Top five biggest Super Team failures: Lakers 2004, Brooklyn's Big Three, Heat and LeBron | NBA
LeBron James and the Lakers brought in Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and company to bring title 18 to LA, but they'll be lucky to make the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers are on pace to have a historically underwhelming season after building up the latest and “greatest” Super Team. Some of the biggest stars of yesteryear were compiled to bring the Lakers back to a competitive team after they were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round last year.
Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard were brought to the the Staples Center to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the franchises quest for an 18th title. While injuries have plagued the Lakers, their results have not corresponded with the amount of talent they have on their team.
After their 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, they currently sit 10th in the West and are dangerously close to missing not just the playoffs, but the Play-In Tournament. That got us thinking about all of the other super teams ended their season short of expectations.
Stop me if this sound familiar. The Lakers went wild in the off season of 2003 after being knocked out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. The Buss family hit the free-agent market hard to try to beef their team up in order to make a title run the next season.
Gary Payton was already a part of the Lakers, just as Horace Grant was during their early exit from the playoffs in 2003. Gayton was a sensation in his prime with the Seattle Super Sonics, and Horace Grant was a certified champion after winning the title three times with the Chicago Bulls and once with the Lakers in 2001. Both were resigned that offseason.
The resigning of Payton and Grant made news, but the headline of the off season was Karl Malone headed to LA after nearly two decades in Utah. The two time MVP was in his waining years of his career, but could add some valuable experience to the already stacked team that consisted of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
The regular season was adequate, as LA finished second in the West with a 56-26 record despite the Kobe-Shaq feud reaching it’s most ferocious point while the Lakers were in the midst of sexual assault allegations brought against Bryant. Payton struggled to run Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and an elderly Malone battled injuries all year.
Despite all of the problems that followed Los Angeles throughout the season, they still reached the NBA Finals, but met a gritty Detroit Pistons team that swept the Lakers in five games. Phil Jackson was fired shortly after, Shaq requested a trade and the Lakers dynasty fell apart.
Brooklyn Nets 2020-2021
They were the newest of the new glam boys in the NBA after James Harden was brought to Brooklyn to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Durant and Irving had joined the Nets in the 2019 offseason after both had title winning seasons in the years leading up to becoming teammates. Kyrie was a bonafide star and NBA champion in 2016, while Kevin Durant won back-to-back titles with another Super Team, the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018.
Harden reunited with his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Durant in the summer of 2020, and many were already handing the Nets the Eastern Conference before the season began.
Brooklyn finished with a record of 48-24 in a Covid shortened season. They went in to the playoffs as the two seed after finishing just a game behind Philadelphia in the East despite dealing with a handful of injuries to their Big Three.
They took care of the Celtics in the first round, but drew the eventual champions in the Conference Semifinals. Brooklyn took Milwaukee to overtime of Game 7, but fell to the Bucks in the extra session following Kevin Durant’s fourth quarter, foot-on-the-line game tying two that if he was an inch farther from the basket would have been a game winner.
The Nets struggled to respond after the heartbreaking end to last season, and the Big Three got a make over when James Harden was traded to Philly and Ben Simmons was brought to Brooklyn. Simmons still hasn’t played with Brooklyn, but the Nets sit in Play-In Position after a disappointing regular season.
Houston had a problem after the 1997-1998 season with one of the franchise’s best players ever, Clyde Drexler, calling it quits after a Hall of Fame career. They thought they had a solution when they brought in Scottie Pippen and his six championship with the Chicago Bulls.
They also attracted Antoine Carr, who lost a couple of those NBA Titles to Pippen and the Bulls. Pippen and Carr joined Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley who were in the twilight of their careers.
The NBA Lockout cut the season to 50 games, and the Rockets finished fifth in the West drawing the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Houston was bounced in the first round after winning just one game against the Lakers which eventually lead to the downfall of the Rockets, who wouldn’t return to the playoffs until 2004.
Not one. Not two. Not three. Not any the first season, as the Heat brought in superstars Chris Bosh and LeBron James Miami in 2010, but fell short of their championship expectations leaving all the haters of the most polarizing Super Team smiling from ear to ear.
“The Decision” was the beginning of the first end for LeBron James in Cleveland when he announced in front of the world that he would be taking his talents to Miami. The Heat were able to allure Chris Bosh into joining their multi championship aspiring project and all of the sudden three of the top draft picks from the 2003 Draft, one of the most loaded ever, were on the same team.
The buzz was well deserved and LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh overcame a disappointing 9-8 start to finish the regular season 58-24, in second in the East behind the Chicago Bulls.
They got all the way to Finals after getting through the Sixers, the Celtics and the Bulls all in five games, but met the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki in the Championship series. After winning Game 1, the Heat collapsed in the fourth quarter of Game 2 when they blew a 15 point fourth quarter lead. Miami won the first game in Dallas to take a 2-1 series lead, but the Mavs would go on to win three straight to win their first title in franchise history.
Golden State won their first title in 40 years when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals. While the Larry O’Brien trophy returned to the Golden State, that wasn’t enough.
After LeBron left the Miami Heat, the NBA was looking for their next dynasty. Golden State wanted to make sure their would oblige by signing the 2014 MVP, Kevin Durant, to an already loaded Warriors side that was looking to go back-to-back, and then some.
Steve Kerr had maybe one of the most talented teams ever assembled not named the Dream Team. The Warriors cruised through the regular season, breaking the Chicago Bulls best record of all time by a game, going 73-9. They earned the top seed in the West after Steph Curry won the MVP and Steve Kerr won Coach of the Year.
Golden State beat the Rockets and the Trail Blazers in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, before meeting Kevin Durant’s old team, the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. It took them seven games to get through Oklahoma City, and met the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals for a second straight year.
The rest is NBA folklore. The Warriors took a 3-1 lead over the Cavs, and went on to have the biggest meltdown in NBA history. Golden State lost the next three games to become the first team to blow a 3-1 lead in the Finals.
The heartbreak was short lived as the Warriors went on to win the next two NBA Titles to make it three in four years and cement their legacy as one of the best teams to ever be assembled.