No championship team remains intact forever. Kyrie Irving and Neymar Jr., both inextricably tied to championship-winning teams, are no longer with the very teams that yielded them fame and success.  Similarly, they are now emblematic of the age-old narrative of wanting to step out of legendary teammates’ shadows: LeBron James and Lionel Messi.
While Irving’s move could be considered somewhat predictable due to earlier stories from this summer, Neymar’s world record-breaking  transfer took the soccer world by sheer surprise. Part of a three-headed attack with Messi and Luis Suárez, Neymar’s four seasons with Barcelona resulted in two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey championships and the coveted Champions League title in 2015. In 123 games, Neymar found the back of the net 68 times.
Many were stunned to discover that Neymar wanted out to experience the spotlight all for himself, given FC Barcelona’s prestigious record and a virtually guaranteed championship every year. With Messi considered to be the best player in the world, and possibly of all time, and  Suárez outscoring Neymar in fewer games — 85 goals in 97 games — it is perhaps not so surprising that the Brazilian star would want to leave one of the most successful European clubs.
His departure, however, raises the question of whether individual legacy and monetary success is more valuable than an array of trophies.
Neymar is already a well established player, and given that he is projected to earn more than half a million dollars per week at Paris Saint-Germain, it is hard not to see money as the primary factor behind this move.
The Brazilian’s departure has certainly been more acrimonious than that of Irving. The world record fee of $263 million is under scrutiny for breaking financial fair play rules that try to prevent teams from spending more than they can afford. To make matters worse, Barcelona is now suing Neymar in an attempt to regain his “loyalty” bonus that was part of his new contract, while Neymar is publicly dissing the Catalan board of directors.
On the other hand, Irving’s move was far more straightforward. While Irving had a preferred list of trade destinations that he submitted alongside his trade request,  Boston emerged as the surprise destination for the superstar.
Regardless, Irving fulfilled his wish: He leads the Boston Celtics both as their best player and one of the most marketable
players in the league. Not only does Irving step out of James’ shadow in terms of media and marketing attention, but he also lands on a team loaded with talent that can viably challenge for the Eastern Conference title.
Both phenoms are inarguably two of the most popular players in the game today, across any sport. Since both men have undoubtedly impacted their leagues in great ways, their former teams remain left in upheaval in their absence.
For Barcelona, Neymar’s absence has already been felt in a lethargic game against rival Real Madrid. Messi has made his displeasure with the board over Neymar’s departure clear, and rumors are once again surfacing that the Argentine will be on his way out. Barcelona has desperately tried to acquire Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho as a replacement, but the Reds keep stonewalling by turning down ludicrous bids, a direct effect of Neymar’s astronomical transfer fee.
As for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have acquired former Boston heartthrobs Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder along with one of the Celtics’ coveted draft picks. In the eventuality that James leaves — as some rumors suggest he might — or declines, Cleveland has a potential top pick. If James recommits to a long-term contract, Cleveland can flip the coveted pick another star to add to the formidable trio of Thomas, James and Kevin Love, giving the reigning champion Golden State Warriors a potentially serious challenge.
Regardless of the aftermaths of their decisions, two prolific young and marketable players have left their dominant teams this summer, raising a deep-rooted question about the nature of super teams that divides us: Is a super team’s brief dominance worth its seemingly inevitable dissolution?
Craige: It is a tough question for sure because in Barcelona’s case, they have been dominant ever since Messi was 18. It’s probable that Barcelona will continue to dominate, even with the dissolution of The Big Three, simply because of its superb academy and ability to buy high-caliber players. A fleeting dominance is definitely worth it in the long run due to the rewards that it brings.
Santamaria: It is absolutely worth it. In rare cases, you can build a super team while also investing in youth, leading to long-term dominance. Of course, some players will inevitably think they are bigger than the team and want to leave, but that is the nature of sports. And to those hollering about parity, any sport’s crown jewel is slaying a Goliath team, teams just like the Cleveland Cavaliers and FC Barcelona.
Vanessa Craige and Paolo Santamaria are seniors in the School of Foreign Service and the College, respectively. Nothing but Net appears every Friday.

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