Outrage and disdain engulfed the interwebs when Kevin Durant announced that he was going to be joining the already terrific Golden State Warriors team this offseason in one of the most fascinating moves in league history. NBA fans and analysts alike tore into Durant for his decision to form a super team with back-to-back league MVP Stephen Curry, claiming that it was a cheap move. Fans indicted Durant in that rather than figuring out a way to beat a team that had his number, he joined them to try to grab an easy ring.
The move brought back memories of LeBron James decision to “take his talents to South Beach” in 2010 and join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat where they won two titles in four seasons. However even with the Warriors high-powered offense and adding one of the leagues prolific scorers to the bunch doesn’t guarantee an “easy ring”. History has shown time and again Superstars banding together to try to dominate the league and form a championship dynasty fall short of the hype.
The talent may be there on paper but that doesn’t always translate into a championship. Whether it was the lack of chemistry, quarrelling over touches or styles not meshing like they had hoped, super teams can end up being an embarrassing failure and a setback to many promising NBA Careers.
Unfortunately for NBA GMs, championships are sadly not handed out in the offseason based on roster assembly. The following is a list of stacked super teams that formed and disappointingly didn’t work out.
15 2002-2003 Washington Wizards
While not a true superteam, Player/GM Michael Jordan was trying to do everything he could to make the Wizards competitive for a title to the point where he got himself out of retirement to play on the team. Jordan would push for Jerry Stackhouse to be traded to the team from the Detroit Pistons. Stackhouse had become a breakout star for the Pistons, even leading the league in points the season before he was acquired by the Wizards.
The Wizards also had the benefit of having the first round draft pick and Jordan himself was instrumental in selecting Kwame Brown. Jordan went even further to bolster the Wizard lineup by getting fellow aging NBA veterans Bryon Russell and Charles Oakley on the team who he played against in his heyday. With all these frantic moves, Jordan hoped to make some noise in the playoffs but embarrassingly the Wizards failed to even qualify. Kwame Brown became known as an all-time #1 draft pick bust and Michael Jordan's storybook career is forever blemished with his comeback to the Wizards.
14 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets
The New Jersey Nets shook things up big time in 2012 when they made a city change, migrating back to New York to be dubbed the Brooklyn Nets. With their arrival to a new city, a new arena and new jerseys, the Nets made a serious push to become known as Championship contenders by trading away a ton of their assets for championship experience. Aging veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry arrived from the Boston Celtics to join the already dynamic nucleus of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez . The Nets would also fortify their bench by signing Andrei Kirilenko and Shaun Livingston and selecting Nets legend Jason Kidd as their Head coach. All the transactions resulted in the Nets having the highest payroll in the league.
The moves would unfortunately not translate to the court as the Nets started the season poorly with Kidd having trouble adjusting to his new job as a coach and injuries damaging the Nets starting lineup when Brook Lopez had to shut down early in the season to have foot surgery. The Nets would improve despite their chemistry issues but would be trounced by the Miami Heat in the second round.
13 2007-2008 Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets had a formidable one-two punch in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming for several seasons but unfortunately without a talented group of role-players surrounding them, the Rockets time and again would disappoint with first round exits. The Rockets front office then decided to shake things up a bit, firing coach Jeff Van Gundy and hiring a more successful offensive minded coach in Rick Adelman.
The Rockets would then move quickly by beefing up their roster with talent they hoped would take the pressure and burden off of Yao and T-Mac. The Rockets would sign All-star point guard and Rockets fan favorite Steve Francis, who was ironically traded years earlier for Tracy McGrady. The Rockets would further add bench firepower by signing volume scorers like Bonzi Wells and Mike James as well as trading for Luis Scola.
The team would unfortunately be hit by the injury bug as Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and Steve Francis would be hampered by injuries most of the season and miss significant time each. The Rockets would however post an impressive 22 win streak during the season but ultimately would fall in the first round again as their super team was depleted by injuries.
12 2009-2010 Cleveland Cavaliers
Before LeBron was winning Championships on the regular, he had some serious growing pains in his early years as a part of the Cavaliers. LeBron and the Cavs would achieve post season success but often would not get very far. Even when the Cavaliers did advance in the playoffs, it was all due to riding solely on the back on LeBron’s stellar play. This would prove to be too much pressure on the shoulders of King James who didn’t have sufficient talent around him to help him get a ring.
Disappointed with progress, LeBron demanded the Cavs front office to get him help and they answered the call. This started with the major offseason move in 2009 when they acquired Shaquille O’Neal who declared to “win one for the King”. With a legitimate Hall of Fame center at the helm and following up with acquiring all-star forward Antawn Jamison, LeBron seemed to finally have a strong team to take a run at the Championship.
The Cavaliers would have the best record in the Eastern Conference but would never even reach the Conference finals as the rugged Boston Celtics team would pick apart the glued-together Cavs. As a result of the earlier than expected exit, Coach Mike Brown would be fired and LeBron would leave the Cavs himself, making his famous announcement to join the Miami Heat.
