The pleasures of playing for a small-market franchise
Despite the allure of playing for big-market teams in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, a few budding NBA superstars have chosen to stay put with the franchises who drafted them. Chief among these players is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has expressed his wish to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks for his entire career, despite having every NBA team clamoring after his services. What makes a player of this caliber content to play for an unheralded team?
Building a legacy: The beauty of playing for a team without a long history is that you get to build your own. Instead of being compared to the legends, you can become the legend that fans reminisce about. Without the weight of tradition and expectations, these franchises can define their unique style of play. The pick-and-roll, for instance, has become the defining image of the Utah Jazz, while the Bucks are trying out an ‘All-Length’ line-up built on wingspan and scrambling defenses.
Fanbases: The truest definition of a fan is someone who sticks with the team through thick and thin. Some of the smaller teams have the most rabid fans. The Sacramento Kings and their cowbells come to mind, with their packed and boisterous arena despite a lack of recent success. The Portland Trail Blazers are a strong competitor in this regard too. In these cities, the loyal fans embrace their hometown heroes whole-heartedly, and their heroes are often happy to embrace them back.
Small-town charm: Not every player craves the limelight. More reserved stars like Mike Conley and Bradley Beal are happy toiling away in relative obscurity, instead of constantly being under the media spotlight. The smaller cities have their charms and a strong sense of community, and older players may prefer to bring up their families in a more tranquil environment.
No distractions: High school powerhouses Oak Hill Academy have proven that isolation is not always a bad thing. Located in the tiny Mouth of Wilson community in Virginia, the Oak Hill Warriors have clinched numerous national titles by allowing their players to focus on just academics and basketball. For the professionals in the NBA, this focus is even more important and allows them to gain an edge over the competition as they put in every possible hour to hone their craft.