NBA

The Los Angeles Lakers Biggest Challenge to Title Contention

Brendan Abban | February 19th, 2019

It is no secret to anyone at this point that the Los Angeles Lakers were not able to trade for New Orleans Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis. A multitude of reasons played a role in this outcome but one stands out from the rest. It was the Lakers who, besides the Golden State Warriors, are the NBA’ public enemy number one.

The Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in NBA history if not the most successful. To date, they have won 16 NBA championships and are the second- most valuable NBA franchise at $3.7 billion per Forbes. The Lakers are the glitz and glamour franchise by design.

Dating back to the days of Dr. Jerry Buss, the team embodied the ideas of Hollywood with stars and celebrities being present for each game. Nothing pays homage to this more than Jack Nicholson sitting in the same court-side seat for over a decade now.

This mystique increases the thought of the biggest NBA stars eventually donning the purple and gold. If one sees himself as a top-flight star, why not play for the team with the most stardom around it. There is nothing quite like playing for the Lakers from a brand and winning standpoint.

Such was the case when LeBron James took his talents to the city of angels. James’ arrival immediately had an impact on the team’s viewership. The Lakers have 43 nationally televised games this season despite not having a winning season since 2013. Their 43 televised games are even more than the Warriors who are back-to-back champions and have a starting lineup featuring five-All-Stars.

That is the impact of playing for the Lakers. Last season they had 35 nationally televised games which were fifth in the NBA. Despite not having one All-Star on the team. However, there are drawbacks to being such a popular big market franchise. League envy being one of them.

Many smaller market teams resent the idea of being star harvesting farms for big market teams. Particularly the Lakers. Most of the Lakers’ success has come via stars from smaller market teams. In most cases, they come via trade as well. Players such as Pau Gasol, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Wilt Chamberlain all came via trade.

While one can make the argument that each team benefits from a trade in a sense, it seems the Lakers always come out on top. Normally because championships tend to follow shortly after acquiring those stars. As a result, other teams have now become reluctant to send their stars to the Lakers.

Normally having an “anyone but the Lakers mentality”. Following the big three era in Miami, teams have become wary of aiding in super-team construction. Especially when it comes to James who is the face of the player empowerment era.

The idea of players taking ownership of where they want to play and having the flexibility to make such moves. Obviously, a mindset that does not mesh with what owners want from their players. The situation becomes a bit more volatile when considering Davis’ situation.

A player who fired his previous agent to hire Klutch Sports agent Rich Paul. The same agent and agency that represents James.  While there is no proof that the ties there led to Davis’ trade request, the possibility is a turnoff for owners.

The last thing owners want is to aid LeBron in forging another superteam. Let alone, while playing for the Lakers. The Lakers trade package to the Pelicans included their entire young core and two first-round picks. However, the Pelicans were never going to trade with the Lakers. Especially when considering multiple league advisors urged former Pelicans general manager Dell Demps to hold off until the summer when other teams can join the fold per Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Lakers will likely face a similar challenge this Summer with stiffer competition joining the ranks. Although, it seems as though they will be their own competition in an ironic way. Competing with past glory that now affects future ambition.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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