Just ask Kevin Durant—some NBA fans demand loyalty from their favorite teams’ stars. And if those players don’t show that loyalty? Well, you’d better have your fire extinguisher ready.
And yet, when a franchise fails to return that loyalty, in the form of, oh, I dunno, promising said player that the team would like to see them play out their career with the franchise, only to turn around and trade that player to, let’s just say, the Detroit hellscape only months later?
Crickets. Almost no words of vitriol for a franchise that’s necessarily blessed with more money than God.
For whatever reason, teams can ditch players when it’s convenient for them, but players can’t ditch teams for the same reason.
Someone all too familiar with this double standard? LeBron James, who was treated with pure hostility in his first game as a visitor to the Cleveland Cavaliers following his joining the Miami Heat, only to be welcomed with eager arms four years later.
“When a player gets traded, it’s they was doing what’s best for the franchise,” LeBron said on Tuesday when asked about Monday’s Blake Griffin trade. “But when a player decides to leave, it’s, ‘He’s not loyal. He’s a snake. He’s not committed.’ It’s just, that’s the narrative of how it goes. So I’m definitely (aware). I know that firsthand.”
LeBron added: “He spent his last nine years there. He signed a multi-year deal there this summer, so that’s unfortunate. But that’s the business side of it. It’s both sides. It works both sides, though. It’s the business.”
The Cavaliers star could help his franchise greatly by letting them know what he plans on doing this summer—if he’s leaving via free agency, they’d likely deal their short-term assets to contribute to a rebuild; if he’s staying, they could use the valuable Brooklyn Nets pick they own to improve their chances of a title this year.
But maybe LeBron doesn’t know what he wants yet. He won’t know how attractive the future of the Cavs will be until this summer, and he won’t know the same of prospective destinations until then either.
He’s more than earned the right to wait and see what’s best for him, and he doesn’t owe the Cavaliers anything.