The Milwaukee Bucks hoisted the Larry O’Brien for the first time in 50 years and dare I say, it was one of the most satisfying championships that I have witnessed in the past several years. Why is that you may ask, and that is because this championship was the culmination of a team building itself up over time to reach this point; it had a feel from an era gone by. As enjoyable as it was seeing Lebron James finally getting that championship gorilla off his back, it was seen as short cutting steps in that process. Watching Kevin Durant display his basketball brilliance in capturing back-to-back championships and Finals was phenomenal but the perception of how it came to be seemed a bit empty, which Durant himself has intimated since then.
When looking back at many great champions of the modern era, they are thought upon fondly and respected not just because of their ultimate successes but also what they had to overcome to get there. The Bad Boy Detroit Pistons had to figure out a way to get past the mighty Boston Celtics. The championship story of the Chicago Bulls was elevated by finally slaying the dragon that was for them, the Detroit Pistons. The Kobe and Shaq Los Angeles Lakers were dominant once they ascended to top of the NBA, but on the way there, they were repeatedly turned back and sent home by western conference powers like the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.
An even more recent example is the 2011 Dallas Mavericks with Dirk Nowitski. This team went through the fire of struggle trying to break through in the Western Conference for years before finally exercising those demons by defeating the then back-to-back champion Los Angeles Lakers , a then an up-and- coming Oklahoma City Thunder ballclub with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Their victory over the star studded Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was a sobering slap in the face to the superteam movement.
Too often in life, and the NBA, the vision is far too myopic and because of that there is a tendency to try and cut corners in order to reach the goal of winning their penultimate and winning the championship. This leads to this hare trigger response to want to fire coaches and break up teams if they are not hoisting a trophy after only a year or two. Losing is a painful but educational part of the championship process. The experience of defeat can be excruciating ,so fans,players and front office do all they can do avoid that pain. That is understandable because losing just stinks , but the lessons learned can teach players and coaches on what they need to improve on individually as well as collectively and how to deal with adversity. However trying to circumvent this necessary part of the journey will either lead to never reaching the mountaintop or prematurely limiting the lifespan of the success.
It’s for that reason seeing the Milwaukee Bucks win the championship was a breath of fresh air. I am not a Bucks fan but it was satisfying seeing them ascend to the top of the NBA mountain and it was beacuse they did not take the perceived “easy way out”; ( as Giannis himself commented on in the post game) there were ups, downs, struggles, questions and doubts, with the culmination of which was winning a championship. In sports and in life it is easy to get behind and celebrate the accomplishments of individuals and teams who had to overcome adversity on the way to achieving their goals because it is relatable to what the average person goes through.
So while in the era of the super team, combining as many stars as possible may present the path of least resistance to championship rings, but whether it be NBA championships, a business, health or anything else that requires effort, things that are worked for are always held in much higher esteem than things were perceived to achieved via shortcuts. Championship pedigrees undergirded by super teams is a sandy foundation on which to build ones legacy upon.