The Culture of Stacking

For those of you still limber enough to play pick-up basketball, you will probably recognize a trend that has become the norm over these last few years. On the blacktop we call this trend Stacking. Stacking takes place when the best player on a losing team calls “last downs”- that is he forgoes his opportunity to play in upcoming games in order to become the GM of his own team so to speak. He then waits for subsequent losing teams to come off the court and cherry picks the elite players off those teams for his squad. This continues until he has assembled his five man “super team.”

This player has lost any motivation to overcome the obstacles associated with having inferior or average teammates and instead satisfies his ego by becoming a part of a winning team that forgoes the character building that comes with overcoming said obstacles.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Many writers and former players are pointing to the clear differences between this generation of players and the players that were the face of the NBA just twenty or thirty years ago. They cite a lack of competitive nature and too much camaraderie with opposing players who are supposed to be viewed as the enemy. Many will say that this is why the NBA has become soft. AAU camps are partly to blame for this, but I believe the roots can be found on any local court where serious pick-up games are being played. It is part of the culture now, plain and simple.

This culture spilled over into the 2010 Free Agent Derby and left teams like Cleveland and Toronto a mere shell of their former selves. LeBron James looked at the NBA landscape and determined that it would simply be too much work to get Cleveland over the hump. A team that averaged over 63 wins the last two years was simply too far away, he thought, so he abandoned them and joined D Wade who was Stacking his team off on the side.

They justify their cowardess by saying that all the great ones had help. MJ had Scottie, Magic had Kareem and Worthy, and Bird had McHale and Parish.  LeBron will tell you that it wasn’t his fault that Cleveland simply couldn’t get him the help he needed. He won’t talk about how he failed to lead his team to victory in multiple playoff series where Cleveland was the favorite. He won’t talk about all of the short term moves he forced upon Cleveland management, only to throw them under the bus for those same moves years later.

All he will say is that he wants to win, and now according to published reports, CP3 is saying the same things behind closed doors. He wants to force his way onto a stacked team because he wants to “win now.” Of course that wouldn’t be possible with a roster that is arguably better than the one that won 56 games in 07-08 with him playing at an elite level, would it?

This new breed can’t be blamed however- they’ve been doing it this way their whole life. How can they possibly know how much better it feels to overcome adversity when they have avoided it the majority of their lives on the basketball court? When their team fails, they immediately look outward and place the blame at the footsteps of others. Then they think back to times when they faced a similar crisis and try to remember how they solved it back then.


Like all trends, this one will someday be bucked. Kevin Durant, or someone like him, will do it the right way. They will run hard into those obstacles and barriers and push forward. They will focus on the change that must take place internally, not obsess about the external factors of which they have no control. They will persevere over one of these stacked teams, and they will gain a sea of fans in the process. Some of those fans will be the next generation and those kids will go to their local playground. After they lose they will hold their heads high and instead of calling last downs they will jump on the court at the next possible opportunity with a singular focus- to win regardless of circumstance.


2 responses to “The Culture of Stacking”

  1. Do we now have a paradigm shift in the NBA?  How does a GM operate in this kind of model? Does the new CBA need to reflect this new shifting paradigm?

  2. With the hope of NFL type parity dwindling, could we see another huge CBA battle brewing to circumvent stacking?

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