11 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings
One of the most memorable teams of the new millennium, the Sacramento Kings established themselves as a legitimate championship contender with their famous high-scoring Motion offense implemented by Rick Adelman. With Chris Webber leading the charge, the Kings had the best record in the league and boasted a well-balanced attack with a whopping seven players averaging double figures in points.
With their deep bench consisting of 6th man award winner Bobby Jackson and multiple weapons in the paint like Vlade Divac and around the perimeter like Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby and Doug Christie, the Kings breezed through the first and second rounds of the playoffs, knocking off the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks both in five game gentleman’s sweeps. The smooth ride to the Finals however was dashed by the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers who took the series while being down 3-2.
After this the Kings would never reach the same success as Webber would suffer a career-threatening knee injury the next season, dashing Sacramento’s championship hopes and derailing the high-powered combo that enjoyed much success.
10 1992-1993 Phoenix Suns
The blockbuster move of Charles Barkley being traded to the Phoenix Suns was highly publicized and took a Suns team which already had a well-established core of talent with All-Stars Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Tom Chambers and put them over the top.
Motivated by the talented cast around him, Barkley would break out in the 1993 season with a phenomenal nightly stat line that earned him MVP honors. The Suns would also boast the best win-loss record (62-20). Phoenix was all but guaranteed to win the West, which they did.
The Suns firepower brought them to the finals but their newly assembled team was not enough for Michael Jordan and his Championship proven Chicago Bulls to take care of. The Suns would lose in six games and would sadly never again return to the NBA Finals, leaving Barkley to seek a ring elsewhere
9 1985-1986 Houston Rockets
In the mid 80s it was Houston that had lady luck on their side when in two successive seasons they were awarded the number 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery. With these picks the Rockets would assemble a new breed of super team when they drafted two talented 7 footers to lead the Rockets to the promised land.
The Rockets would select 7’4 phenom and College Player of the year Ralph Sampson in 1983 and follow up in 1984 by selecting future MVP player and defensive shot-blocker Hakeem Olajuwon to form the “Twin Towers”. The two skyscrapers were a match-up nightmare for teams as they weren’t your typical lumbering big man but rather possessed finesse and footwork unseen at the time from larger players.
The Twin Towers and their talented supporting cast would enjoy a 51-31 record and stomp their way through the playoffs even upsetting the Showtime Lakers in the Western Conference Finals who were heavily favored to win.
The Rockets would go on to play against the Championship established Boston Celtics team. Youth and inexperience would do the Twin Towers in as they would fall 4-1 in the finals and would not see success in the playoffs again for nearly a decade.
8 2010-2011 Miami Heat
In 2010, LeBron captivated the NBA audience with his highly publicized “decision” special on television. There he revealed that he was joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat and famously boasted that the Heat would win “Not one, not two, not three” championships. While the big three would eventually win back-to-back championships, they didn’t live up to the hype in their first season together.
The big move would place intense scrutiny on the Heat and a major target on their backs and would result in the Heat going 9-8 in the win-loss column at the beginning of the season. The Heat would make it to the finals, but the boos and the intense pressure may have been too much for LeBron and the gang as they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in what was perceived as an upset.
This proved to be a learning experience for LeBron, Wade and Bosh as they would bounce back the following season hungry and with an even stronger team.
7 1996-1997 Houston Rockets
The Rockets shocked the NBA two seasons in a row with back-to-back Championship wins in 1994 and 1995. Looking to make a three-peat in 1996, the Rockets would fail in the semifinals versus the Seattle Supersonics. The Rockets wanted to continue their championship dynasty and felt they needed to add another superstar to stand beside two future Hall of Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Rockets would sign Charles Barkley, sending shockwaves throughout the league.
The Houston Rockets would do well during the regular season but were not as dominating as they were on paper. All three stars in Barkley, Drexler and Olajuwon were aging and in the twilight of their careers and it showed. They would lose to the Utah Jazz in the Conference finals from a buzzer beating and game winning 3 pointer from John Stockton which killed their Championship hopes and would set the Rockets back over a decade from seeing similar postseason success again.
6 2004-2005 Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers had a breakthrough season in 2004 with new coach Rick Carlisle taking his team led by All-Stars Ron Artest, Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal into the playoffs with the best record in the league at 61-21. The team made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, losing to the Detroit Pistons in 6 games. The Pistons would go on to win the Championship.
The Pacers were eager to build on their success by adding to their already strong lineup, acquiring shooting guard Stephen Jackson to their team. The following season the Pacers started off strong and during a game versus that same Pistons team they had bad blood with, they made a statement by blowing the reigning Champs out. What everyone remembers about this game though was the infamous “Brawl at the Palace” where a fight between Ben Wallace and Ron Artest turned into an all out riot where Artest and Pacers players would go into the stands to fight with rowdy fans.
