Only the Fearless Survive in the NBA Arms Race
The time is 4:00am. A 6'10" male climbs into his world famous Dodge Challenger at this obscene hour and proceeds to hit the starter button. The heavily modified machine roars to live and quite possibly wakes the unconscious neighborhood in the process. He sits in his proud beast for a few minutes to allow the engine...and his freezing body time to heat up. It is the dead of Winter in Minnesota, after all. Since the engine has been off since the prior afternoon, it fires up more loudly and roughly than if had been ignited just a few hours before. This is a beautiful phenomenon known to car enthusiasts as a 'cold start.' The more audible the exhaust note, the better.
90% of the human population would certainly dread being awake this long before sunrise, but not this abnormally sized human. You see, he is not fazed by sub zero temperatures, extreme fatigue, or less than thrilled neighbors. This individual only needs one driving force to push him out of bed each morning. The constant pursuit of greatness, or to be 'legendary' as he says, is more than sufficient encouragement to bear this sort of sacrifice on a regular basis. Somehow, not only is he capable of getting himself out of a slumber and on the road before 5am most mornings, but he arrives in his dream car lively and engaged.
This type of commitment isn't common, certainly not in todays culture. It is easier than ever to back out on obligations, casually reverse course when the road is bumpier than expected.
Trust me, this man is no stranger to bumpy roads.
Enter his pride and enjoy, the decked out Doge Challenger. It's quite the looker on the streets, but doesn't exactly fly under the radar.
Remember the first time you saw that Audi R8 from the Iron Man film? Mercy. Tony couldn't keep the women off of him. You could argue his millionaire status also had something to do with it, but disregarding the impact that ridiculous car played would be a crime. Let us show proper respect.
Anyways, 'Tall Guy' attracts all kinds of attention with the car he dreamt about for years. Some of it is good-fellow car diehards give him a thumbs up when riding past, and compliment him at every gas station. Conversely, it has drawn in unwanted attention on more than one occasion. Cops in particular grow suspicious over the pronounced tones that force their way through the exhaust system similar to Ben Simmons in a 2 on 1 fast break situation. If every traffic ticket were allowed to permeate a section of his living quarters, it might overtake an entire wall.
Purely speculation, but something tells me it is not too severe of an exaggeration- if one at all.
It is easy to overlook necessary sacrifices when you are familiar with someone that has achieved a prominent social status. To be clear, I don't know Corey (Tall Guys name) personally. If this seems like too much entertainment value for the average person...it is. He is actually a YouTube sensation with over 100,000 subscribers hence, his incredibly popular vehicle. Now we can go out on a limb and guess that he did not build up this incredible audience by playing it safe. He had to take bold swings and bank on the risk/reward structure paying off.
It is certainly paying dividends so far. When I started to follow his online journey in early 2017, he couldn't have had more than 10,000 subscribers; a humble beginning indeed. The passion of this man is very evident through his uploads. One quote in particular is burned into my memory. Please consider writing it down and placing it your refrigerator for future reference.
"I'm gonna live by it, or die by it."
Watch enough videos on his channel and you can see that he is about this claimed life. The YouTube lifestyle is not for the faint of heart and the content creators are aware of this.
So how does all this YouTube jargon tie into the NBA? Glad you asked! Believe it or not, there's an entire group of men across the league that welcome the same risks that YouTubers do each day. We know them as General Managers. Much like content creators, they are forced to take drastic measures to remain relevant in an extremely competitive environment.
YouTube competes for views while NBA clubs compete for wins, but make no mistake. The principle remains the same.
No one knows the variables that come into play when chasing basketball success more than Elton Brand. After a fabulous 17-year career, he jumped into a Front Office Position and is now the General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. On November 12, he swung for the fences in a move that will eventually come to make or break his career. The outspoken Jimmy Butler forced his way into Brand's lap in the perfect gamble for a team with aspirations of holding the Larry O' Brian trophy someday. Someday soon.
Media sharks are circling this deal to no end. How will Jimmy Butler fit in with his two All-Star caliber teammates? How long until another one of his well-documented juvenile temper tantrums? The NBA faithful are extremely intrigued by this side of the deal and rightfully so.
But aren't we missing something in our obsessive analysis of Jimmy? It makes sense that we are gravitating to by far the best player in the deal. He has massively outperformed his late 1st round draft status by amassing an impressive resume:
- Four time All-Star
- Two time All-NBA
- Four time All-Defensive team
- 2015 most improved player
There is another side of the coin though. Not one, but two iconic Philly starters were shipped out to make room for Jimmy Buckets and fairly compensate Minnesota for their troubles. Robert Covington and Dario Saric were as beloved as any athlete that ever stepped on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center. We must remember that a trade is an equation at the end of the day with multiple moving parts. It's not a matter of whether there is risk involved, because that is a given. Ultimately, it boils down to whether the equation ends barring out a positive result once everything has been completed. Here is an easy to look at it.
