The demise of the Brooklyn Nets has been the talk of the 2022 NBA offseason. At one point boasting three future Hall of Famers in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden and having great NBA championship odds, Brooklyn has just one playoff series victory over the past three years.
With Harden being dealt to the Sixers at last season’s trade deadline and Durant requesting to be moved just two weeks ago, the Nets’ Super Team experiment has been a failure of epic proportions.
However, Brooklyn can take solace in the fact that it is not alone in having its plans go awry, as numerous star-studded squads throughout NBA history have failed to meet expectations.
Here are five infamous teams that quickly come to mind:
2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers
Eager to add a championship ring to their Hall of Fame careers, Karl Malone and Gary Payton decided to team up with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2003-04 campaign.
In a year overshadowed mainly by Bryant’s sexual assault scandal (charges were later dropped) and heightened tension between him and O’Neal, LA finished the regular season with a 56-26 record, good for second in the Western Conference.
Payton started all 82 games for the Lakers, while Malone was limited to 42 due to injury.
Advancing to their third NBA Finals in four years, LA was heavily favored over the Detroit Pistons. Struggling to score against Detroit’s suffocating defense, the Lakers fell to the Pistons in five games. The defeat is widely regarded as one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant shocked the basketball world when he joined the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016. While Russell Westbrook did his best to keep Oklahoma City competitive, it was evident the Thunder required additional star power if they were going to return to the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
The solution? Enter Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, who were acquired by the Thunder ahead of the 2017-18 season.
George would average a solid 21.9 points per game, proving to be a good fit alongside Westbrook. However, Anthony appeared well past his prime, averaging a then career-low 16.2 points per game, shooting just a shade over 40% from the floor.
The trio of Westbrook, George, and Anthony finished fourth in the West with a 48-34 record before they were ousted in the first round by rookie Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in six games. Anthony was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason, promptly ending the Thunder’s Big Three experiment after one year.
2013-14 Brooklyn Nets
Led by Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King believed his team was just a few pieces away from being genuine title contenders.
Determined to bring a championship to Brooklyn, King sold the farm, trading three future first-round picks to the Boston Celtics to acquire aging All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as Jason Terry.
Roundly criticized at the time, the Nets wound up with a mediocre 44-38 mark, finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn managed to upset the Toronto Raptors in the first round in seven games but was easily handled by the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the conference semifinals, winning just one game.
1998-99 Houston Rockets
The Rockets’ initial Big Three originated in 1996-97 when they acquired Charles Barkley to pair with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Failing to win a title, management would give it one more go in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, replacing a retired Drexler with another future Hall of Famer in former Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen.
In addition to all three players being in the twilight of their careers, Pippen and Barkley struggled to get along as teammates. Houston was subsequently eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in what turned out to be Pippen’s lone season with the team.
2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers
Fresh off a first-round exit in 2020-21, the Lakers traded for All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to play alongside fellow superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The move initially generated plenty of excitement, as LA entered 2021-22 as favorites to capture their 18th Larry O’Brien trophy.
Things did not go according to plan.
Westbrook looked lost in his new role playing off the ball, while James and Davis missed a combined 68 games due to injury. The result was perhaps the most disappointing season in Lakers franchise history, with LA recording an abysmal 33-49 record, failing to qualify for the league’s play-in tournament.
Honorable Mention: 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers
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