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The Golden State Warriors, Lionel Messi, and the Pressure to Win Championships

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The superteam phenomenon is created from a desire to measure players only by trophies

The NBA offseason has been crazy. One of its best players ever, LeBron James, has joined one of its most successful teams ever, the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Golden State Warriors, a team that has won 3 of the past 4 championships, added yet another all-star to their lineup.

DeMarcus Cousins, a four-time all-star, signed from the New Orleans Pelicans to strengthen the team already considered the best by a wide margin. This comes after what happened in 2016, when a former NBA MVP, Kevin Durant, signed for them. Now, the team is replete with stars, and some say, basically unbeatable.

Many fans are saying it’s no fun if all players get together and have no competition. Durant in particular came under harsh criticism for abandoning his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, for the team that beat him.

But can you blame him?

What players are realizing now more than ever, is their historical reputations are at stake. If you retire without winning an NBA championship, some people will never let that go. There will always be a “yeah, but” to their exploits. The players are just responding to that pressure.

In football, the concept of superteams has always existed. Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus, to give a few examples, collect talent from all over and create advantages that often seem insurmountable.

But on the world stage, things are different. This brings us to Lionel Messi.

In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Messi’s efforts once again were not enough to carry Argentina to the trophy. However, when it comes to your nation, you are not allowed to change sides. He’s stuck with Argentina or nothing.

And the pressure to win the biggest prize in international football has reached a fever pitch. Never mind that Argentina were picking up points at the same rate as Bolivia without Messi in qualifying. Never mind that without him, they lost to Spain (who, turns out, aren’t even that good) 6-1 in a friendly, and Nigeria by 4-2 in another friendly. Never mind that Messi had to score a hat trick on the last day for Argentina to qualify for the World Cup, or that no other Argentine scored for over a year in official matches in the lead up to the World Cup. For some reason, Messi was the subject of criticism as Argentina lost 4-3 against France. Can you imagine any other forward in any other place in time being blamed as his team shipped four goals, even as he put forth two assists?

It’s not like Messi has no trophies, obviously. The Champions League is a higher technical standard of football than the World Cup, and he’s won that more than once. He’s won the Spanish League and the FIFA Club World Cup and anything else you can think of. Oh, and he has an Olympic Gold Medal with Argentina. How many Olympic Gold Medals do you have? So why the criticism?

It’s that obsession with measuring players by certain trophies again.

But Messi could have won plenty more by choosing to play for Spain, his adoptive country. The 2008-2012 Spain team plus Messi would give the Golden State Warriors a run for their money in terms of stacked talent. It could have been that way. Messi chose another path, out of loyalty. That’s to be commended.

And anyone complaining about the Warriors better not be asking why Messi hasn’t won the World Cup yet.