Steps towards an NBA Championship!

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 with No comments
The Walter A Brown Trophy:  NBA's first championship  trophy.
The Lakers (10), Celtics (4), Sixers (1), Pistons (3), Bulls (6), Rockets (2), Spurs (4), and Heat (1) are the only teams to win an NBA Championship in the last 31 seasons; in a league that now features 30 teams, this statistic is quite amazing.  Some out there may ask,  "What is it that makes these team win the championship year after year?", there's not really one answer to the question but there's different factors to why only these teams won in this extremely long span, a generations worth of NBA basketball was played with only 8 champions.  The order of factors isn't important here but the reader when done will have more insight on why it is their team wins or looses in their quest for the NBA's ultimate prize.

The Owner:

The failing formula that I've noticed with NBA owners throughout my years of observation is this, if you make it more about yourself than the team i.e. Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, your team is probably not on the list mentioned above.  Players play, coaches coach, and owners own, with that said the majority of NBA owners aren't known public figures and most could walk by you and wouldn't know that they may own your favorite team.  Dr. Jerry Buss has owned the Lakers since 1979 and has led the franchise to 10 NBA championships.  The only times that I've seen or heard from Dr. Buss was when he was being presented with the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the championship seasons.  The winning formula is opening your checkbook and staying out of the way.  Use Dr. Buss as a model, I should only see you while you are being presented with the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Upper Management:  Team Presidents/General Managers

Perhaps the hardest job in professional sports, upper management in the NBA is responsible for player transactions and negotiations and are reported to by the training and scouting staffs and report to the owner.    Also upper management is responsible for any coaching decisions including decisions on the head coach.  From 1985-1998 Jerry Krause was the man in charge of the Chicago Bulls and those teams won 6 NBA championships between the 1991-1998 NBA seasons.  At times Krause was despised by Bulls players (Michael Jordan) and even head coach Phil Jackson but his job was to build a championship team around Jordan and at times he player trades and acquisitions were questioned but he guided that team to the third most championships in NBA history.

The Coach:

The NBA current championship trophy:  The Larry O'Brien Trophy
If the job of upper management is the hardest job in the organization then the job of the head coach is the most delicate and tricky job.  In a perfect world, just having a great coach would guarantee an NBA title but in the real world that's not the case, see Jerry Sloan formally of the Utah Jazz or Don Nelson who coached the Bucks, Warriors, Knicks, and Mavericks.  Sloan and Nelson are two of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA but they've won 0 NBA championships as head coaches.  The question that arises the most is who makes whom, "Is it the coach who makes the players, or the players who make the coach?".  It's an extremely tough questions and I can argue both sides but I'll answer it this way; the most important part of a coaches job is to put his players in winning situations be it by practice, video sessions, or in game situations.  For 2+ seasons Stan Van Gundy "Current Orlando Magic Head Coach" coached the Miami Heat after taking over for a retiring Pat Riley who's one of the greatest coaches the NBA has ever seen.  Riley still however stayed with the team as President.  During his time with the Heat Van Gundy won 60% of games he coached and in his second year led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals eventually losing to the Detroit Pistons in seven games.  A coaching change was made December of the following season when the Heat's record was 11-10 with Riley returning to the sideline and while the core of the team stayed the same, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal, and Alonzo Mourning, the results were different.  Riley led the team to it first NBA championship and his fifth overall as a head coach.  Officially Stan Van Gundy resigned from his position as Heat coach but anyone who follows the Heat closely would know that Van Gundy was forced out.  The players had lost respect for him and a change was needed "Does this seem familiar Orlando Magic?".  The coach made all of the difference as Avery Johnson, former Head Coach of the Dallas Mavericks, found out later that season losing to the Heat in the NBA finals.

The Players:

More than often players are given too much power in weak organizations and the organizations drive to appease such players often ends in ugly fashion.  From 2003-2010 Lebron James controlled all things Cavalier, yes he was the best player that team had ever seen and it was expected that they would build the team around him but the owner gave him too much power within the organization and Lebron's inner circle of friends were allowed access to the most intimate parts of the organization...upper management.  When the players are allowed to run an organization, upper management cannot properly evaluate what pieces are really needed to contend.  During James's tenure with the Cavs, the biggest player acquisitions the team made was Mo Williams, a past his prime Shaquille O'Neal, and Antwan Jamison.  Did anyone really think that Mo Williams was going to help Lebron win a championship?  Shaq was brought in for a potential playoff match up with the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard and lets just say because of Boston the Cavs never saw the Magic that season in the playoffs.

A friend and I always stated that Lebron James needed a team with structure, a team that would never allow the players to run the organization and that team was the Miami Heat.  During last summer Lebron showed the world that he wasn't a tool and that he was really committed to winning so he gave up power in Cleveland and left almost 30 million dollars there to join the Heat a class A organization in the NBA.  The Miami experiment is still in its early stages but the Heat have the second best record in the conference as of today because upper management surrounded Lebron James with the right mix of players, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Eddie House, and Udonis Haslem.

The eight teams listed above all had what I deem as franchise players, Magic/Kareem, Bird/McHale/Parish, Dr J./Moses Malone, MJ/Scottie, Shaquille/Kobe, D-Wade/Shaquille etc...  The winning franchises won because they acquired the right players, hired a coach with the right personality and know how, brought in and trusted rational people who formed upper management and had a owners who gladly takes the backseat to his team. The building blocks for winning a championship is listed above but with anything there are many more factors, the four that I mentioned are impereative.
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