One of pro basketball's prominent sources of tension is perception of team chemistry's importance. Bill Simmons wrote a well-received 700 page book based on the premise that being a good person and sensitive to one's teammates is at least as important as being able to hit a contested twenty-foot jumper -- and few seriously argue against this point. I suspect it's because it seems self-evident that playing alongside people one likes makes for a more cohesive, more finely tuned, simply better team.
But that notion might be in conflict with what teams acknowledge by their roster decisions and what championship results seem to indicate is true: Individual superstars are necessary to win, and talent almost always trumps character.
Being able to play well together does not mean being friends. For every example of togetherness and bonding you can dredge up, I can probably find another example of championship teammates who merely co-existed, neither friendly nor antagonistic, like Bird and McHale, or were openly hostile to each other, like Shaq and Kobe, or Jordan and all his teammates (except Rodman?) at one point or another.
When you get down to it, teams fear scoundrels and malcontents not because they think they'll be crappy co-workers but because they think the paying customers won't react well if the talent isn't quite good enough -- talent would always get a chance if income were based entirely on prize money, for example. There's a disconnect between what fans value in pro athletes and what they value in everyday interactions, made all the more complicated by the NBA's tangled relationships with social change, race, and class.
Obviously, it would be great if our team went 82-0 and every player was a Tim Tebow-level saint, but that won't happen. As the Bobcats build their championship-caliber team, what kinds of characters are you willing or unwilling to endure as a condition of your fanhood?
I think that I root for laundry in the extreme. Short of killing or maiming a person, a good player in a Bobcats uniform will almost certainly get my support. In fact, it might even feel kind of cool -- in the moment -- to root for a team full of cheap shot artists and miscreants, as if I were getting a contact high off the "us-against-the-world" mentality that would surely prevail -- as long as they're winning.