Importance of Stars in NBA

The Indiana Pacers had the Miami Heat on the ropes but couldn’t finish them off. They set themselves up for a storybook ending. Alas, it was not meant to be.

How typical.

The Pacers were outmatched. Much like a boxer without that knockout punch or a closer without a strikeout pitch, the Pacers needed something more. They just didn’t have it though. Larry Bird’s squad is another prime example of the necessity of having a star player in order to win meaningful games in the NBA.

Balance alone doesn’t cut it in this league.

The Heat should never have been seen as on the ropes by so many people (yes, guilty as charged). Not when they feature 2 of the best players on the planet while the Pacers feature player is a fringe all-star center. Indiana didn’t go soft in game 6. They couldn’t bring their game up a couple of notches like the Heat were able to.

It’s no secret that star players are important. They are almost as vital to NBA playoff life as oxygen is for human beings. However, not every team can have a star and those without at least one would like to think that they can survive. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.

It’s not as if balanced teams cannot fight with the big boys of the league. If anything, they are even scrappier because they have something to prove. The Pacers gave the Heat a great fight. I would have paid to see 12 rounds of that. The Denver Nuggets took Kobe Bryant and his two giants to 7 hard-fought games. Philadelphia themselves have a legitimate shot at the Eastern Conference Finals. The 76ers hardly qualify though considering their road up to this point has been littered with the fallen soldiers of their opponents.

These teams can make it only so far.

Basketball isn’t a game that invites parity, largely due to the requirement of stars. Only 9 teams have won an NBA championship in the past 30 years and 3 of those teams have 1 lone championship banner hanging in their arena over that span. Of those 30 teams who have won championships, only the 2004 Detroit Pistons lacked anything close to a star player.

When the chips are down, a championship team must a guy or two that they can hand the ball over to. Even the 2004 Detroit Pistons had Chauncey Billups who is known around the league as Mr. Big Shot.

The Pacers didn’t have anyone like that this year. Danny Granger was an emerging NBA star not too long ago. He was unable to bring that star power to the Heat series for even 1 game and because of that the Pacers were doomed. The Heat superstars simply brought it after game 3 and the balanced roster of the Pacers couldn’t handle it.

The Orlando Magic ownership know that winning in the NBA is as star driven as any professional sports league in the world. That’s why they have made every possible concession that they could to appease Dwight Howard. Like a kid trying to impress the cool kids in high school, they tried a little too hard though. However, the reasoning behind their actions is completely understandable.

Fan bases without stars to boast of have to believe that a no-name roster can take down the Goliath’s of the NBA world. In a league where there is very little fluctuation among the top teams, hope is sometimes all they have.

Hope and belief just aren’t enough though.

The Thunder, Heat and Spurs all meet the criteria of possessing a star player. Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Miami has Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. San Antonio has Tony Parker to go along with aging stars in Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli. If the Boston Celtics do indeed push through the injuries to the Conference Finals then that would mean the 4 teams left in the 2012 playoffs would have the pre-requisite star needed to win a championship.

It’s no different than having a top-flight quarterback in the NFL. Still, the NFL has not only had much more parity in the past 30 years than the NBA but there have also been more Super Bowl winners that have lacked the supposed essential piece of the puzzle.

Stars trump balance in the NBA unlike any other league.

The Pacers, well, they did the best that they could.

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17 Responses to Importance of Stars in NBA

  1. It’s as Bird said …….” my team is soft ” ! Here’s roll of Charmin for the Pacers , Larry , perhaps they can now use it after taking dump in their shorts ? A

  2. CR…

    You’re 100% correct about star power in the league but I don’t hate on it. I accept it for what it is.

    But it’s why players like LeBron can pretty much demand where he wants to play and who he wants to play with and why Dwight Howard can hold the Magic over a barrel.

    As you suggest, the Pistons were the last team to win a title without a bonafied superstar, even though they were no slouch, but if you recall, the Lakers team they beat that year was in total disarray.

    Either way, I’m gonna keep watching and despite being undermanned star-wise, Indy still put forth a solid effort. But Wade and LeBron are superstars for a reason. They are THAT much better than everybody else.

    • nbababble says:

      I agree with all of this, except in my opinion the Pistons had two future hall of famers — Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace. I think the Pistons sold themselves as a team, and they did play as a team, but that within that team were two stars.

  3. jpalumbo says:

    I think you could argue that the 2004 Pistons at least had a player capable of having superstar performances, even if it was rare, in Rasheed Wallace. Add in a defensive superstar in Ben Wallace, and maybe we just underrate the squad and should reexamine them rather than call them the exception to the rule.

