top of page

The L.A. Lakers are further proof big money, big name stars don't guarantee a title

There is a line in a song from The Beatles, "Money can't be everything, money can't buy me love". Professional sports teams should pay closer attention to this than they do.

How many times have we seen a team full of players who have huge names because of their past success show up in the same lineup for a team that goes nowhere?

I'll give you the perfect example: The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers feature LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony as their "headline" players. Because of these "name" players--we are treated to a never ending stream of breathless sports talk types incessantly talking about the Lakers as some sort of threat this season. They have been on national TV more than any other team. The Lakers have the 4th highest payroll in the NBA.

Yet at the time I write this, the Lakers are 31-47 and with 4 games left in the season, are two games out of a playoff spot.

In baseball, the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies were 2 of the 5 highest payroll teams in baseball. Yes, the Yankees made the playoffs--technically speaking. They lost in the Wild Card round. The Phillies, yeah, they didn't even qualify for a playoff spot.

As for the NFL, the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets had two of the top three payrolls in the game. Neither team made the NFL playoffs. The Jets--they arguably were one of the worst teams in NFL history during 2021.

This information illustrates my point. Big salaries don't always mean big success.

The Atlanta Braves had the 15th highest payroll in MLB during 2021, they won the World Series. Surprisingly, the LA Rams were 20th in the NFL last season. They won the Super Bowl. The NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks were 5th in the NBA's payroll list this past season.

While I know this is a rhetorical statement--why is it the teams with the biggest names and highest payrolls get all of the attention? Because those who cover the games are fascinated with them? Yeah, to an extent. TV Networks believe in the theory these "big name" teams will draw the casual fan/viewer to their respective games. They aren't totally wrong in this assumption but it is also an assumption that sort of feeds on itself. How do we develop teams and players on less popular teams if they can't get in front of the viewers?

It's somewhat easy. I say somewhat because despite being the defending NBA Champs, we have seen them 6 less times than the Lakers. The Braves are occasionally have FOX Sports or ESPN games and have two on Apple + this season. Will it be more than the Yankees? No. Red Sox? No. The Dodgers? Probably not.

Sports teams in the past have been fascinated with the idea of signing big name players to big, shiny contracts. Often those players are guys who were All-Stars or successful in their 20s and are looking for their last big payday in their 30s. Those paydays don't always bring the promised titles.

The Lakers this season: They have James, considered one of the two best players in NBA history teaming up with Anthony Davis, one of the best centers in the past decade. Westbrook and Anthony have boxes of All-Star awards and trophies. James is 37, Anthony is around the same age. Westbrook and Davis are in their early 30's. They are also a lot of square pegs that don't fit into the round holes very well.

Last years Atlanta Braves had one person making more than $20 million a season: Freddie Freeman. They lost their best player, Ronald Acuna part way through the season. Yet they won a title because the players fit together and played for each other in the relative shadows in Atlanta.

Don't think for a minute that doesn't matter.

At the end of the day, team sports are called team sports for a reason. You can gush all day long on sports radio about NFL Quarterbacks being winners or losers---NONE of them can win a championship by themself. While Tom Brady is certainly an incredibly talented and successful quarterback, are we talking about him being the "GOAT" if one of the New England or Tampa Bay cornerbacks has a bad day and gets toasted by an opponents WR during the Super Bowl?

Same thing applies to basketball or football.

I wish Sports talking heads and writers would stop making sports about individuals and more about teams, but I get why they don't. They are looking for the individual success stories. They matter. Stars matter.

Just remember stars don't win without role players. They don't win unless every other person in the game at the same time they are does their jobs at a peak level. They don't win without complementary pieces that fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Sports have always been this way and they always will.

Whether team owners want to admit or see that, I suppose is a different issue.

bottom of page