Incoming value - Outgoing value = Risk quotient
You may cringe at the sight of an equation here if you struggle with mathematics in any way. I reconsidered using this many times, but I came back to it since it is easiest to use to drive the point home here. I apologize if you were traumatized at all just then.
It is objectively clear that Jimmy has an extremely high value despite his *ahem* dustups off the court recently. He can create his own shot in a halfcourt setting, closeout games when you need a bucket, all while picking up the top offensive option on the opposing team. Any executive that is not looking to add a player like that by any means possible would be fired on the spot.
But that's just it! Each and every GM from the West Coast to the East Coast would bend over backwards and jump through every hoop you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart for a chance to even speak to one of these coveted men in a conference room in June. On a broader scale, it doubles as pitch for their jobs. Two sins in professional basketball management will get you dropped off faster than any other. Losses and complacency. Most of the time, they go hand and hand.
Once you unpack the reality of this atmosphere, it is clear why someone like our fiery YouTuber from earlier is required for Elton Brand's position. You have to be borderline crazy to make it here! Straight up. We can even extend this to any prominent position in basketball such as a coach, but we'll stick to Front Offices for the sake of this study.
The number of casualties that have occurred along the winding paths of NBA history are too numerous to count, which is a perfect indicator of the treachery that can await you if you're not willing to put it all on the line every day. I am sure Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers crew had visions of grandeur when they assembled their Avengersesque superteam of Kobe, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash.
See, they really got this concept of a risk quotient. It is always sketchy to rid yourself of known commodities like All-Star Andrew Bynum, and 1st round picks. Yes, Bynum did make an All-Star team and even started back in the day. Bet you forgot about that one, didn't you? Alas, this particular risk didn't pay off as the chemistry and health never materialized and the project crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.
The Lakers are still butchered by jokes pertaining to this failure to this day even though they have supposedly turned the corner on sub 30-win seasons. Take a guess on what other team banked on former superstar to bring them wins? If you thought of Brooklyn, you would be correct. Former GM Billy King became road kill following his a swing and miss of his own. Believe it or not, he is still haunted about this gamble gone wrong.
What about a more recent example? Masai Ujri might be the biggest daredevil out of the 30 execs out there. Not only did he jettison arguably the best player in Raptors history, but one that wished to remain a Raptor forever and loved the city to death. Now THAT is a risk if we've ever seen one. So far, the results are promising with the Raptors sitting at the top of the East and Kawhi, the DeRozan replacement, putting together a MVP caliber campaign. In the moment, it couldn't have been a great feeling though. You are risking more than a few wins in that transaction. You risk alienating an entire fanbase and send this team with NBA Finals upside spiraling back towards the dawn of a rebuilding age if Leonard were to seek greener pastures after this season concludes. No pressure, Masai!
Michael Lee from the Athletic went into detail on Elton Brand's thought process when gearing up to make a run at Jimmy Butler.
"Brand understood the risk but was also aware that scared money don’t make no money."
The six words also qualify for 'front refrigerator' status. It is good to see that he already understands what is demanded of him as major decision maker for the Sixers. Let's not forget, their fanbase is as avid as any out there. If you screw things up, the higher ups will be the least of your worries as you pack your bags. If he has half as good of a career as he did when he laced them up for this great franchise, he'll be just fine overall.
Getting the picture of how shaky this business is?
Bottom line, the risks involved can be enough to make most men run for the hills, but these aren't ordinary men. They are risk takers and trend setters. They want to set their franchise apart in the win column and fill the seats every night. Acquiring Kawhi or Jimmy couldn't hurt ticket sales, right? Sure, sometimes the focus becomes to narrow and they only look at the name on the back of the jersey. Some players become a Free Agent for a reason...one that;s not particularly pretty. Type in the name 'Carmelo Anthony' on google and you'll see what I mean. Before we crucify someone in a position of power for making a questionable move, remember what they're fighting for and what they're made of.
When you rise to the top of a competitive field like the NBA, you must seek out every possible competitive advantage. You must differentiate yourself from the crowd. Much like someone searching for a job, what makes you the right man (or woman) for the job? If you can't answer that swiftly, then someone will be brought in who can. Survival of the fittest.
Fear is a massive variable when negotiating potential deals in this environment, but one that is simply not a part of their equations. It can't be.