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What Is a Superteam, Anyway?

AP Images
AP Images

Earlier this month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver openly admitted his disdain for superteams. “I don’t think having two superteams is good for the league,” he said, presumably referring to the Warriors and the Cavs, who appear poised for a third consecutive Finals showdown. Actually, according to Derrick Rose, Silver may have been talking about the Warriors and the Knicks.

Rose, who was traded to the Knicks in June, recently told’s Lang Whitaker that “they’re saying us and Golden State are the superteams.” Beyond Silver, who “they” are — and where/when “they” have been saying this — remains unclear. But I, for one, am willing to take Rose’s word for it. Accordingly, here are some facts about the NBA’s newest superteam:

1. Since making Phil Jackson their Grand Poobah in 2014, the Knicks have gone 59–120.

2. The Knicks have had four head coaches in the Jackson era.

3. Despite a combined 38 years of professional experience, the Knicks’ projected starting lineup boasts a whopping zero NBA titles.

It’s natural, then, to be suspicious of Rose’s claim. After all, the Knicks have been about as good as James Dolan’s blues band in recent years, and adding the oft-injured Rose isn’t exactly akin to Golden State’s acquisition of Kevin Durant. However, it’s worth remembering that superteams come in all shapes, sizes, and success levels. We must differentiate between regular superteams (the 2010–11 Heat), established superteams (the 2016–17 Cavs), self-doubting superteams (the 2016–17 Rockets), post-prime superteams (the 2013–14 Nets), embryonic superteams (the 2011–12 Thunder), and super-duper-teams (the 2016–17 Warriors).

Remember those Nets?

<em>‘Sports Illustrated’</em>
‘Sports Illustrated’

Although Jason Kidd’s Brooklyn squad didn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs, those Nets were bona fide overachievers compared to the 2012–13 Lakers:

<em>‘Sports Illustrated’</em>
‘Sports Illustrated’

To use an example from the NFL, who can forget when backup quarterback Vince Young dubbed the 2011 Eagles a dream team? (Dream teams, of course, are a subset of the larger superteam concept.)

Those Eagles finished at just 8–8, but if this year’s Knicks manage to play .500 basketball, that would qualify as a marked improvement over last season’s 32–50 record. As such, maybe the standards for being a superteam just aren’t what they used to be. In the old days, teams would have to win a championship or two before ascending to the superteam stratosphere — see the Showtime Lakers, the Bad Boys Pistons, or Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Nowadays, though, preseason hype is the main prerequisite. Having two or three star players — a Big Three, so to speak — automatically confers a superteam designation, irrespective of on-court success. With Rose and Carmelo Anthony (and, if you’re feeling generous, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah), the Knicks certainly fit the bill.

Rose’s mistake, then, wasn’t calling the Knicks a superteam. Rather, it was incorrectly assuming that New York’s superteam status was equivalent to Golden State’s, which is obviously preposterous. He should have been more specific: Like the 2012–13 Lakers and the 2013–14 Nets, this year’s Knicks are a post-prime superteam, which means new coach Jeff Hornacek should expect (1) an early playoff exit and (2) a cool-ass Sports Illustrated cover. (You win some, you lose some, right?) While D-Rose may not be an MVP-caliber point guard ever again, there’s still time for him to become the Carl Linnaeus of superteam taxonomy.