On July 8 th , 2010 Lebron James shocked the NBA world with “The Decision.” This
was the first time that a player of his caliber decided to leave the team that drafted
him in free agency. This moment wasn’t only big in terms of Lebron’s career but
every NBA star to come after. After his decision Lebron James was the most hated
man on earth. Fans felt betrayed and others while others felt like he had sold out.
That’s how NBA executives would like you to think, but Lebron’s stance was he
was doing what was best for his business. Who was right and who was wrong?
For as long the NBA has been operation trading and free agency has been as part
as the game as any rule. The franchises cut and trade players whenever they feel
because it is best for business. Do the players get any say in the matter? Obviously
not when a player signs a contract he is at the mercy of the team until they are free
agents again. Whenever the team feels a player hasn’t lived up to their contracts or
has gotten too old, they choose to move them. Somehow along the way the
franchises have brainwashed the fans to believe they will always do the best for the
team and if the player doesn’t go with the flow, he is a malcontent. For example,
the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000’s won three championships in four years
while also making another finals appearance. Shaquille O’Neal was a major factor
in that, and you would think with that type of success he would be a Laker for life.
But in the summer of 2004 the Lakers organization felt that trading him away to
the Miami Heat would be best for the franchise. No fan has ever criticized the
franchise for just trading their three-time finals MVP. See how it is a one-way
door? When Lebron James made his decision, he decided to buck the trend and
took his career into his own hands. He felt his team the Cleveland Cavaliers wasn’t
doing their part for him to succeed at a high level. Lebron James didn’t do a single
thing wrong with his decision to play for the Miami Heat. He didn’t want to sign a
long-term contract with a franchise that holds his career in their hands. Of course,
every owner in league was irate because Lebron James has opened pandora’s box
and there was no going back. The NBA which has always been a superstar driven
league has had a full power shift and it was all with the players. Lebron gave all
the players the confidence and power to decide where they want to play. It doesn’t
just stop with free agent signings, but superstars demanding trades for not only
themselves but other players they want to team up with.
You would think with all that I am completely on the player’s sides when it comes
to this shift. While this isn’t all the way false, I do think some lines will need to be
made in the sand. To start I am no way condemning the choices grown make to
change not only their lives but their families. But when it comes to comparing
players of the past to now you have to use many caveats. Lebron James is widely
regarded as the best player of his generation and some would argue he is the
greatest of all time. I argue that how can say somebody like Lebron who had all the
best conditions for winning can be better than Michael Jordan? Michael Jordan
didn’t switch teams when he obviously could have and held any franchise hostage.
Even though the rules were lopsided in management’s favor Michael went on to
win six rings in six tries. Can you imagine MJ switching teams at the peak of his
prime? This isn’t a Jordan versus James article, but I just want you to have context.
I am also against players signing short term contracts and forcing franchises to
cater to their every whim, but as soon as things go south they are out. A key
example is James Harden forcing his way out Houston. He signed a long-term
contract and had two years left. The Houston Rockets did everything in their power
to keep Harden happy. Whether it was trading away multiple picks for people he
requested or ending up in cap hell when they didn’t work out. This summer James
Harden decided with no first-round draft picks for the next couple of years and no
cap room to sign a big name he was out. I feel this is completely unfair to
franchises because what are the supposed to do? If you don’t cater to them your
star player will demand to leave or you waste your future and the star still decide to
leave. This is just a small insight into the never-ending battle of players versus
management. I am not solely on one side because every case is different. I just
wanted to inform you to look into things deeper than what the media portrays.