Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty. Kendrick Lamar said it best. Is there a price on loyalty? Is it something intangible or not? Maybe it is something so humanly innate that we automatically attach it to the first sign of affection and completely give ourselves to that idea. According to Merriam Webster, loyalty is defined as an unswerving allegiance to one’s unlawful sovereign or government, to a private person to whom faithfulness is due, or to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product.
The NBA deadline is February 8, which, for all intents and purposes, is the halfway mark for the long, enduring season. Team rosters have already built trust and relationships with one another, especially throughout training camp, which starts in the middle of summer. There have been long-term commitments to franchises and the business has promised commitment to the players as well. The double standard is that once a player feels that he needs to move on from a franchise to look for success, they are considered disloyal, but once the franchise and the front office say that they need a makeover of the team’s roster and trade a fan favorite, it’s considered business.
Once the fans get involved they target the player as a villain or as someone who has personally betrayed them. This is unfair to the player because they feel as if, during their tenure with that team, they have given everything to the game and to that city. If a player is the face of the franchise, they, as well as the fans, expect them to be there for the long-run.
For example, Kevin Durant played for the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise (before 2008 it was the Seattle Supersonics) for the first 11 years of his career, and Durant has given himself completely to that franchise on and off the court. While tornadoes ravaged through the streets of Oklahoma City - damages were unfathomable to the people who lived it - Durant personally helped the people tormented by this natural disaster and spent time and money to help them.
During Durant’s first game back as a member of another team, he was showered with boos and signs that called him ‘cupcake’ due to their perception of Durant being ‘soft.’ Of course, Durant was expecting it, but not for it to last this long. Durant went to the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016, a whole season has passed and still the NBA media is discussing it and trying to underline this story, trying to exploit Durant and his emotions for headlines.
Players feel more betrayed by the fans and the franchise when it’s time to make that move because they do not have a say in whether they are being moved somewhere else, unless they are unrestricted free agents. When LeBron James made “The Decision” it was something that all of Cleveland felt.
There is a sense of entitlement within the fans, thinking that they have some sort of minority ownership on the team, and once a player feels like he needs a change of scenery, the fans are up-in-arms about it. Fans should be more appreciative and supportive to players who have given a lot to the city that drafted them. Players do a lot more off the court than some people may think.
From organizing charities and hosting community events, players are versatile in their way of giving back. Isaiah Thomas, now a Los Angeles Laker, was a Boston Celtic and a fan favorite throughout the city and the New England area. Thomas played a day after his sister’s death for the Celtics during the playoffs and lost a tooth for them during the same post-season. Thomas gave his heart and soul to that city and to the team, but during the summer of 2017 Thomas was traded from the Celtics to the Cavaliers in what was the biggest blockbuster trade of the off season. Everyone, including Thomas, was shocked.
This isn’t to say that some franchises do not appreciate the work that players put into their team and city. For example, when Kyrie Irving said that he wanted to be traded out of Cleveland, the fans had no choice but to appreciate what he did for that franchise and city.
When Irving first returned to Cleveland for the first match-up, the fans provided a standing ovation and cheered him on when he was initially introduced. There is a level of professionalism that the fans also must show. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is not the case and people need to become aware that their actions and words effect the player in a certain way.
Regardless of having thick-skin, players just want to be liked and want fans to be happy and celebrate the individual player. Players cannot keep everyone happy, eventually there is someone that they are letting down, but these players just need less scrutiny for doing something that will benefit them as a basketball player and as an individual. In the words of the famous French author, Albert Camus, “I used to advertise my loyalty and I don’t believe there is a single person I loved that I didn’t eventually betray.”
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