“I’m taking my talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat.” – LeBron James, July 8, 2010.
With those words from the made-for-television spectacle, the era of the NBA super team was born.
James, coming off a seven-year run where he led his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA Finals appearance and several deep playoffs run, shocked his fans by joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
What followed was the longest NBA Finals streak since Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers each reached four-straight Finals in the 1980s. The Heat cruised to the Finals in all four seasons that the trio was together, winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and ’13. They were vanquished by a San Antonio Spurs team that was star-laden but put together more organically through the draft over a number of years. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard (who was acquired in a draft-day trade from Indiana) were all home-grown stars for the Spurs.
After that Finals loss, James decided to return to the Cavaliers to tend to unfinished business. LeBron, however, didn’t come alone. The Cavs also brought in Kevin Love to join the 2011 No. 1 draft pick Kyrie Irving. James was now on another super team and would extend his Finals streak to eight by the time his second stint in Cleveland was done. That number has only been eclipsed by members of the Boston Celtics during their ten-year Finals streak in the 1950s and ‘60s – Bill Russell holds the record at 10-straight Finals appearances.
The 2016 postseason led to the birth of another super team. Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder blew a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors, who then blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to James’s Cavs. That offseason, Durant took the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy by joining the Warriors. Golden State then cruised to the next two NBA Finals, beating the overmatched Cavs each time. The Warriors have reached five-straight Finals, but their championship run came to an end at the hands of the Toronto Raptors in June 2019, with injuries to Durant and Klay Thompson playing a large factor in the outcome of that series.
After a very busy free agency and trades, there are now three super teams in the NBA landscape. The first, unsurprisingly, involves James. After lacking a supporting cast and missing the playoffs for the first time in well over a decade, LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers traded with New Orleans Pelicans for superstar big man Anthony Davis. On the other side of L.A., the Clippers traded for Paul George and signed Kawhi Leonard – coming off his leading the Raptors to a title – to a free-agent deal. Durant and Irving both signed deals with the Brooklyn Nets, but that pairing probably won’t show dividends until next season due to Durant expecting the miss this year while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. In Houston, the Rockets traded for Russell Westbrook to reunite him with former Thunder teammate James Harden.
With the majority of titles this decade won by these so-called super teams, it appears that the trend will continue into the next decade with several super teams vying for NBA glory.
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