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Why LA Lakers' Demise Is Great for the NBA

Dec 5, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA commissioner David Stern on the court with Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) before a game against the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

Oh, how the mighty continue to fall. And that's great for the NBA.

The Los Angeles Lakers are off to their worst start since the 2004-05 campaign, and that comes on the heels of boasting a $100 million payroll, the highest in the league.

Could the Association ask for anything more?

Vindictive, though it may be, no. The Association couldn't have asked for a better beginning to the regular season.

Why?

Because a dismal Lakers record is good for business.

Los Angeles' failure has been the driving force behind a different genre of league-wide success. Its demise has sparked a slew of unprecedented interest while providing the NBA with a never-ending supply of storylines.

Yet, what the Lakers have done most is stress the inescapable reality of competitive balance. Somehow, an entity that was supposed to toil with winning 70 games has, in fact, become the poster team for parity.

There's no denying that super teams suffocate the concept of equality. They're stocked with prolific and expensive talent, the type of talent certain organizations cannot afford to have a surplus of.

As such, these teeming convocations are assembled with the intent of rip-rolling inferior teams and ultimately traipsing their way into the finals.

How is that good for competitive balance?

It's not. 

Though we jump at the opportunity to watch formations like the Miami Heat and Lakers in action, we can't deny that they destroy the league's combative equilibrium. Or rather, they're supposed to.

Teams like the Heat, Lakers and even Los Angeles Clippers are supposed to take the ambivalence out of the NBA season. They're supposed to win in excess and be one of the few teams left standing when May and June roll around.

We could argue that their presence heightens the motivation and subsequent performance of underdogs, and we wouldn't be mistaken. But then again, we've watched valiant efforts by fundamentally sound teams be rendered futile against a stacked Heat squad even when they're not at their best.

Is that really captivating?

For a particular fanbase, yes. But for others, not so much.

So while we me embrace the chance to follow and appreciate powerhouses, we relish in the opportunity to watch them fail, or at least the NBA does.

The league was abuzz and pundits were enthralled back in 2010 when South Beach's finest toiled with mediocrity. A majority of us have also taken some pleasure in watching the New York Knicks thrive in spite of their star-studded faction, not because of it.

And we'd be lying by omission if we refused to admit it's been the same story, different personnel in Tinseltown.

Entering the 2012-13 campaign, fellow super teams, let alone conventional rosters, were supposed to pale in comparison to Los Angeles. It had arguably four top-20 players on the docket, and arguably two top-5 stars in Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

How were teams, of any structure, supposed to compete with that? 

They weren't.

As it turns out, however, the Lakers have struggled to compete with everyone else. They currently sit outside the Western Conference playoff picture and are winning at a rate of a team in rebuilding mode. They've also posted a diminutive 7-7 record against teams at or below .500, while going 2-6 against squads with winning records. 

In turn, by failing to meet—or even come close to—the lofty expectations set for them, order has been restored in the NBA's favor.

Los Angeles has not proved to be a more dominant, or even dynamic, version of the Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder. It has not meandered its way to an overwhelming number of wins.

It has not rendered the aspirations of their opponents hopeless.

To say super teams don't yield results in this league would be inaccurate. Miami proved otherwise just last season.

But to immortalize them would be just as inaccurate. Star-studded assemblies are not immune to the trials and tribulations of the rest, nor are they a recipe for guaranteed success.

Just ask the Lakers.

Hollywood's current inadequacy has opened the doors for teams like the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves.

It has enhanced the ambiguous nature of the West's playoff picture.

It has preached financial discretion for any and all teams willing to write blank checks, willing to pay exorbitant luxury tax penalties in the name of sovereignty.

It has challenged modernized ideals.

And it has humanized what was supposed to be an infallible existence.

Which is great for drama, great for intrigue, great for competitive symmetry.

And spectacular for the the NBA.

 

All stats in this article are accurate as of December 12, 2012.

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