Anyone—even those who aren’t among the haters—could have seen it coming. With much controversial fanfare, LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat last year, completing a triumvirate of all-star players that has been called “the greatest free agent coup in NBA history.” Together with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, James boasted they would lead the Heat to eight national championships. When the three were introduced to Heat fans last July, they arrived as rock stars, preening amid flashing lasers and plumes of smoke, lifted into the air on a forklift in front of a packed and cheering arena.
Like so many leaders before him, Heat President Pat Riley fell victim to belief in the Dream Team. Spend enough money, hire enough stars, do it amid enough fanfare—the thinking seems to go—and you’re virtually guaranteed a win.
The problem? It often doesn’t work. Remember the 2004 men’s Olympic basketball team? Despite a squad stocked with professional U.S. hoops stars—“King James” among them—the team was humiliated by Puerto Rico in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.
But basketball isn’t the only domain of all-star epic fails. Despite having the then-most expensive payroll in baseball, the 2008 New York Yankees failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. Enron, a company held up as a model in the business world’s “War for Talent” and run by a brilliant former McKinsey star, imploded amid historic fraud.
And in light of Sunday night’s Tony Awards, it would be remiss not to mention the Broadway show “Spider Man,” which, despite a $70 million price tag (the most expensive of all time) and the directing and musical talents of Julie Taymor, Bono and The Edge, has received some of the most negative reviews imaginable and is finally officially opening Tuesday after numerous mishaps and delays.
It’s easy to see the allure, of course. If all these people—and all the money that pays for them—work so well on their own, wouldn’t combining them be that much better? Sometimes, yes. But most of the time, big egos, a lack of trust and personal agendas take over, preventing all those all-stars from really performing at their peak.
It may be hard to pinpoint that the Heat lost the championship because of its all-star make-up. James’ performance in the clutch was sub-par. The experience and age of the Mavericks’ veteran players may have won out. (Best quote of the day comes from Maverick point guard Jason Kidd: “Really I just identify with old players. … Yep, old dudes.”)
But more than likely, team dynamics played a big and undeniable role. Yes, their superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, had his moment. But combine that with a coach who used all his team’s strengths and a team that had true chemistry over years of playing together, and it’s hard to argue that won’t win out over a team of all-stars any day.
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