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Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the stars align just right and you get the biggest stars on the best teams playing in their prime at the same time.
The NBA was saved in the 1980s and globalized in the 1990s when Magic’s Lakers, Larry’s Celtics, Dr. J’s Sixers, Isiah’s Pistons and Michael’s Bulls were the only teams that won the championship for 14 years. Throw in Hakeem’s Rockets, along with Jordan’s first comeback, and there were only six organizations that won the championship over nearly two decades.
It was the kind of stability and star power that helped the league become what it is today.
Now, nearly 10 years after Jordan’s retirement from the Bulls, the NBA is in the midst of its best period of basketball since then.
Thanks to a few trades and the maturation of one of the best draft classes in NBA history, the league now has its best teams led by its star players. Kobe’s Lakers, KG’s Celtics, LeBron’s Cavs and Dwight’s Magic are the class of the NBA with Dwyane’s Heat, Carmelo’s Nuggets, CP3’s Hornets, A.I.’s Pistons and Duncan’s Spurs not far behind.
If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, don’t forget that just four years ago Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James weren’t even in the playoffs. Three of the sport's biggest names were on average teams that couldn't even break into the top half of the league. The result was a lackluster playoffs culminating with a Pistons-Spurs NBA Final that was one of the lowest-rated ever.
Now the league is salivating at the prospect of another Celtics-Lakers Finals, rekindling memories of when that was practically an annual occurrence, or a Cavs-Lakers Finals, from which fans could see Kobe and LeBron go at it in a seven-game series for the first time.
In this era of free agency and salary caps, it's almost impossible to build the kind of consistency teams did 20 years ago when star players stayed on the same team through their entire careers and helped them build championship teams -- like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan (forget that Wizards phase) and Isiah Thomas did.
With Bryant, James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, I think we're getting modern-day renaissance of the way the NBA was. These guys are finding out that sticking with your team and allowing them to build around you is better than moving onto the next big city or big contract.
While the free agency of many of the above players is often talked about and analyzed, the chances that any of them would leave their original team are slim. Would LeBron be better off leaving one of the best teams in the league for the lowly Knicks? Does anyone still think Kobe wants to leave the Lakers? And seriously, what are the chances that Dwyane would leave South Beach now that he has the Heat back on track?
There's no way the league's current period of stability and star power will last anywhere near 20 years like it did in the 80s and 90s, although we could be in the beginning stages of a nice little run here. So while you’re watching Kobe and Lebron battle for the best record in the league or the Lakers and Celtics face each other again in the NBA Finals, enjoy it because it won’t be long before parity and instability hits NBA and the fortunes of teams and addresses of players once again change on an annual basis.