Nowhere in sports does star power exude more sparkle than in the NBA, which found a formula for marketing individual excellence a generation ago and has ridden it to global success.
Basketball’s small collection of most celebrated deities sell tickets, boost ratings, alter franchises and are rewarded with extraordinary wealth and fame.
But they’re not magicians, and losing a front-line standout, to injury for a day or a week, is far less catastrophic to the balance of the win column than you might think.
Maybe it is a temporary trend, but recent times have thrown up some rather remarkable outcomes. On Saturday, the Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors, a noteworthy result simply because it’s news whenever the Warriors lose and even scarcer when it happens at home.
It wouldn’t have caused so much head shaking, except that it came without James Harden, who sat with a neck injury and flu symptoms, following his incredible run of 32 straight games of 30 points or more.
With Harden, whose ongoing scoring exploits put him in the rarefied company of Wilt Chamberlain, the Rockets had surrendered three of their previous four games, despite him twice topping 40 points and averaging 36.3 points per game. Without him, they beat a team that is in the midst of a dynasty and was at full strength. Go figure.