The Nets and the Lakers show what happens when the wrong people call the shots


The New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Lakers were betting favorites to win the NBA championship at the start of the 2021-2022 season for the same reason: Both were stacked with stars and superstars for whom no spending was spared. The Nets had Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and La Marcus Aldridge. And the Lakers had legends LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook surrounded by former lights like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

So much talent. So little…success. The Lakers missed the playoffs completely, despite having won them the previous two seasons. And the walking disaster that is New Jersey was swept away by the Boston Celtics, who followed their “team first” mantra all the way to the NBA Finals, where they lost to a better team in the Golden State Warriors.

What explains the epic implosions in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and what can world leaders learn from them?

As we put the 2021-22 season to bed and watch the NBA’s free agency period begin with a bang, it’s worth considering the Nets and Lakers as two cautionary tales against the temptation to try to buy. a championship by hiring a bunch of superstars, then giving them too much power at the expense of developing a winning culture.

Certainly, the Nets and Lakers demonstrate the immense appeal of successful trades that bring exciting, world-class talent to a team. Problems arise when there is no solid foundation and organizational leadership with which the superstar must accommodate his own ego and desires; no expectation of mentoring less experienced players and finding the right person. That was certainly the case with Brooklyn’s Irving, who played just 103 of a possible 226 games during his three-year tenure there. Irving has missed 123 games due to refusing a COVID shot, various injuries and a mysterious two-week hiatus.

Being absent in this way not only made Brooklyn less competitive by robbing them of Irving’s talent and score, but also undermined the team’s cohesion and commitment to each other – ingredients that are everything. as vital to the team’s success as Irving’s gifts. If your company hired a good salesperson who came to work less than half the time and set a bad example for his colleagues, what would that do to your team culture?

On the one hand, you might enjoy some enviable superstar numbers here and there, but would that outweigh the obvious hit to your sales team’s morale? What if the star fell ill? What if they were disappointed?

As we enter free agency, the Nets superstars seem to be more focused on their next gig than improving the team they’re already on. For Brooklyn, wouldn’t the best approach after being humiliated by Boston be to regroup, look deep within themselves as an organization, and commit to each other to improve the season? next ?

That’s what great teams do. They learn from their mistakes – physical, tactical or psychological – and do better next time. But therein lies one of the main problems with the current traveling superstar system: they seem to end up with the wrong people in charge.

Just two years after winning it all, the Los Angeles Lakers seem to have gone from one of the best-run organizations in modern sports to LeBron James’ personal project. After leading Cleveland to the championship in 2016, James decided he was “the greatest player of all time”, much to the dismay of virtually anyone who saw the comment as deeply disrespectful to the game. led the Lakers to the same championship in 2020, he decided he was also the greatest general manager of all time. This must have been surprising and infuriating news for the Lakers. real GM Rob Pelinka, whom James spent from 2021 to 2022 trolling on social media and unduly comparing himself with other GMs.

This kind of behavior is not going to win James many friends among the other GMs in the league, who will see how quickly he can turn on them. And James won’t always be worth accepting in exchange for his skills. But the bigger point is that James is doing neither his teams nor himself a favor by flouting the Lakers’ leadership structure. Like Irving, his former teammate in Cleveland, James confused his own bottomless ego with the team and, indeed, with the rest of the world.

That’s not a good mindset for sustained excellence, no matter how much money the superstar can keep bringing to a team, whether in sales or in tickets and merchandise. One day sales, tickets and merchandise will dry up, and what will matter most will be our legacy, which will depend less on our numbers (and what we say about ourselves) and more on how we respect the people around us.