Durant Exercises Leverage Over Loyalty to Pursue NBA Title
- Updated: July 5, 2016
Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors forming the NBA’s version of The Fantastic Four (The Sporting News Photo)
By MARK F. GRAY
Imagine you had the chance to switch employers at the peak of your career. You’ve been with a franchise for nine years and helped reach its zenith but there’s a glass ceiling. Then another opportunity arises that gives you a better chance to reach your long term goals and if you don’t make the move it could lead to a lifetime of regret.
That’s Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant who just exercised the leverage that the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement provides for his chance to play for another team he thinks gives him a better chance to win a coveted world championship. While fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder feel scorned and some experts feel it was the “weakest move by a superstar” to join a team he just lost to in the western conference finals, Durant’s decision can’t be faulted since it gives him the best chance to win.
This notion that the new era of players who collaborate for greatness represents an absence of loyalty is preposterous. Teams have never been loyal to their players. Did we forget that Michael Jordan made less money in salary than Toni Kukoc prior to his last two years in Chicago despite leading them to six NBA titles in eight years? Remember Jerry Reinsdorf and team president Jerry Krause had the audacity to proclaim, “teams don’t win championships organization’s do”. Since the Jordan Pippen era the Bulls haven’t won a championship so how did that work out?
The Detroit Pistons traded Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre to capitulate to the wishes of Isiah Thomas to ensure his friend from Chicago would get a ring. The Houston Rockets traded Otis Thorpe after helping them win their first championship. By reuniting Clyde Drexler with Hakeem Olajuwon they could finally share a title together.
Organizations are not loyal to players. Most teams are loyal to the next flavor of the month. Younger, cheaper, and greater upside is the mantra that drives the construction of franchises today. The romantic notion that all players with ride off into the sunset having been with the same team for an entire career is over.
Cal Ripken and Kobe Bryant are an anomaly today. Even Dwayne Wade – the only player who was a part of the three Miami championships in 11 years – is headed to the Chicago Bulls after Pat Riley courted Durant and thought he could land him after paying Hassan Whiteside double what Wade was asking for.
Countless players have remained loyal to cities and franchises despite not winning championships. On the set of TNT’s NBA studio show Charles Barkley is flanked by Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith with six championships between them. O’Neal teamed with Bryant to win three for the Lakers and Wade for another in Miami after leaving Orlando. Smith went through Sacramento and Atlanta before landing in Houston for his back to back titles.
Barkley spent the best years of his career in Philadelphia playing for a franchise that was committed to profit margins not winning. After Barkley lost his only appearance in the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns his window of opportunity to win a title closed.
Players are revolutionizing the way championship teams are built. They collude, recruit, sign massive free agent deals during the off season, work through training camp, and already have chemistry by the trade deadline so barring injury there’s no need to make any moves to jump start a late season championship run.
Teaming with three other all-stars doesn’t guarantee Durant will win an NBA championship with Golden State. It does, however, tip the scales of power in his direction. For players its leverage over loyalty, with good reason, if they want to win it all in today’s NBA.