02/25/2011 02:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is the Star System Ruining the NBA? I Don't Think So.

It is no great revelation that the National Basketball Association markets its product through its star players. Marquee matchups are manufactured out of opposing superstars, regardless of whether those high-profile players are going to be guarding each other during the game. A little ironic that a sport requiring so much teamwork would characterize itself in such an individualistic way, but not really surprising. Movies, which are a hugely collaborative effort, are marketed in the same way.

In fact, Hollywood creates film projects specifically for its most popular stars.

And now NBA stars and their agents are, in similar fashion, hunting down their next star vehicle--a team with sufficiently bankable co-stars to render a basketball blockbuster (an appearance in the Finals).

Understandable--but kind of unimaginative and even, perhaps, sort of weak. Like the guy whose got next in the pickup game and won't take the four other guys waiting to play because he's going to see if someone better comes along. Come on, I want to tell this clown who is trying to create his own little Saturday afternoon playground destiny. Grow up. Man up. Just take me and these three other scrubs and let's see if we can step up and prove ourselves. Make your teammates better and be part of the magic of five random dudes playing the game right. We might not win but maybe we'll surprise ourselves, find a strength and ability together we didn't know we had as individuals!

Perhaps there is no analogy between the playground--where we play for love and to burn off a few calories and let out the frustrations of life--and the pros--where money talks and where there are few, if any, moral victories and where great players are sometimes haunted by their ring-less fingers.

Still, I do admire any pro that devotes himself to a team and makes the best of the players who surround him. But it isn't just those guys who are going to save the integrity of the NBA--what is left of it. Here is what will keep pro basketball real: all the players who are not all-stars, who are not known by a single name or nickname but who believe that they are as good as those guys and who aren't going to back-down from any challenge, who are going to work all summer and before and after games because they don't understand why their picture isn't the face of their team. And because even if those guys gets superstar status and start whining about going to a winner and conspire to be part of the concentration of power on a few teams, there will always be someone else waiting to prove himself.