Why Do NBA Franchises Fall for the Trap of Building Super-Teams? (Guest Writer: Jeremy Johnson @Clark_Kent_75)

lebron-james

The champagne had not been cleaned from the San Antonio Spurs’ locker room floors before every NBA fan and most team’s executives started to speculate. Where would LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony be playing basketball next season? Would they pair up together and change the trajectory of an entire league? Would they find a team with a budding young star and join them?

The free agency trend that has been prevalent among teams since back in the summer of 2010 when LeBron James uttered his now iconic phrase telling the world of his decision. LeBron spurned his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and joined the Miami Heat in a team up of stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh that rivals Marvel’s “Avengers.” LeBron joined his Super Friends down on South Beach and proceeded to claim they had just created a dynasty.

Oh come on! We all remember LeBron’s overenthusiastic proclamation at the pep rally following the Big Three’s assembling. Though they did capture two NBA titles and make four straight Finals appearances, the Heat fell short of being a dynasty in my book. They did cement LeBron’s legacy by getting him two rings and locking him into being considered a top 10 player all-time.

But eventually in the fourth season of the Big Three era, James had seemingly become the One Man Army similar to the situation that had him bolting away from Cleveland four years prior. James opted out of his deal possibly bringing an end to the Heat’s Big Three era. What wasn’t known at the time of the big three’s conception is that it was about to change the way teams went about planning their offseasons and started an arms race among NBA franchises.

Along with the arms race came the new notion of the buddy system in the NBA—players collaborating and trying to collect their friends or guys they want to play with in an attempt to join forces to make a run at a title. No other team has been even as successful as the Heat were. No other team has even come close. In fact, the teams that have won titles during the Heat’s era are teams built largely through draft picks and trade positioning.

The 2010 Dallas Mavericks, for example, drafted the one star they had on their roster during their championship season. Dirk Nowitzki has played his entire career in Dallas and owner Mark Cuban has worked to put a team around him.
Emphasis on team.

This past season’s champion San Antonio Spurs drafted its three stars in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli and added pieces around them.

So building super-teams isn’t the only way to win championships. So why has it become so prevalent for teams to try to assemble one? Let’s be honest. The Miami Heat were driven by LeBron James to their success though he had a very above average supporting cast. But there’s only one LeBron James, and outside of Kevin Durant, no player in the NBA will single handedly change a whole league’s expected landscape in one move.

So why have teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, and Houston Rockets grappled with stars to join their teams for the last three summers in what always comes up to ultimately ended up being highly publicized unsuccessful chemistry projects that only yield mixed results and do not ascend those teams to the elites. It only puts them in a group with the up and coming built teams that are cheaper and younger. Examples that fall into that category are the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers. So it’s not who a team signs, or who’s friends with who, but how a team is built to fit a common goal every player has a role and fill that role on a consistent basis.

So, why then every summer is free agency held hostage by one or two super stars trying to team up with a buddy? I blame the age of social media and technology that allows these players to connect with each other.

Back in the 90’s at the peak of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, I have a hard time imagining Michael Jordan tweeting about Patrick Ewing having a big game. Or Michael Jordan smiling and hugging Isaiah Thomas after beating them in the Eastern Conference Finals. As it is we sit as fans and the role players that will truly make an impact on creating the winning formula. We collectively wait as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh make their decisions and are wined and dined by teams and pitched on the futures of prospective franchises as if they are about to make a purchase.

This must happen before the Luol Dengs and Trevor Arizas of the world can find their new homes as every team in the NBA is considering breaking their team apart completely to stack a team of stars together a formula that has mixed results to begin with. But teams are not about to remove themselves from contention of hosting the new big three by signing complimentary players. Ignoring the fact that the formula of stacking stars is only creating a giant gap between the haves and have-nots of the NBA as a result.

The smaller market teams struggle to strike gold in the toss up that is the NBA Draft only to watch that gold run to join another team. The quality of the game is suffering as all the good players play on a handful of teams and the good role players follow and familiarity with teammates is a thing of the past. Leaving the bottom tier with the left overs. Yet the NBA is as popular as ever. I leave with the question are spoiled stars ruining the NBA or is the NBA spoiling the stars and ruining itself?

Fox’s Touchdown Play By The Bay; Are St. Louis and Seattle Next?

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Fox has called an audible at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. It looks like they caught the defense napping and are about to convert on an 80 yard touchdown bomb.

In a power-play type move from Fox, they have announced a deal to purchase television stations KTVU-TV Channel 2 and KICU-TV Channel 36 from Cox Media Group in exchange for WFXT-TV Channel 25 in Boston and WHBQ-TV Channel 13 in Memphis.

KTVU is already a Fox affiliate, and is well-known by sports fans in the Bay Area as once being the longtime local home (in addition to the old SportsChannel Bay Area) of San Francisco Giants baseball.

Brass at KTVU are already saying that the acquisition by Fox will have no impact on its delivery of news—ignoring, of course, a redesigning of the logo to match the other Fox O&Os, a redesigning of the KTVU studios, and the changing of the graphics to, once again, match those of the other Fox O&Os.

In addition to being a Fox station, KTVU blows the other local television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area away in terms of ratings. KGO-TV (an ABC O&O), KNTV-TV (an NBC O&O) and KPIX-TV (a CBS O&O) play second fiddle to the KTVU calls by the Bay.

That’s one big reason why this is such a big deal. It definitely opens up Cox to new markets in Boston and Memphis—two markets where they have never been before and now may have the opportunity to expand in terms of both TV and radio.

