In 2010 the greatest player in the NBA, Lebron James, and two other superstars, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade teamed up on the Miami Heat via free agency trying to create the next great NBA dynasty. They didn’t create the dynasty in the most traditional manner though. It was a new method one that is very different. The question: is it a better one than the old model?
They had talked about playing together for some time and had been good friends from their time in the NBA as well as on the USA basketball team together. They formed the core of the team as all three were All-Stars and MVP contenders at some point in their careers. They hoped to win championship after championship as they were lead by 3 major superstars in this new concept of how to form a dynasty in the NBA. The money left on these three superstars left little salary cap room for anybody else. These stars were surrounded by cheap and affordable role players who could help contribute to the team. Never before had a team been set up in such a fashion with three domiante players all coming from different places to team up in order to form a superstar team with the hopes of becoming a dynasty. They made the Finals in four straight seasons, yet, were only able to win in 2.
So who was the team they lost to one of those times? The San Antonio Spurs, a dynasty team of their own modeled after the more traditional model of an NBA Dynasty. The Spurs made their dynasty through the draft, trades and some free agents, not free agent superstars teaming up to create a all-star team. The Spurs have a Big Three of their own you could say in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli. All three were players drafted by the Spurs themselves. Many role players throughout the years for the Spurs such as Matt Boner and Steve Kerr were acquired via trade. The Spurs model works as they have appeared in 6 championships since 1999 and won 5 of them.
Their model follows that of other dynasties such as the 1981-1987 Boston Celtics who won 3 championships in 5 finals appearances. The stars of these Celtic such as Larry Bird and Kevin Mchale were acquired via the draft while other stars such as Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson were acquired via trades. They are a model of the traditional NBA dynasty which includes acquiring players from drafts and trades rather than 3 superstars organizing together to make one great team.
Which model is best? Well it depends on who you ask!
Edmund Burke would argue that the latter is clearly is the traditional model that is better and the one that should be used. Burke sees tradition as the most reliable source of political knowledge. In this case the ‘political’ institution would be the front office that is assembling the team. Burke in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France” outlines why tradition in political action and government is superior to any radical change. He wrote, “The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught à priori.” Burke is expressing his concerns with change in the French Revolution. He is saying that change isn’t simple and it is not something to be done lightly as it is cannot be done deductively in an easy fashion. The monarchy of France was successfully upheld for such an extended period to the point that changing it creates havoc in Burke’s mind. The traditional rule of the country works and is effective, giving no reason for there to be a change to this system. In doing so the change would only create chaos and more issues in trying to successfully implement an entirely new system. He goes on to say, ‘The science of government being therefore so practical in itself, and intended for such practical purposes, a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice, which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again, without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.” To put it simply, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It is so difficult for one to change the system as it is and if it is a tradition that has been upheld with success for ages upon ages there is no need to change it. The traditional way in which politics function works in his mind giving it no reason to change, and it is tradition that is the best approach to political issues. Following tradition to Burke is the best way in which the issues can be resolved and the most effective way to go about successful politics and government.
In this case, Burke would say that the traditional model of creating a basketball dynasty works. To him it is evident that it is successful and there is essentially no reason to deviate from the common method in making such a successful team. He would argue that the traditional method in which creating a dynasty is the best and most effective way to do so and it still works as evident of the Spurs dynasty winning a championship as recent as this past season. There is no need to experiment according to Burke with a new model for a dynasty such as that of the Big Three of the Miami Heat. It is a risky and dangerous proccess to undergo and should not be done unless absolutely necessary. Furthermore one may argue that Burke does make a solid point at least in terms of basketball dynasties as both the models of the Spurs and the Celtics proved to be more successful than that of the Miami Heat.
On the other hand, John Stuart Mill would argue something quite the opposite. Mill in Chapter 3 of On Liberty, promotes individuality and deviating from traditional customs. He writes, “Customs are made for customary circumstances, and customary characters; and his circumstances or his character may be uncustomary. Thirdly, though the customs be both good as customs, and suitable to him, yet to conform to custom, merely as custom, does not educate or develope in him any of the qualities which are the distinctive endowment of a human being.” In the eyes of Mill different customs and different practices are applicable in different CUSTOMARY circumstances. There is no hope for learning in just conducting one’s actions in the manner in which those of the past had done so. Additionally there is no knowledge to intellect to be gained by following traditional values but rather it is being original that helps foster and develop one’s intellect. Mill goes on to write, “It will not be denied by anybody, that originality is a valuable element in human affairs. There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life.” Mill sees the importance of originality in society and he sees it as a necessity for one to be both original and notably to COMMENCE NEW PRACTICES. He sees originality in society as a must in order for improved life.
This concept is most applicable to the forming of the Big 3. While Mill may recognize the past successes that followed the traditional dynasty path such as the Celtics and Spurs, he still sees the benefits of the Big three. He sees the concept as an original one. It is a new practice that must be commenced immediately in order to evaluate the success of it. Mill would argue that one would gain knowledge and intellect as a result of trying this new method. It is a method that needs to be tested and one that would indeed be original. It is necessary for us to be individual and original according to Mill. Furthermore, Mill would argue that new customs need to be applied to the customary current situation of the NBA. Mill could argue that something unique or “custom” to this era in the NBA helps contribute to players trying to form big superstar teams in free agency such as the Miami Heat.
I would not say that one is right over the other but rather more time needs to elapse before the success of the modern method can really be evaluated. Until then it’s up the air but regardless, Mill and Burke’s reviews will remain the same.