The aftermath of the brawl would derail the team with harsh suspensions to Artest, O’Neal and Jackson, killing their Championship hopes.
5 94-95 Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic front office lucked out in the mid 90s when in both the 1993 and 1994 NBA Draft lottery they were able to snag number 1 picks back to back. Things were finally starting to turn around for the struggling expansion team when in 1993 they selected Shaquille O’Neal. As phenomenal as Shaq was in his rookie year, the Magic failed to make the playoffs. The next season the Magic selected Chris Webber for the 1st Pick but traded for Penny Hardaway, which became a match made in heaven.
In the 94-95 Season, the Magic would sign the missing piece of the puzzle when they nabbed championship experienced Horace Grant as a veteran to an existing talented group of players. This appeared to work, as they were 1st in the Eastern Conference and even ousted the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls from the playoffs. In the finals though, the Magic underestimated the Houston Rockets who embarrassed them in a merciless sweep. The epic collapse would rock the Magic to the core as Shaq would leave the team that offseason.
4 2003-2004 LA Lakers
The stacked LA Lakers team of the 2003-2004 season is often looked at as the prime example of Super teams failing to live up to their hype on paper. Similar to the 96-97 Rockets, the Lakers had a successful combination with Shaq and Kobe bringing Los Angeles three consecutive Championship trophies. After a couple of disappointing seasons where they under-performed and others teams had adjusted to their firepower, the Lakers decided to add a few legends to their lineup to increase their chances at seeing rings again.
The Lakers would sign Gary Payton and Karl Malone who after having stellar careers respectively as part of the Seattle Supersonics and Utah Jazz, wanted to put their egos aside to try to collect a championship ring which had eluded them for far too long. NBA fans and pundits were under intense scrutiny over the move and anything less than a championship ring with that cast of legendary talent would be an utter failure.
The Lakers would have an up and down season hampered by injuries, chemistry issues and off-court drama between the stars, particularly Kobe and Shaq and even legal issues when Kobe found himself in the middle of rape allegations that tarnished his image. All of this would prove to be too much for the team. Even with advancing to the NBA Finals, the Lakers would fall to the Detroit Pistons in an epic collapse.
3 2013 LA Lakers
With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol leading the team, the Lakers would finally see Championship success once again with back to back championship victories in 2009 and 2010. With Kobe getting up there in age and time running out for him to be able to play at a high level, the Lakers decided to go all in in the 2012-2013 season to try to make a run at another championship and perhaps also secure their future with a marquee player for Kobe to pass the torch to.
This torchbearer was thought to be Dwight Howard who was acquired from the Orlando Magic via trade. To increase their chances even further, the Lakers would sign two time MVP point guard Steve Nash and defensive stopper Metta World Peace, giving the Lakers offensive and defensive firepower only seen in basketball fantasy leagues.
The season would be an absolute disaster as injuries would pile up, coaching changes would be made mid-season and chemistry issues— particularly between the always clashing Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant— would fill up the sports headlines. To make matters worse, Kobe would tear his Achilles heel just before the playoffs, derailing the Lakers chances at a winning a ring. The Lakers would be ruthlessly swept in the first round by the Spurs and Howard would spurn the Lakers over re-signing with the team, instead joining the Houston Rockets.
2 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors
How did Stephen Curry follow up an MVP awarded season that ended in a Championship victory? By breaking even more records and winning the MVP trophy again, apparently. The 2016 Golden State Warriors were a perfectly assembled and perfectly coached team. Along with Curry captivating the league with his stellar play, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would solidify themselves as All-star players. The bench was also stacked with Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Mareese Speights and Leandro Barbosa providing superb offense and defense.
The Warriors team proved that you can have a super team that doesn’t consist of multiple superstars (that's all changed with the Durant acquisition though). The Warriors would break the regular season record for wins by posting a 73-9 season and making it all the way to the NBA Finals. The Warriors would nab up all the major regular season awards like MVP and Coach of the Year and everyone expected them to repeat after such a great year. However, LeBron James and the Cavs thought otherwise. This was a clear underdog story as the counted out Cavs would defeat the Warriors, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA crown, stomping on the Warriors magically successful season.
1 2006-2007 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks may have finally won their elusive championship in 2011, but there were times that they should’ve won it sooner. The season was 2006-2007. The Mavericks had just blown an NBA Finals series versus the Miami Heat the season prior and were fuming mad.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks made a statement to start the season and were a well-oiled machine out for revenge. The team of Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry provided fearsome firepower that most teams could not keep up with. With all the right pieces and roleplayers around Dirk, the Mavericks would obtain the #1 seed out West and the best NBA record of the season. The Mavericks were the clear favorites going into the NBA playoffs and playing against the 8th seeded Warriors, the Mavericks thought they’d have an easy time and may have overlooked the team.
The Warriors would shock the Mavericks and the NBA with an upset victory, eliminating Dallas in the first round and sending the Mavericks with their tails between their legs wondering what the heck went wrong,