in Toronto.
- Los Angeles Clippers – The NBA never should have allowed Donald Sterling to buy this franchise. His twenty-six year reign of error in Los Angeles is legendary only because no one will force him to give up control of the team or sell it.
- Memphis Grizzlies – This team failed in Vancouver and it’s not exactly tearing up the league in Memphis. Like the Bobcats, it has no history.
Some might argue the Sacramento Kings should be on the chopping block but they have solid ownership in the Maloof Family and have had a history of success in Cincinnati, Kansas City and in Sacramento in recent years.
Which teams would you contract if you were the NBA Commissioner?