There's been a strain of debate going around various threads the last couple weeks which I thought I'd consolidate here. It's something we discussed a few generations ago at Blazersedge but it's been quite a while. The issue is this: Is a championship the only meaningful goal of a professional sports team?
I think it'd be hard to land properly on either extreme of the continuum but I find myself leaning heavily towards the "Yes" side. Winning a championship is the one end that is common to every team in every league, from the team that finishes last to the team that just won one. It never changes and it never loses its savor. Having one simply makes you want more.
At its root, professional sports is about winning. The only team that exits the season with a meaningful win is the one that takes the trophy. Shooting for anything less is shooting for a loss. There are other goals along the way, of course, but those goals are properly measured by how far they mark your advancement towards the ultimate goal.
I think it's possible in retrospect to put other achievements on a near-par with a title. I have no problem, for instance, saying that I loved the Drexler-era Blazers and wouldn't trade my experiences with them for the world even though they never won it all as a group. Had I known in advance that they wouldn't achieve the ultimate goal, however, that may well have colored my view of them. Without the chance of ultimate victory the All-Star appearances, scoring titles, league honors, and all of the awards you can muster ring rather hollow. Yes, you're good at this, but there's someone better and those little pieces of paper and the lesser trophies that accompany them don't change that.
I would also freely admit that there are a thousand reasons to watch basketball, even NBA basketball, knowing that a title is not in reach as you're watching. I have deeply enjoyed the last couple years of Blazers basketball even though there was no chance at all we were going to see a ring ceremony in the Rose Garden. But they key here is knowing, or at least hoping, that the growth and achievements you witness will eventually turn into championship success. Without that promise the focus is lost and the raison d'etre flees.
So here's the question.
If you somehow had a magical championship percentage detector, you pointed it at the current crop of Blazers (the same guys you know and love and who thrill you most every game), and that meter said there was a 0% chance of them winning it all, would you start making moves to get that meter up?
For me the answer is easy. Yes I would. If the hope of a title is gone the only things left to play for are stats, paychecks, and maybe the occasional thrill for the crowd. Those alone aren't enough to keep me interested in the game as a spectator without a greater group goal in sight. You do what you have to in order to make that goal reachable. The only move you don't make in order to win a championship is a move you suspect will cost you more championships.
I would imagine that if you asked the players, most of them would answer "yes" as well. I'm not sure Brandon Roy will consider his career complete without hoisting the hardware at least once. I suspect if you told him right now that he'd never win one with the Blazers he'd consider Portland more of a basketball prison than a basketball home. It would be a cruel sentence, one that would undoubtedly take the life out of his game.
Where do you stand on this issue? How important is that title, or at least the promise of a title, to you? Would you make the move to win one even if it meant losing many of your current favorite players or would you prefer to ride it out with your guys no matter what? What, if anything, comes close to a title for you (NBA-basketball-wise, of course)?
The comment section is open.