By Marquis Cooley | Reporter
This year, sports fans and media alike have been upset over star players joining together to form super teams in order to get a championship.
This past NFL season saw multiple talented athletes, such as Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, take pay cuts and restructure their contracts to join Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win a Super Bowl.
And this NBA season is no different with James Harden, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge all finding their way to the Brooklyn Nets to join up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in order to win their first NBA title. But the same people getting upset about these moves are the ones responsible for influencing those decisions.
Most professional athletes want to be known as one of the greatest to ever play their sport, it’s what they live for and why they get up and train everyday. But sports media and fans have associated how great an athlete is based on how many championships they’ve won despite the fact that they’re playing a team sport.
Take the LeBron James versus Michael Jordan debate. A lot of people say Jordan is better because he has six rings to James’ four. Just last week, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith criticized Russell Westbrook saying his stats don’t matter until he finally gets a championship. Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who has four championships himself, said this kind of criticism is normal for athletes.
“When you’re a great player, and you’re putting up great numbers, people are always gonna say, ‘Wait until you have a championship,’” O’Neal said. “If you don’t get a championship, that’s not a knock. Everybody had to go through it, it’s not like we’re just picking on [Westbrook], all the greats, and we look at him as a great player, everybody had to go through this.”
Although it may not be a knock on these players’ legacies, it’s something that always haunts them. Former NBA star Charles Barkley is constantly reminded on “Inside the NBA” that he’s the only player on the show to not have won a title and is sometimes told his opinion is invalid because of it. Also, people constantly make lists and rankings such as “The Greatest Players to Never Win a Championship,” separating those players from the all-time greats of their respective sports as if they’re in a different category for not having won a ring.
And if you think that kind of criticism or constant reminder doesn’t influence or affect these players’ decisions, take a look at Kevin Durant’s twitter where he’s constantly arguing with fans to the point that he even created a burner account.
Athletes feel like they need to win at least one championship to solidify their legacies, so sometimes they join other stars to increase their chances. Lebron did it when he left Cleveland for Miami, Durant joined the 73-9 Golden State Warriors and Randy Moss, along with almost every other veteran in the NFL at some point, tried to win one with the New England Patriots during the Tom Brady era.
This trend of super teams is going to continue to happen in sports if we as fans and those in the media continue to associate greatness with championships.