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Big City, Bright Lights


The pressures of playing for a big-market team


This season, Los Angeles is banking on LeBron James to bring their storied team back to the good old days. The all-world superstar is aiming to solidify his legacy by leading a new crew to title contender status, and in doing so, joins a host of other stars who have moved to the big cities in search of NBA success. In these big markets though, fortunes are often fickle, with heightened expectations from media and fans alike. What is the allure of playing in these pressure-cooker environments?


History: The big teams often have illustrious histories, filled with championships and Hall-of-Famers. By donning the jerseys of these franchises, players have a chance to be included in the history books and to add a few more banners to the rafters. Although this can come with great expectations, great players thrive under pressure. Kristaps Porzingis has embraced the hype and is looking to restore New York to its rightful place among basketball’s elite.


Players: The best players enjoy playing together at an elevated level. They strive for perfection and to lift the game to an art-form, for instance with Golden State’s fluid, relentless style of play. Beyond teammates, players often benefit from the tutelage of franchise legends. Hakeem Olajuwon has shared his wisdom with the Rockets’ roster for years, while Kobe Bryant has recently begun offering his services to budding starlets.
Hollywood: No team represents the big city more than Los Angeles. As the home of Hollywood and the entertainment business, playing in the City of Angels allows players to rub shoulders with celebrities and business magnates. Financially, a move often makes sense too, as endorsement deals are plentiful for the faces of these franchises.


More than just basketball: The wise player understands that his career is time-limited, and begins preparations for his post-retirement days early. James heads a new generation of players who is determined to not let basketball define their entire lives. As a global icon and an astute businessman, there are few downsides to the big cities and bright lights.