The public outcry when Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors was strong on all fronts. People shouted about loyalty, about ring-chasing and about superteams, but more than anything, they shouted about how the signing killed small markets in the NBA.
However, most fans have failed to realize that small markets in basketball are stronger than ever. The parity people have clamored for is about as strong as anybody could ask for. The NBA has had six champions in the last seven years and those teams have hailed from large markets in Los Angeles and Miami just as they have hailed from some of the smallest markets in the league: Cleveland and San Antonio. The two most valuable franchises in basketball, the Knicks and Lakers according to Forbes, had just 49 wins combined last season. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder were mere minutes away from giving the NBA a title fight between two cities right in the middle of flyover country.
Although Durant signing with Golden State is far from a victory for small markets — even according to Adam Silver — you have to take it into context. Not only was it able to happen due to a nearly impossible series of events, but it’s also not as if Oklahoma City didn’t have the chance to sign him. They were able to offer him more money in more years than Golden State with a pretty good chance to win. The Thunder had been a major title contender since 2011. They didn’t lose Durant because they were a small market, they lost him because they failed to deliver a championship in that time span, be it because of freak injuries, superhuman performances against them, bad coaching or all of the above. And even without him, they’re probably still a playoff team.
Even now that the Thunder aren’t title contenders, there are up and coming teams that will take their place. The Jazz and Timberwolves could both make the playoffs with young, promising cores this season. Both teams are set for a great future and both are from small markets.
As for the Warriors that represent big market dominance, don’t forget that they were seen as an incompetent franchise for years on end. From 1992-2013, they had won a single playoff series and Joe Lacob was booed off the floor at Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2012 for that exact reason. Sure, they’re prohibitive title favorites but you could have said the same thing at any point between November and June of last season. It ended with a parade in Cleveland.