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The NBA has long sought to expand its global reach by playing exhibition games overseas, promoting the considerable number of foreign players within its ranks and cultivating a new generation of young, marketable superstars. But one of the game's biggest stars has a different idea about how the league can further improve: it can shrink.
Miami Heat star LeBron James, who left a small market team in Cleveland for the high-profile shores of South Beach and fellow all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, thinks that the league would see an increase in the quality of its play if it contracted from its current 30 teams, reports ESPN.
"Hopefully the league can figure out one way where it can go back to the '80s where you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars on the same team," James said in an interview with the network. "The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is [now]."
When asked what teams he would cut, James demurred, but did cite how moving certain players could be a good thing.
"Imagine if you take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the [league]. Looking at some of the teams that aren't great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren't good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I'm not stupid, it would be great for the league."
The NBA has expanded by eight teams - six in the U.S., two in Canada - since 1980, with the most recent addition coming in 2004 when the Charlotte Bobcats appeared. But with a contentious labor dispute between the players association and the owners looming when the collective bargaining agreement expires next year, and league commissioner David Stern seeking a $700-800 million reduction in player costs, contraction may be the only way to keep the league viable.