When you're putting together a championship contender, one rule is paramount -- get the best talent you possibly can. You'll be facing off against the best possible rosters your opponents can assemble, so it's only logical that you should pack your own team full of stars. Sometimes, the stars align and you can even stack your roster with multiple Hall of Famers, thereby guaranteeing you a title.
Well, not quite. The New York Mets found this out the hard way, as the combination of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor only got them to fourth place in the NL East. Now, Scherzer and Verlander are gone in trades and the Mets are left wondering what exactly went wrong. It's bound to be cold comfort, but this isn't close to the first time a potential superteam failed to deliver on its initial promise. Here are some of the more notable examples since the turn of the century.
2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal alone were a combination to be feared, but the Lakers decided to add Karl Malone and Gary Payton to further overwhelm other teams. It wasn't a bad idea -- the team finished first in the Pacific Division and third overall in the Western Conference and cruised through the playoffs, going 12-5 in the first three rounds. Unfortunately, the Lakers met up with a defensive juggernaut in the Detroit Pistons and lost 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Payton would be traded to the Boston Celtics and Malone would retire, making this superteam one-and-done.
2007 New England Patriots
Take Tom Brady, in all likelihood the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Pair him with Randy Moss, one of the top five wide receivers of all time. Then have a team full of names like Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, Junior Seau, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel. The result? A 16-0 record, only the second time a team has gone undefeated in the regular season in NFL history. Unfortunately for this team, its final record has a one in the loss column, as Eli Manning and the New York Giants beat the Patriots in one of the most thrilling Super Bowls of all time.
2009-12 Oklahoma City Thunder
Shortly after moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder drafted James Harden to play alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The trio immediately began to dominate, and the Thunder improved every year until they made the NBA Finals in 2011-12. That series started off well, with the Thunder defeating the Heat at home in Game 1, but they lost four in a row after that. Harden was traded in the offseason after the team was unable to sign him to an extension.
One pitching ace is pretty great, but what happens when you have four? The Phillies were rocking a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, not to mention Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins in the lineup. That's good for 102 wins and a league-lowest 529 runs allowed. They faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the division series, and while they ran out to a 2-1 lead in the first three games, St. Louis rallied back to force a Game 5. Skip Schumacher knocked in a run in the first inning against Halladay, and Chris Carpenter pitched a three-hit shutout. The Cardinals would end up winning the World Series.
2011-17 Los Angeles Clippers
One of the most exciting teams in NBA history, the Lob City Clippers looked to use their high-flying style of basketball to bring a non-Lakers title to Los Angeles. The acquisition of Chris Paul meant that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would have plenty of alley-oop opportunities -- just ask poor Brandon Knight after Jordan threw down an all-time poster dunk on him. The Clippers were a very good team during Paul's tenure, but fell apart in the playoffs -- Lob City never advanced past the semifinals.
2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers
Just a couple years removed from two straight titles, the Lakers decided to go all-out in Kobe Bryant's 16th season. In addition to Pau Gasol, Bryant would be playing with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, the team got off to an achingly slow start, and coach Mike Brown was fired after they went 1-4. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff and new hire Mike D'Antoni stabilized things, but the squad never quite gelled, and they were easily swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. Howard was gone after the season, and Nash only played 15 more games before retiring.
2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook had already been part of one Big Three in Oklahoma City, and the team decided to make him part of another during the 2017-18 season. Two big trades brought Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to the squad, and the appeal of three dominant scorers on the same team was hard to deny. Offensively, however, it didn't work out. The team finished 12th out of 30 in points per game, and though they were fourth in the Western Conference by the end of the season, a six-game series loss to the Utah Jazz in the first round ended their experiment. Anthony was traded after the season, while George was moved the season after.
2021-23 Brooklyn Nets
The Nets seemed bound for at least a title run when they acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019, and then added James Harden in the latter part of the 2020-21 season. That's three superstars, all of whom are likely bound for Springfield, Massachusetts, when they retire, and all of whom can take over games. What could stop them? A lot of things, as it turns out -- between injuries and off-court factors, the trio played only 16 games together (going 13-3, to be fair) before Harden was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade. The Nets were swept in the playoffs, and the next season, it all became too much for the team to bear. Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, and a few days later, Durant was dealt to the Phoenix Suns.