I have a super-secret list of 101 Offseason Questions/Topics that was circulated among SBN writers. (No, seriously. I do.) Question #15 is something peripherally relevant to recent conversation on the site.
If you knew the Bobcats would never win a title would you still root for them?
Less black and white is the hypothetical a couple friends and I once spent an afternoon arguing:
Would you rather have a 90% chance of winning a title in 2 out of the next 20 years, but only a 5% chance of winning a title in any of the 18 other years, or would you prefer having a 40% chance at winning a title in each of the next 20 years?
To me, these are barely even questions worth answering, because my response seems so self-evident.
To the first question, it's a resounding, "No." There is no point in rooting for a professional sports team if there is no championship to be had. I'd rather throw my lot in with all my high school friends and start rooting for the Warriors. Tribalism, civic pride, et cetera, it's all rooted in a competition for a championship.
Which is why I'm not sure I'm being consistent when I say there's no question I'd rather root for the team with a 40% title chance any given year. The way I see it, though the primary goal of fandom is to be a part of a championship process, the most important word in that phrase is process. Though the 90% team will almost certainly win at least one championship, the other seasons would be miserable, while the 40% team would be two long decades of championship dreams, which is all one can really ask for in the NBA.
Following a team with title aspirations is a totally different animal from following a team that merely aspires to make the playoffs. There's a certain nihilist quality to rooting for non-championship-caliber teams, because the whole point of going on the journey is to be there for the victory celebration, and if you know there definitely won't be a championship in the foreseeable future, well... what's the point?
This is why I'm fond of saying the Cats should do everything in their power to get a potential Hall of Famer. (I know, it's easy, right?) Since 1980, three teams have won an NBA title with one or zero Hall of Fame caliber players on the roster: the 2004 Pistons, 2003 Spurs (David Robinson was a shell of himself), and 1994 Houston Rockets (the year before Clyde Drexler joined, and, notably, one of Michael Jordan's retirement seasons). What concerns me about the Bobcats' personnel decisions is that they don't seem to realize this fact about the NBA. So, if they're only interested in landing eight above-average guys for the rotation, I'm not okay with that. That tells me management is fine with the 5-through-8 seed every year and, we only have to hope for a fluke to advance a round.