Loyalty is Dead

Loyalty is Dead

Boston Celtics’ Handling of Isaiah Thomas Proves Loyalty is Nonexistent

Sports is the most public private industry in the world of business, but at its very core, it is exactly that – a business.

And what is a business really?

It boils down to something very simplistic – it’s about making money. In sports, specifically the NBA, it is no different. It is all about making money, generating revenue, and ultimately winning on and off the court. So when the boss drops the keys to the roster in the lap of the general manager and the front office, winning is not an option. Success is not an option. It is a requirement.

In a billion dollar industry like the NBA, when the only option is to win, everything else is thrown out the window. Everything including morality and in the present case – loyalty.

For NBA lifers from the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, all the way down to Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki, loyalty is a code of honour for superstars. Reggie Miller could have played in a bigger market and quite possibly could have won a ring, but remained in Indiana for the duration of his career. Charles Barkley in his prime years could have gone to Chicago to form a superteam with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but instead led his Phoenix Suns team throughout his prime.

While an unwritten code of honour, loyalty is not reality, and in the real world, it doesn’t exist. Loyalty is a facade. It keeps the fans happy, the NBA legends and media silent, and provides the aura that player is the face of a franchise and being that face, he can never leave until his job of winning a title is complete. It is honourable and leaving the franchise after lack of success is nothing more than running away from failure.

So when LeBron James left Cleveland for greener pastures in Miami, he was butchered. His jerseys were burned, a letter was penned by an NBA owner slamming James as a person, and media and past NBA players alike bashed James for his decision. Kevin Durant faced very similar backlash. So to did Paul George.

It will not stop at this age. Loyalty in the NBA is like muscle memory. It is engrained in the league’s culture, in the inner fabrics of how the NBA operates, but again, it is a fake reality.

James found his greatest career success in Miami. He grew as a player, he grew as an individual, he grew his brand astronomically. Now it appears as though he is set to leave Cleveland for a second time when really, coming back may have been the bigger mistake for his brand.

As for Durant? He left a situation which he clearly could no longer handle in Oklahoma City and found happiness and a championship in Golden State.

Over the past decade, the two biggest stars in the NBA have been Durant and James and both man abandoned loyalty in an effort of finding something they felt they were missing in location A. 

NBA players are people and like normal human beings, there are many things that matter outside of the cliche term that is loyalty. Happiness, family, business success, relationships, organizational atmosphere. One would assume that both Durant and James believe they made the right choice when they moved. They place ‘loyalty’ on the back burner and did exactly what they were supposed to do – the best thing for themselves.

When slamming professional athletes, very few people stop to think, hey, what if these guys are doing what they think is best for themselves? What if this move makes them most content?

Loyalty is dead and thanks to the Boston Celtics front office, it was proven that it can go both ways.

Because this is sports, it’s business, and above all it’s life, and in life, people will always do what they thing is best for themselves. You cannot fault them for it. It could be cutthroat, but unfortunately, c’est la vie.

Isaiah Thomas lost his sister due to a car accident just a few days before a playoff game. Thomas still came out and played for the Boston Celtics organization. Isaiah Thomas had extensive dental surgery a few days before a playoff game. Thomas still came out and played for the Boston Celtics organization. Isaiah Thomas attended the burial of his sister a few days before a playoff game. Thomas still came out and played for the Boston Celtics organization.

The summer after Thomas led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a package deal for another point guard in Kyrie Irving.

A player who underwent so much and still gave the organization so much ended up getting shoved out the back door and stabbed in the back. A one way ticket out of town for all of his extraordinary efforts.

Now, while on the surface, you can say the Cavaliers won the trade, there are a few layers to the deal.

Isaiah Thomas is 5’6” and is 28-years of age entering the final year of his contract. With all eyes on LeBron James heading into this next season, it’s highly possible that James can be looking elsewhere following this upcoming season, meaning the chances of any team reaching the Finals this season are slim. Kyrie Irving is younger than Thomas and still has an additional year on his contact, whereas Thomas has stated time and time again that he wants max-money.

Going back to his lack of size, Thomas will be 30 during the first year of a five-year maximum deal. A guy who cannot play a lick of defense, and at his size will more than likely break down far quicker than the typical NBA player. Making an expensive, long term investment in Thomas may not only strap the Celtics financially, but can also stall them from making any progress with Gordon Hayward now in the fold.

So from a managerial standpoint, it was a smart deal, but from a human viewpoint, it appears heartless – but it’s business. Winning matters most, human emotion comes in last. Always will. It’s plain business.

Too many unwritten rules have tarnished the names of athletes, this thing called loyalty is up on the list, and clearly it goes both ways.


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