I’ve noticed that many members of the media and plenty of basketball fans have used the word “superstar” on NBA players that clearly don’t qualify as one.
The more you read articles and listen to podcasts, people hand out the label of being a superstar in the NBA as if they were handing out candy on Halloween. It shouldn’t be that easy or simple.
What is a superstar? In the dictionary, it says that a superstar is a high-profile and extremely successful performer or athlete. In basketball terms, it’s more than that because if we went by the dictionary’s definition, nearly everyone in the NBA would be a superstar.
I guess if I had an exact definition of a superstar, it would be playing at an elite level consistently for multiple years, leading by example, making your teammates better, and leading your franchise to many playoff appearances during your tenure.
I believe I just described Tim Duncan. But to be fair, we have a small group of superstars that deserve that title and we have a bigger group that does not deserve that label.
DeMarcus Cousins is thought about as a superstar by many, but the reality is: HE’S NOT A SUPERSTAR. He has superstar talent but that hasn’t translated into on-court success for his franchise. In his sixth year, he finally managed to help the Sacramento Kings win 30 games.
He has led the NBA in technical fouls the last couple of seasons and he complains on almost every call. Instead of inspiring his teammates to play harder, his actions and demeanor on the court lead to frustration.
It doesn’t matter how much talent he may have, the results haven’t been in his favor and that’s why media members and fans need to be careful when slapping the superstar label on talented basketball players without a resume of laying a foundation of a winning culture.
The word superstar needs to be reserved for players such as Paul George who was playing at an MVP level before his gruesome career-threatening injury because two years later, he defied all odds and regained his status as a superstar thanks to his commitment to striving for greatness. That means making sacrifices to play at an elite level, commanding his teammates respect and leading his team back into the playoffs and actually being a threat to make lots of noise. That’s what superstars do.
As I read an article on Sports Illustrated concerning the “superstars” that were not playing in the playoffs this year, it baffled me and quite honestly, made me laugh. The names that were considered superstars that were left out of the playoffs were Anthony Davis, Cousins, Jimmy Butler, John Wall, and Carmelo Anthony. Where should I start? Nobody on this list is a current superstar. They have superstar talent but again, it takes more than that to be part of that elite group.
Davis, Butler and Wall have combined for four playoff appearances as leaders of their organizations. Anthony was a superstar and has failed miserably in New York, while Cousins has never sniffed the playoffs. So why would you label these guys as superstars? That’s extremely unfair to that elite group that I haven’t gone into depth yet. This SI article even categorized Kevin Love as a superstar. I don’t think it gets any funnier and more disrespectful than that.
Okay, this is the list of current superstars: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. I left James Harden out because of his inability to play a lick of defense and barely sneaking his team into the playoffs this season. But you can add him on this list if you like. (You also can’t forget about the aging superstars who continue to make huge impacts on their teams such as Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade).
But as you can see, it’s a small group. We have many All-Stars but not many superstars. The moral of the story is, people need to understand how to use the word superstar because it’s not fair to the great ones who commit their careers to excellence.