ND Book – NetsDaily
Only one team can stand at the top of the mountain. Throughout the history of sport, the best teams are those who dominate, create intense feelings and leave lasting memories. These are the clubs you hear and recognize immediately. In the NBA, the dynasties have been the barons of the league since its inception. Dynasties roamed the league, defined various eras, and helped give other teams something to hunt and emulate. With illustrations by Yu-Minh Huang, author Marcus Thompson II takes us on a journey through NBA history with Dynasties: The 10 GOAT teams that changed the NBA forever.
If you need help defining a dynasty, Thompson is here for you:
With that as a working definition, Thompson identifies ten teams across the existence of the NBA and what made them stand out from the rest. Championships are a prerequisite, but these teams have done more than that as they have shaped the culture inside and outside of basketball.
One of the dynasties highlighted was the Boston Celtics of the Bill Russell era. Thompson notes the advancements in the game that Red Auerbach and the Cs helped push, such as using the fastbreak more than was the norm at the time, speeding up the game in transition, and inventing the role of the sixth man. However, the longest and most important impact of these teams was that Auerbach made a concerted effort to bring in black players and put them in a position to succeed. We’ve said it a million times before and we’ll say it again, your environment is better and healthier when it’s diverse. When you don’t, you find yourself missing out when you shouldn’t. Thompson expertly developed this and wrote:
But the legacy of the first Boston Celtics dynasty is that of a race relations pioneer. The athlete activism that is celebrated among NBA players today dates back to the Celtics, whose willingness to support and promote African Americans is the foundation of an NBA that is considered the most progressive league. When it wasn’t popular to do so, the Celtics were the sporting leaders in anti-racism.
The Golden Age of the NBA was a Golden Age for dynasties. Thompson notes that with the NBA becoming a global powerhouse, the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Detroit Pistons led the 1980s as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, etc. have helped bring the league to prime time. So much has been written about these clubs and Thompson gives more context around them and their excellence. It’s usually forgotten, but aside from being a lethal defense, the Pistons were a much better offense than you might think. And Thompson notes that they were the first title team to be built around a small guard, something that was unheard of as the big guys ruled the roost.
These teams, especially the Showtime Lakers, have helped amplify the entertainment aspect of basketball. In the Laker section, Thompson took note of Dr Jerry Buss and wrote:
Buss pioneered the NBA branding as an event, a phenomenon that remains in effect today. He turned the team’s NBA games into a permanent extension of his hometown nightlife. It turned a basketball game into a game night with pre-game festivities, halftime shows, and post-game activities. He made it as worthy of a date night as it was a night out for basketball junkies.
The NBA was entering a boom time, and with the pop culture completely behind it, it was only a matter of time before they got the cosign of one of the GOATs and really took off.
Speaking of GOAT, Michael Jordan led the NBA as an undisputed superstar throughout the 1990s. In 2019, Harvey Araton wrote “Elevated,” a great book that chronicles the rise of the NBA through the pages of the New York Times. One thing he didn’t like about the NBA was that the importance of the individual was starting to eclipse the big team around them, and that’s something that really showed with Jordan (at Scottie Pippen’s dismay).
Thompson details how influential Jordan was in fashion, music, pop culture and, most importantly, gaming. Before him, championship teams weren’t made up of shooting guards. Along with Jordan, he turned the team building upside down and showed two guards can run the show and bring home titles. Although there was never a ‘Next Jordan’, his play influenced future generations of stars, as evidenced by Kobe Bryant who co-wrote a dynastic run with Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers in the years. 2000. In this book, we remember how exemplary Jordan was from the start of his career to the end of the dynasty in 1998.
Jordan’s dominance combined with the marketing appeal of NBC and the NBA machine opened up the NBA to parts of the world they would likely never have access to. With the growth of the NBA, more and more people have been exposed to the game, become excellent at it, and come to North America to play in the NBA. Thompson explained how the San Antonio Spurs dynasty took full advantage of the game’s international flair by unearthing talent, brought them to the NBA, and established a system that allowed them to be the best versions of themselves.
You’re only as good as the competition you face, and Thompson does a great job highlighting the teams that fought to make life hell on the ’80s dynasties and those that didn’t. not achieved dynastic status themselves. Special mention goes to the Philadelphia 76ers of the Julius Erving era, the Walt Frazier New York Knicks, the Big 3 Miami Heat, etc. Even though these teams did not live up to Thompson’s dynastic standards, he pays homage to them and helps us understand why each team was incredibly special. in its right.
Is it worth reading?
Yes! With its 248 flowing pages, the book is a quick read and super enjoyable. Thompson keeps you engaged as he walks you through time and the joy and enjoyment he has for the job radiates through every page. If you’re looking to gift your favorite NBA fan with a fun book to read and discuss, then this is the one for you.
Postscript: Dynasties Never Die
In October, Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated wrote an interesting story about the “end” of the NBA dynasties. This quote from a team leader stood out:
“You used to look at a window that was seven to ten years old. Now you want to maximize three to five years because it can end or probably have some dramatic changes afterwards. “
I thought about it while reading his book. Individual players with such disproportionate influence allowed LeBron James to be a one-man dynasty through three teams and a decade of domination. Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors ended their dynasty (for now at least) and his arrival combined with everything else makes the Brooklyn Nets fan championship dreamy.
Dynasties tend to run for years to come, but with the way the NBA has changed, we probably won’t see races like the Celtics or Lakers of the 80s again. It’s harder to build a dynastic team these days, but with an all-time player and a bit of luck, there might be some dynasties just waiting to be unearthed.