The big deal, of course, is on the Fox side with KTVU. This deal will mean that five of the six English-network affiliated stations in the Bay Area will be owned & operateds. The outlier will be KRON-TV Channel 4, a MyNetwork TV affiliate and one whom according to Rich Lieberman’s 415 Media Blog, Fox initially had its eye on before pursuing KTVU.

It’s also huge news for a television network that recently went through an embarrassing journalistic escapade with its coverage of the Asiana Airlines story and the fake names associated with it. Instead, it’s deals like this that make media observers like yours truly say, “Ho Lee Fuk”.

That’s said to be one reason for why Cox wanted to offload KTVU in addition to some moving and shuffling amongst many of the news staff. But, when it comes down to it, this deal can be summed in with three things.

N.

F.

L.

The power that the NFL has in local television arrangements cannot be ignored. In the mid-1990s when television stations across the country were changing affiliations to Fox (primarily because of its wresting of NFC football from CBS), it caused the other “Big Three” networks scrambling for new stations to carry its programs. Fox was doomed to be a failure as a broadcast network without the NFL.

Oh, and that yellow family from Springfield better known as The Simpsons.

CBS had to air AFC football in response. Fox’s strategy has been to establish owned & operated stations in every single market with an NFC team so they could rake in both the local and national dough that those NFL deals offer. And as we know, there’s no money like football money.

Here’s the list of O&Os Fox currently has in NFC cities:

WNYW-TV Fox 5 New York (Giants)

WTXF-TV Fox 29 Philadelphia (Eagles)

WTTG-TV Fox 5 Washington, D.C. (Redskins)

KDFW-TV Fox 4 Dallas (Cowboys)

WFLD-TV Fox 32 Chicago (Bears)

KMSP-TV Fox 9 Twin Cities (Vikings)

WJBK-TV Fox 2 Detroit (Lions)

WAGA-TV Fox 5 Atlanta (Falcons)

WJZY-TV Fox 46 Charlotte (Panthers) (Deal done last year)

WTVT-TV Fox 13 Tampa/St. Petersburg (Buccaneers)

KSAZ-TV Fox 10 Phoenix (Cardinals)

Stations jumped to Fox after the NFC rights buy. Fox moved in and assumed not only their affiliation, but also locking them up as owned & operateds later on.

Fox is doing this deal because it allows them to have an O&O in another NFC market: the Bay Area with—the San Francisco 49ers who right now are probably the best team in the NFC not named the Seattle Seahawks. Also, having an O&O in market #4 is not something you want to pass up if you are a smart girl or guy in charge of a network.

Fox may not be done either. Variety reported last year that Fox was planning on making buys in Seattle and St. Louis in addition to the San Francisco purchase. The St. Louis Fox affiliate is KTVI-TV, a Tribune station. Tribune, based in Chicago, primarily runs CW affiliates, including the three flagship CW stations in New York City (WPIX-TV 11), Los Angeles (KTLA-TV 5), and Chicago (WGN-TV 9).

The Seattle situation is actually rather intriguing. The station that Fox is said to have its collective eyes on is not KCPQ-TV Q13 Fox, another Fox Tribune station. It’s KIRO-TV Channel 7, another Cox station, but is affiliated with CBS.

I’ve had numerous conversations with SeaTac Media’s Jason Remington about this issue and we both have thrown around ideas. I suggested that if Fox buys KIRO and changes it into a Fox O&O, then it turns the entire Seattle market upside down.

Seattle has already seen a change in its media landscape with Sinclair acquiring locally-based Fisher Communications, owners of stations such as KOMO-TV 4 (ABC), KUNS-TV 51 (Univision), and KATU-TV 2 (ABC) in Portland, Oregon. In addition, the purchase of Belo Broadcasting by Gannett has put the market’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV (and independent station KONG-TV) (get the King Kong reference?) under new management as well.

The idea I suggested to Remington was that Fox will make the buys in St. Louis and Seattle because those are two cities with NFC teams. Fox wants O&Os in both. If KIRO changes, then it raises the possibility that KCPQ and KSTW-TV CW 11 also change network affiliation. KCPQ, being a Tribune station could jump to the CW, and KSTW could become CBS considering that it’s already a CBS-owned station.

That market could see a “Big Switch” similar to what Denver, Phoenix, and Philadelphia all notably experienced in the mid-1990s during the days of the mass realignment of the local affiliations with the networks.

One cannot ignore said ramifications of a deal if it goes through in all three cities. Assuming Fox gets its coveted O&Os in San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis, Fox will have O&Os in every NFC market outside of New Orleans (Saints) and Green Bay/Milwaukee (Packers).

New Orleans’ Fox affiliate, WVUE-TV Channel 8 is owned by Tom Benson’s (Saints owner) Louisiana Media Company in conjunction with Raycom. Green Bay’s Fox station, WLUK-TV Channel 11, is owned by LIN Media while Milwaukee’s at WITI-TV Channel 6 is a Tribune station.

It’s even possible that Cox may have considered exchanging either their San Francisco station or their Seattle station in exchange for the Boston and Memphis stations. But Fox wasn’t getting both on one shot. So, if that’s what Cox was offering, then it was a slam dunk for Fox. A heritage station plus an indie in the largest NFC (and NFL, for that matter) market west of the Mississippi.

And, this could only be the beginning. If the trajectory as to where Fox is going with these deals is any indication, it may not be long before Fox says hello on an O&O basis to the Space Needle & the Gateway Arch as they have just done so to the Golden Gate Bridge on the city by the Bay.