Loyalty. Loyalty as defined by Merriam-Webster is the quality or state or an instance of being loyal. It’s a word that’s guaranteed to be shoved down the ear drum of every major NBA star as they transition from one team to the next and every NBA front office as they move players like pieces in chess. The word is as synonymous with professional basketball as gambling and three pointers.
But over time, the word has lost it’s meaning as athletes no longer consider it when deciding what’s the best decision to make for their career and rightfully so, loyalty is overrated.
Loyalty became overrated the minute superstar Lebron James made his controversial decision to take his talents to South Beach. It was the most hated move in the history of sports and immediately catapulted Lebron into his now villainous role of the league but at the end of the day… it was worth it.
Lebron went on to win two MVPs, two championships, and two final MVP’s and went from being a respected great to an all-time great. No reasonable person cared that Lebron took his talents to Miami as it was the best possible decision for his career. Emotional people can say they would’ve “respected” his decision more had he stayed in Cleveland during his first tenure there but who cares about a fans respect? The name of the game is rings and to win a lot of them in the process. Period.
Now lets look at the 2017 Finals MVP, Kevin Durant. July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant made the controversial decision to join the Golden State Warriors. The same team that beat him two months prior. The decision was panned by fans, critics, and athletes alike but haven’t you noticed something since the Warriors defeated the Cavs last June? The hate has been silenced tremendously.
Sure, Kevin Durant’s decision was definitely unlike anything we’ve ever seen before but his play throughout last years finals silenced everybody, including myself who was especially hard on Durant for his decision. And you know why that is? Because championships will cover all sins. In 2010 pundits were questioning if Lebron’s legacy would ever be the same after his move, he’s now considered the second greatest player who ever lived second to only Michael Jordan. Last season people were asking the same question of Kevin Durant, and now this season they’re calling him a potential top five all time player, winning cures all and championships makes people forget EVERYTHING.
Let’s look at the recent trade that’s shaken up the NBA world to view just how much loyalty these franchises have to these athletes. Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons. Blake had just signed a $173 million dollar contract in June worth five years and not even a year into his contract he’s been traded into the mess that is the Detroit Pistons organizations. He signed expecting to be a lifelong Clipper and instead he’ll waste years of his career playing for the hopeless Pistons.
For even more proof of company “loyalty” to the the athletes star Demarcus Cousins found out he was traded in a INTERVIEW of all places! The Kings didn’t even have the decency to tell the guy he was traded with a simple phone call, he found out from the media in a awkward press conference. Boogie later cried about the trading as he was expecting to spend his entire career in Sacramento.
You can even rewind further back to the 2016 off-season when the Chicago Bulls traded hometown hero and former MVP Derrick Rose to the pathetic Knicks. Were the Bulls loyal to Rose? Did they wait and give him time to recover or did they get rid of him the minute they believed they had a good deal? Nope. They got rid of him as soon as they could.
For the record, I don’t blame these franchises at all for the decisions they made (except how Sacramento handled the Boogie trade) because business is business and that’s how it should always be. But in the same breath we can’t criticize athletes for making the best decisions for their career when front office’s across the league won’t hesitate to do the same thing for their teams.
Players and teams have to do what’s best for them. For the athletes, fans have to understand that rings will forever be important than loyalty and no matter how much hate they receive for the decisions they’ve made, that will all be cured if they win. Point blank period. Rings will always be greater than everything and no amount of loyalty one shows to a franchise will ever change that.
Fans need to also understand the NBA is a business above everything else and just as player loyalty is a faulty trait so is franchise loyalty to these players. What’s in the best of the team will always trump everything else.
The last point I needed to close out this semi-rant is this, we can’t judge everything a athlete does in their career based off championships and then be angry with them when they do whatever they can to win said championships. Fans, the media, and other athletes need to make up their minds, do rings matter or not? If so, they need to stop crying every time a athlete does what’s in the best interest of their career and stop being so hard on them after every series ending playoff loss. End of discussion.