3x All-Star rips Pat Riley for never winning a title without generational talent: ‘You never won a championships with TEAMS’

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Miami Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley is widely celebrated as being one of the most successful NBA coaches and executives in the history of the league.

He won five championships as a head coach and has won two as an executive. Despite Riley’s success, former NBA star Gilbert Arenas recently lobbed some criticism Riley’s way for never winning without having generational talent on his roster.

“Pat Riley’s never won without, what do we call it, a generational type of talent,” Arenas began. “Not like, when you talk about, when you talk three, when you talk about generational people, he’s had three of them. Like his legacy, you could be the next Pat Riley. Woah, hold on, wait, relax, relax. He’s had three generational talents that all his championships are under.

“Magic [Johnson], s— Magic and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. … You had both of them winning championships, and then you went to try to do something else, and it didn’t work. And then you had Dwyane Wade. Then you got Shaquille O’Neal, right? You won. And then you got rid of them, and then you got LeBron James, and then you won those. … When you talking about the generational, those difference-makers, that’s who your championships have been built off of. You never won a championships with teams.”

Some may agree that Arenas’ argument holds some validity. However, many NBA fans will surely counter by arguing that very few head coaches or executives have ever won much without a generational type of talent leading the roster.

An argument can be made that the only team that has won recently without a truly generational talent was the Toronto Raptors in 2019. Even then, the Raptors had superstar Kawhi Leonard. He’s a major star in his own right, but his resume may not stack up when compared to players like Johnson, O’Neal and James.

Shortly after Arenas’ message, co-host Josiah Johnson asked Arenas how many teams have won without a generational player leading the way.

“Steph (Stephen Curry) is not a generational talent,” Arenas responded.

That response may very well delegitimize Arenas’ entire argument in the eyes of many basketball fans. Though Curry may not have the size or speed of some of the other players mentioned, few would argue the league’s all-time 3-point shooting leader is not a generational guy.

The NBA is known as a star-driven league, and the reason why is because having generational talents on the roster makes it far easier to win a title.

Beyond that, Arenas’ argument does nothing to mention Riley’s ability to get the most out of his stars and manage egos as a coach. It also doesn’t mention Riley’s pivotal role in actually attracting and signing superstars as an executive.

Riley has made a career out of working with superstars, and the fact that he’s benefited from his ability to do just that is seen by many as a sign of his greatness rather than a contradiction to it.

It will be interesting to see if Riley is able to lure one or two more generational talents to South Florida before his time in the league come to an end.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Heat Nation.