In more recent times Marvel’s superheroes – Thor, Captain America, Ironman, Spiderman and Hulk, among others, used their collective powers to thwart Thanos and save humanity.
Well, it appears today’s NBA players have watched too many movies and cartoons. How else do you explain the explosion of superteams in the last decade? It all started back in 2010, when LeBron James (Batman to MJ’s Superman, perhaps?) joined Dwyane Wade (whose nickname is actually The Flash) and centre Chris Bosh. They won two titles before Wade’s knees began to go and LeBron jumped ship to join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on another, albeit slightly less formidable, team of cape-wearers.
Then in 2016, Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City Thunder and joined Steph, Klay and Draymond in Golden State to form arguably the mightiest team of them all. They too, won two titles before disintegrating.
Durant then left to join forces with Kyrie Irving (yes, it’s a small world among true world beaters) on the Brooklyn Nets. Now, per a ‘Woj bomb’ from ESPN - James Harden, the 2017-18 MVP, three-time scoring champion, master of the step-back three and strip club connoisseur, is joining them.
The question on everyone’s lips? Will it work? The answer? Who the hell knows? But it’s going to be entertaining.
Three guys who need the ball as much as these three doesn’t sound good on paper. Unless you’ve got three basketballs, logic dictates that someone is going to have to sacrifice. But who? In Miami, Bosh took a back seat to LeBron and Wade. Kevin Love watched on as LeBron and Kyrie shared the bulk of the ball-handling and the shots in Cleveland and in Golden State, well, that only worked because Klay was an other-worldly shooter who didn’t need to handle the ball to succeed. Draymond, meanwhile, was more of an on-court general than playmaker.
Research from the business world, while obviously tenuous, isn’t promising for overloaded superteams. Wharton Business School researchers found two-person teams took 36 minutes to build a Lego figure while four-person teams took 52 minutes to finish - more than 44 per cent longer. Draw from that what you will. If Lego blocks translate to boardrooms and offices, they can surely inform basketball analysis too, right?
Which leads to another problem. The superhero who is forced to surrender some of their powers is not going to be particularly happy about it. And unhappy teams generally don’t thrive, either.
Research from the University of Warwick found happy employees are up to 20 per cent more productive than unhappy employees. Based on such findings, the chances of the Nets hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy come June, don’t look great.
But again, can you really blame Harden for wanting to give himself the best possible shot at a title? The answer is no, you can’t.
The days of lone-superstar teams led by the likes of MJ and Kobe collecting titles like they’re two-for-one deals at K-Mart is long gone (Technically Kobe doesn’t qualify as a superhero – the guy was a self-styled supervillain. He even gave himself a bad guy nickname: The Black Mamba. Okay, Kobe-stans, he was an anti-hero. Happy?)
The fact is, with LeBron and Anthony Davis the new Thanos and Superman (who says you can’t mix intellectual properties?) ruling the NBA, the chances of anyone toppling them are slimmer than an angst-machine like Batman doing karaoke. Unless they team up.
So no, you probably can’t blame Harden for not wishing to do it all on his own in Houston (sorry, John Wall, you aren’t a superhero anymore) and instead look to don a cape and hoist threes in Brooklyn. Because in the NBA, unlike in comic books, you don’t play to save the world, or be ‘a great story’.
You play to win.