I half expected to wake up today to see Kevin Durant in a Duke jersey. After Zion Williamson’s commitment last night, Duke has officially joined the New York Yankees, Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots and a few other NBA teams on a special list. They’re already on the Evil Empire list, but they’ve now officially joined the Superteam party. Superteams have always existed, but LeBron James‘ decision to join the Miami Heat a few years ago seems to have kicked off a new era of unfairness in sports.
Williamson, the #2 overall recruit in the country, will be joined by #1 recruit RJ Barrett and #3 Cam Reddish in Durham. College basketball recruiting is an interesting thing, because these rankings don’t guarantee that the #1 player will actually be the best guy in college. Regardless, this commitment shows that the superteam mentality has infiltrated the college ranks.
Let’s consider the very real possibility that Williamson was not motivated by having the best team in the land. It’s very likely he wanted to attend one of the best universities in the world and play for one of the most legendary basketball coaches in history. The doubt comes in, and can possibly be affirmed, by how much time he and the others spend at Duke. Chances are we’ll see him in the NBA in 2019 after one year in college, if he follows the all-too-common trend in college basketball.
Why is this happening so much? What has happened to competition? Are Apple, Amazon, and Wal-Mart all about to merge? It’s not difficult to understand wanting to play with the best players; it pushes athletes to do better and to learn more about the game. That doesn’t seem to be the angle for most of these athletes, however. What does Kevin Durant stand to learn from Stephen Curry? Is Giancarlo Stanton taking hitting lessons from Aaron Judge? Of course not. These mergers happened because somebody found the easiest road to success.
Ask any 12-year-old who’s played Madden. You can turn all of your team’s ratings up to 99 and play one of those weird NFL Europe teams they included for a while, but winning 112-0 gets boring. Teaming up with your fellow sixth graders to beat the Kindergartners at dodgeball isn’t very fun or exciting to watch. It seems that in this day and age, the focus is less on hard work and earning success, and more on finding the shortest path to victory. This is not to say that KD or Stanton or Williamson or any college or pro athlete hasn’t already worked their tail off to get where they are; they certainly have. It’s simply become apparent that the highest levels of play are no longer the highest levels of competition.
Just 7 years ago, the NBA blocked a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Since then, the league has become nearly unbearable to watch, it’s so predictable. Perhaps measures could be taken to stop the formation of these schoolyard bully teams, but the outcry would likely be great. And that’s the issue.