Is basketball becoming too evolved to have one player carry a team?

Throughout the history of basketball and the NBA, we have witnessed some truly legendary players. In many instances, individual player achievements and performances have been iconic to the extent that they overshadow the team. This leads us to the point of this article – is there room any longer in the modern game for one player to carry a team to the top?

This is an interesting topic to discuss and it generates some great ideas for sports betting online. For example, instead of simply betting on the stronger team, why not place wagers on the strengths of individual players too? Sometimes, a single player can alter the outcome of a match and go against the odds to land you a nice earner.

We look at this in the article below and pick out some historical and modern examples to back both sides of the argument.

Historical examples

When we look back at the NBA, we can see plenty of examples where a single player did supposedly carry their team. However, when we look closer, is this actually true?

Hakeem Olajuwon’s 93-95 Rockets

Olajuwon won back-to-back championships with the Rockets when Michael Jordan retired. This is possibly the best example of a player carrying a team. His output was incredible and he dominated all opposing big men who stood in his way. Without Hakeem, the supporting cast of Sam Cassell, Mario Elie, Robert Horry and Kenny Smith would not have won those chips, period.

Michael Jordan’s two three-peat Bulls

Would the Chicago Bulls have won six championships without Michael Jordan? No. We can see this during his first retirement – Pippen and company still performed fantastically but they just didn’t quite have it to go all the way.

It took monumental performances, clutch shots and iconic plays from MJ to get them those two three-peats. This is a prime example of where one player dominated. However, we have to remember that in his own words, there was no MJ without Pippen. Even back then, the god-like Michael Jordan still needed All-Star level players to succeed.

Kobe Bryant’s Shaq-less Lakers

Lastly, we have the late Kobe Bryant and the 2009-2010 back-to-back Lakers. I think this is as close as we can come to a player pulling a team to victory, as Kobe averaged nearly 30/6/6 in both playoff series and played around 40 minutes continually. He was certainly the focal point of the Lakers championship run, but he could not have done it without the likes of Pao Gasol, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum.

Current examples

Most people believe the modern game to be more team-oriented, rather than revolving around one dominating player. We can see both sides of this argument in the three examples below:

Giannis and the Bucks

Giannis is a force of nature – a basketball behemoth. There is no denying that without him, the Milwaukee Bucks would not have won the finals in 2020-21. His finals performances were the stuff of legend and the plays he made effectively clinched the chip for them.

However, can we honestly say that Giannis would have been finals MVP and lifted the trophy without Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday? We don’t think so. This again goes to show that while one player can be pivotal, a supporting cast is still needed.

The Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are the epitome of team basketball. Their unselfish playstyle where everyone contributes shows that you simply don’t need one megastar to win the chip. 

Sure, you have the all-time great Steph Curry, incredible shooter Klay Thompson and the high-caliber defender in Draymond, but each player knows their place. They do what is required to win and are willing to make personal sacrifices to get there. 

Jokić and the Nuggets

A prime example of where a single player cannot carry a team is Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets. The Joker is the current two-times reigning MVP and has back-to-back historic seasons. His play has been phenomenal and he has been a joy to watch. 

But the Nuggets finished a respectable sixth in the Western Conference. Sure, this was potentially better than expected but the key point is that without Jamal Murray and MPJ, Jokić simply couldn’t carry the team any further than this – there was a limit.

We hope you have found this article useful. Essentially, basketball is a team game. It takes five starters and a host of bench players to all pull their weight to be successful. There is no doubt that one player can make an immense difference and indeed, without certain superstars, the success of some teams is questionable. However, on the flip side, these superstars still need that supporting cast to take the weight from their shoulders and alleviate the pressure.