“This fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat” – a sentence that became the blueprint for every NBA player who decides to take control over his career and do what’s best for him. That July 8, 2010, will forever be remembered as a turning point for players. The day when they were empowered to do what they want to do by the hand of LeBron James.
When you think about it, it doesn’t sound that revolutionary. Individuals doing what’s best for him; isn’t that something that goes without saying? Before “The Decision,” it wasn’t like that in the NBA. It was always about the business, and it’s like that to this day. However, the relationships in the league were much more hierarchical. You had your millionaire owner at the top of the pyramid, and players and all the staff below him. It was you do what I say the type of balance. Or imbalance.
James has to get a lot of credit for getting the power to players’ hands. Many free-agent moves that happened after 2010 wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for James. And they’re many which were considered controversial, most recently, Kevin Durant‘s move to Golden State. The general public perception about it is that it was a coward’s move. However, not everyone shares that stance. JJ Redick described it as a great decision, but the one that never should’ve happened.
“First of all, about the shift in the balance of the league. We should have smooth the cap. That once in a generation bump in cap space, which made it possible for the Warriors to sign KD in the first place, should have never happened. Having said that, I’m a fan of it because I think too many players who want to please everyone. I like seeing a player ultimately do what he wants to do and what is going to make him happy, even if he pisses a bunch of people off.”JJ Redick, Pardon My Take
This is coming from an established NBA veteran, which adds some value to it. Especially from someone who also decided to take control of his NBA career. JJ doesn’t fit the scheme of a want to please everyone type of NBA player, which he is referring to. And he makes a valid point. It should primarily be about you because you are the one who put in an enormous effort to get on the biggest basketball stage in the world. And you are the one who has a limited window of opportunity to make the best of it.
Financially, personally, basketball-wise, whatever you prioritize. It’s just important to put yourself first. Your decision will face some backlash. And that will always happen, no matter what you do. It’s impossible to please everyone. It’s in people’s nature to criticize, and that will never change, so make sure that the ones who are essential to you approve your decision. And that’s what Kevin Durant an all these players did; they did what was at the time best for them.
“I get the fan side of the anger. He signed with the best team in basketball and created a super team, a cheat code, whatever you want to call it. I get that. But I also think some of the backlashes is because I think there’s a negative sort of feeling towards player autonomy and players having control of their destiny. The underlying reason behind all this anger is like a player having control over his career.”JJ Redick, Pardon My Take
That seems to be the elephant in the room around the league. It feels like what JJ is saying is right. But it also appears that there isn’t enough backlash towards organizations, because let’s face it – loyalty is a myth in the NBA, and there are countless examples of it. From Clipper 4 life Blake Griffin getting traded to the Detroit Pistons to Demar Derozan, who had every opportunity to go back home and sign with the Lakers but decided to stay up north, just to get traded two summers after. No questions asked.
We are all aware that the NBA is primarily business, but it seems that there is vast hypocrisy surrounding players and their owners. Some would say that at the end of the day, players are employees, and a particular hierarchy has to be respected. But the NBA is specific. It’s all about the players. There are the reasons people fill the stands; they are the ones on whose merchandise people spend money. It’s a relationship where on paper, owners are players’ superiors. In reality, players are a cornerstone of their businesses. It’s not your typical business relationship in which the employe can be easily replaceable. When you’re talking about best basketball players in the world category, there aren’t many players who are on the elite level in terms of basketball skill, but also in terms of their potential as a business asset.
I’m not saying that players are above owners, nor that they should be. But when you consider the importance for the business of them both, it only seems fair to give them the same amount of power. Because there aren’t players without owners and vice versa. It’s a relationship where both depend on each other. With the same amount of power comes the same amount of responsibility; that’s my point all along. If players are facing backlash for their free-agency decisions, the teams should face them too. It doesn’t seem fair the way it is. It’s hard to require loyalty from players when teams aren’t showing one. The standard for both should be the same. It may be that players’ loyalty has disappeared, but it sure seems that there was never one shown by the teams. And that’s what we have to have in mind when criticizing players’ decisions. Or at least keep the same energy when discussing the ones made by the teams.