Basketball is a business. Yes, fans watch games as a source of entertainment and fun. At the end of the day, though, playing it and running an organization are jobs, not hobbies, for the athletes and team personnel involved.
Loyalty is a nice sentiment, but is it always sensible? That is a crucial questions players have to ask themselves when determining whether or not to stay with their current team.
We were posed the question, is it wrong to expect loyalty from a player? Let’s explore.
Is it understandable why people expect loyalty? Of course fans would like to see their favorite players stick with their team, especially if it is one that gave them a shot or made special accommodations on a contract. Is it wrong for a player to leave a team? No.
There is a reason why so few players around the NBA have played for just one team their entire careers. Over the course of the seasons they are sought after by other teams, and they do their own exploring during free agency. At the end of the day, both sides are looking to put themselves in the best position to win. Neither can be faulted for that.
When an organization trades away a long-time member, the player (in most cases) feels a sting, but ultimately understands that nature of the business. Yet when a player chooses to leave in free agency, they are often met with criticism and jeers of disloyalty. It is called “free” agency for a reason, after all.
The question of loyalty became a hot-button topic when LeBron James participated in the public image debacle known as “The Decision.” He had every right to take this talents wherever he wanted, but the manner in which he announced he was leaving his hometown team was received as a slap in the face by the Cleveland Cavaliers faithful. Was it poorly delivered? Yes. Was he obligated to stay with the Cavs? No.
Two years later, Ray Allen caused similar outrage in Boston when he also chose to sign with the Miami Heat. At the time, the Celitcs and HEAT were Eastern Conference Rivals, one “Big Three” against another. During Allen’s tenure with the Celtics, he was part of trade talks and was eventually moved to the bench. Even though the Cs offered him more money than the HEAT, he saw the change as a better opportunity for himself. Allen was a free agent, he had the right to choose, and so he left. Last season, he helped Miami win the championship.
Whether it is a future Hall of Famer, a starter or the last man off the bench, every player in the NBA has to right to choose where they want to play as a free agent. Sometimes they make their decision based on winning potential, other times it’s for money, and there are several other circumstances that can be applied to different situations.
As long as they are loyal to their team while they are wearing the uniform, that’s all that should be expected.
– Jessica Camerato