Don't judge pro athletes for leaving

Posted

With the NBA season’s start underway, basketball fans like myself are unfortunately reminded that we are more than likely going to see a fourth straight year of a Cavaliers-Warriors finals matchup.

I don’t like it, I think it kills any interest in the NBA regular season and a majority of its postseason until the finals actually arrives and until the Warriors break up, that won’t change. I also don’t blame Kevin Durant at all for turning Golden State into this unbeatable powerhouse. 

I’ve seen him called a traitor, a coward, gutless and some other things I can’t run in print. The thing is he’s not a bad person, he’s not a coward and he didn’t do the wrong thing. He made a decision that benefitted him for the better in almost every way.

Did it ruin the fun of basketball for me and many other fans? Yes. Is it his responsibility to make sacrifices to ensure I’m as unaffected as possible? Of course not. We oftentimes forget that star athletes are actually humans with human interests just like we are.

Imagine if there was a software developer who worked in Oklahoma City. He’s the best at his company and because no one is as good as he is there, his company can’t stand out among the others. He wants to make just as much money, if not a little less, for more success and therefore more career opportunities. 

He gets a call from a top software company in San Francisco and they’re offering him a position there. Would you expect him to say, “Tempting but I’m going to stick with the company I got my start with despite its inability to go as far as I want to go,”?

For some reason, we expect this fierce loyalty from our athletes that when you actually go back and look at it, the expectation for that is largely baseless. Players don’t get to choose where they go when they enter in the league. 

Sometimes it works out well like LeBron being drafted to his childhood team or J.J. Watt falling in love with Houston but more often than not, players are tapping their foot and checking their watches for free agency. 

That anticipation is largely financially-based, admittedly, but another part of it is they get to choose where they play. Why should they be loyal to a place that was essentially forced onto them?

Even more so, we expect players to be loyal to teams like the Celtics who traded Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers after Thomas famously played, and won, a playoff game just days after his sister died. Yet no one called the Celtics cowards, traitors or gutless.

So why do we expect this type of loyalty from players? Because we fans are a selfish breed. It’s understandable and I am not saying we are bad people for it. Of course we want our teams and overall experience to be at its very best and having one super team ruins that.

Now you might be mad that I called you selfish because no one likes to be called that but let’s take a moment of self-reflection. It’s likely that many around here are Rockets fans and are likely excited about the offseason acquisition of Chris Paul.

Yet I haven’t heard anyone call him any names. He did the same thing as Durant did essentially, though. He recognized that his current team, the Clippers, weren’t destined for a title so he jumped to a team he knew would give him a better shot at a title.

No one called him that here because they were happy he was coming to their team. 

Durant isn’t a bad person just because he ruined the entertainment of not knowing who will more than likely win the NBA. It was a selfish decision but it was the right one and when applied to any other profession, one that virtually everyone else will do.

We use excuses like team loyalty and unspoken rules of not joining the ones that beat you to mask our own anger at the way the athlete chose themselves over us. My question is: why should they?

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