  4. Kevin (of Atlantic Twine) says:

    Solid post man.

    I agree that a superstar helps and often can make the difference. But I agree with what ChrisHumpherys (@SportsChump) said. Too many superstars hold too much leverage in the league, and use it too their advantage. While each of these superstars are truly talented and have worked hard to perfect their craft, some are selfish and want to win just to be able to boost their image. Look at Tim Duncan, he is a class act, plays for his team, and never has demanded attention. He is the last of a dying breed. Basketball is a team sport, and it’s a shame too many players are degrading the integrity of the game.

    Looking forward to future posts.

  5. nbababble says:

    I agree about the NBA but not the NFL. Star quarterbacks are icing on the cake in the NFL the last decade. The 2001 Ravens, 2008 Giants, and 2005 Steelers all won superbowls with quarterbacks who were at the time average or slightly above average.

    -NBA Babble

  6. Larry Bird said the wrong thing, the team didn’t go soft they gave it their all.

  7. Stars aren’t always the requisite to winning in the NBA. Case in point, and probably just an anomaly, take the N.Y. Knicks. Not one but three stars and all they achieved was an early exit in the first round of the playoffs playing a team with …three stars!

  8. A friend and I were discussing this last night because of the Pacers’ potential to become an elite team. You’re definitely right, as your statistic shows, that almost every title team has a star player. Often this player is the one you want taking the final shot in crunch time, and in the Pistons’ case, the had Billups to replace that star. Robert Horry was the same way for a few teams in his career, so it’s not a total necessity to have a star player that is clutch.
    If a team doesn’t have a top 20 league player, they can still combine efforts of 2 or 3 good players to reach the superstar-level of production. Such as Granger’s sharpshooting plus West’s post presence. Then add in the usual contributions of George, Hibbert, Collison, Hill, etc. and you have a great team. With a group of 8-10 solid basketball players, with 2 of them being borderline all-stars, the Pacers (like the 2004 Pistons) have the makeup to be a championship team.
    The Pistons showed that you can win without superstars, but it hasn’t happened enough to reasonably believe a team filled with plainly good basketball players will go all the way. Give this Pacers team 2 years and we’ll see how it works out. Same for the Nuggets and even the Sixers, depending on how good people think Igoudala is. You make some excellent points in this post.

  9. I absolutely agree with you, Chris. Great post. It is well-written, concise, and to the point. Can you comment on my blog too? Thanks.

  10. DJ Smitty says:

    Absolutley agree with that post, a proven superstar is almost a necessity to get deep in the playoffs. Look at the current teams now, Thunder (Durant/Westbrook), Spurs (Duncan/Parker) Heat(DWade/LeBron), Celtics (Big 3 + Rondo), Sixers (Igudola, Brand). Looking at that list its clear who the weakest superstar pair is, its the Sixers which is why I’ll be suprised if they manage to win tomorrow night.
    You have a good point though about the Pacers and having a balanced lineup featuring no superstar power. While the Pacers certainley made the series interesting, they simply didn’t have enough gas, enough juice to finish off the Heat. Is it because they don’t have a superstar player? Granger and Hibbert aren’t slouches, but they clearly aren’t marquee superstars either. If i were Larry Bird or any other executive I’d aim to get a superstar type player this offseason either by trade or free agency (e.g D. Howard, P. Gasol, D. Williams). That would be the first step to contending in this new league of superstar driven teams.

    check out my blog for more NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL news and analysis.

  11. Pingback: My HIGH SCHOOL All-Star Team is Better Than Your NBA All-Star Team « couch sports expert

  12. Brandon says:

    Good article. However, I believe that the Pacers could have defeated the Heat, had they stopped taking unnecessary jumpshots and given the ball to their bigs more often.

  13. Chris

    Would you say that the makeup of the Spurs is one of a team that is star laden ? I would just like to know your thoughts on a team by its results leading up to the postseason and into the playoffs has been the best performing team overall . But yet the vast majority of fans and NBA analysts as usual have been drinking the Heat- Kool Aid . They’re unbeaten in their last 18 games but yet they’re being overlooked as if they’re a piece of fecal matter on the side of the road. And one wonders why the fans and journalists are simply enamored with teams which as such haven’t achieved anything of merit ? It’s simply because the analysts haven’t anything better to do and they simply feed the masses with their bs” !

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