Dwight Howard, the Lakers, and the Spiky NBA

Big cities continue to dominate the competition for basketball superstars.

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Kevin Kolczynski / Reuters

So Dwight Howard is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard, who's unhappiness in Orlando reached epic proportions, now joins one of the NBA's most storied franchises with a long legacy of great centers: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal.

D12 joins point guard Steve Nash, whom the Lakers signed earlier this free-agent season. Both moves were not predicted at the start of the summer, when it was believed that Howard would go to Brooklyn and Nash, who's Canadian, would go to Toronto or New York, where he keeps a home.

For the locationally oriented sports fan, Howard's move to Tinseltown is another indication of the power of big cities to attract basketball superstars.

City-by-city, L.A. made out best this free-agent season, luring Howard and Nash as well as Grant Hill, who joins Chris Paul on the Clippers. New York was no slouch, either: Deron Williams re-signed with the Brooklyn Nets, who also attracted Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, while the Knicks added free-agent Jason Kidd, admittedly past his prime, to their roster which already includes Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemaire and Tyson Chandler. Miami added Ray Allen from Boston, adding his 3-point fire-power to their already star-studded lineup. These three cities lay claim to a huge share of NBA super-stars.

It remains to be seen however if the Lakers can get past Oklahoma City or San Antonio, and if the Knicks and Nets rosters will gel. Indiana remains a fierce competitor in the East, and Philadelphia looks stronger, with the acquisition of Andrew Bynum as well. That said, big city, big market teams have historically had a huge advantage in winning NBA championships.

When all is said and done, superstar moves this season would seem to reinforce the NBA's "spiky world" geography [PDF] — a term I use to describe the unequal distribution of influential places in the world economy — with major cities scoring most of the big talent coups. 

*Patrick Adler contributed data to this article.

Top image: Kevin Kolczynski / Reuters

About the Author

  • Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More
    Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here