More than any other major sport, NBA players are judged almost exclusively by their ability to win an NBA championship. While no one (okay very few people) criticizes Mike Trout for not winning a World Series, NBA fans seem only to care about a superstar’s ability to lead his team to an NBA championship. Players like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul constantly have their greatness questioned. Yet, we don’t hear that talk about Anthony Davis. The oxymoron is that the same fans typically don’t like it when players form join teams that already feature superstars to form super teams, in an effort to make winning that championship easier. Kevin Durant is perhaps the most notable recent example of a player who was victimized for not winning a championship and then villainized for joining the Warriors in an attempt to do just that.
It’s a cruel, somewhat unforgiving world for these star players, and no one seems to be immune to it.
Except, for some reason, former Pelicans center Anthony Davis.
Now with the Lakers, Davis managed to avoid the heaps of criticism that followed Durant, Lebron, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and numerous other superstars who were first criticized for not winning – and then again criticized for how they attempted to win – by joining an NBA super team.
That’s not to say Davis doesn’t have his critics, particularly from the New Orleans faithful who weren’t too happy to see him demand a trade and sit out last season after six and a half seasons with the team. They’ll survive, particularly now that they have the rights to Zion Williamson and a haul of talent from the Lakers, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a boatload of first round draft picks coming their way.
Why Doesn’t Anthony Davis Get Criticized?
Still, it does make you wonder why Anthony Davis has managed, by and large, to avoid this kind of scrutiny. Is he not on the level that LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant are? Does this kind of criticism not apply to post players, only to guards and forwards? Does he get a pass because he played in New Orleans? Are people actually mad, we just aren’t hearing as much about it?
Hard to say.
For what it’s worth, I think judging players by how many championships they win is disingenuous. Robert Horry is not ten times the player that Karl Malone or Charles Barkley was. Steve Kerr has more championships as a player than Steph Curry, but that doesn’t mean anything.
However, the NBA is the sport where one player can most impact a team. A truly elite NBA player has a bigger impact on a single team than anyone in a baseball, hockey or soccer game, and arguably more than any football player, although an elite quarterback can sometimes make-or-break an entire team.
Therefore, elite players who can’t win championships draw that criticism, whether it is fair or not. They’ll say that “Jordan did it” (he didn’t – he had HOFers Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman alongside him) or they’ll say “Kobe did it” (kinda – but he struggled without Shaq and needed Pau Gasol) but once a player decides to join a team with another superstar or two, they are a pariah that is destroying the parity in the game and hurting the small-market teams who can’t go out and collect multiple superstars.
Of course, destroyer of super teams Kawhi Leonard may have proven that one doesn’t need a super team to win it all.
NBA Super Teams are the norm
So I guess the question becomes, do we care that Anthony Davis joined the Lakers? If so, why? If not – why has he been exempt from that criticism in the past?
One thing is for sure, even with Antony Davis and Lebron James, the Lakers are going to have a hard time getting through the still-stacked Western Conference in 2019, even if the Warriors are without Durant and Klay Thompson next season.