When it comes to modern sports, most people have this ridiculous misconception that there is no “I” in team. They’re wrong. Plain and simple.
While on an international level teams control the players and individual players are not considered a significant factor when it comes to a team’s net worth, the same cannot be said for any of the four American Sports.
According to the late Jerry Buss, Kobe alone brings the Lakers between 60-80 million dollars a year, and I’m willing to say he’s being a little bit modest. Superstars are bigger than the teams they play for. That’s how it has been for the last ten years, and that is how it’s going to continue to be.
It’s not that the teams are doing anything wrong, or misrepresenting their brand, it’s just that social media has made all these superstars so much more relatable and accessible, that teams just can’t compete with that type of appeal.
The superstar has become bigger than the team, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The fact that these guys are so relatable has allowed for the globalization of the sport, to a point where Kobe Bryant has someone tweeting on his behalf in Chinese for his fan base in China.
Now you’re probably wondering what the hell this has to do with you as a fan. When Dwight Howard chose to leave Los Angeles last summer, people were furious. When Lebron left Cleveland, fans burned his jersey. But can you blame them?
Ten years ago, people would ask who your favorite team is, but now the more proper question would be, “who is your favorite player?” Look at the Clippers, before Chris Paul you could have counted the number of Clipper fans on one hand. Now look at “Lob City.” Congratulations to the Clippers by the way, they actually have enough fans where they have to make more jerseys than the ones they give their players now, so that’s pretty cool I guess.
On a serious note though, I’m not just talking about basketball. You can’t think of the New York Yankees and not picture Derek Jeter. Same goes with the Patriots and Tom Brady, and the Broncos with Peyton Manning.
Superstars have become a brand in their own right, and these guys know what they’re doing too. Three years ago everyone hated Lebron, two championships and three MVPs later, he is arguably the biggest name in the sport. The NBA and the future of the NBA is in the hands of a bunch of very well informed men in their 20s.
If there was no salary cap in the NBA, and teams had to bid on players with no restrictions, let’s just say Kobe’s two year, $48.5 million contract would probably be at least double that. It’s not that teams are entirely irrelevant; it’s just that players are now so recognizable that their fans follow them whether they play for the Celtics or the Lakers. What happened to all those die-hard Celtics fans? Oh that’s right, the Celtics were traded to the Nets.