Kevin Durant may be perceived by the majority of the NBA as somewhat of a villain. He left the team that drafted him in a critical time for the franchise, and instead decided to join forces with one of the best teams ever assembled on the NBA stage.
And he had every right to do it.
In the NBA today, people constantly debate about how important “loyalty” is and how players should be looking to build something special with the team they are currently a part of. However, there is an obvious double standard that leaves numerous players and fans befuddled: How is it that a player has to be loyal to the bone to the team, but the team can trade said player and change their lives in a matter of seconds?
Take the perfect example, which still hurts me to my very core, of Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas was everything that Boston was looking for after the departure of The Big Three. He was a leader, who had been counted out his entire life and wanted to grow and be part of something special right here in the city of Boston. He sacrificed, he recruited, and he played every game as if he was carrying the city on his back.
Not only that, but he won. He carried Boston to three consecutive years of playoffs, starting in 2014, and even convinced Al Horford to join the Celtics as he raved about the city and the fans.
He did everything right, and yet still he was traded away. After everything he did for the city, the player still had no say and was forced to accept that “It’s just a business.”
In a very emotional letter that Isaiah Thomas wrote in The Player’s Tribune, Thomas commented on the hypocrisy and double standard that teams and players have when it comes to “loyalty”.
“I actually think this was a good lesson. Not only for me, but for the league as a whole” Isaiah wrote. “And for the fans and the media, too, you know, just in terms of how they talk about guys changing teams. I was thinking about that last year with KD and his free agency — about how people gave him such a hard time for doing what he felt was best for him and his future. How they turned him into a villain, just for doing what was his right to do as a free agent in this league. Suddenly, it was, “Oh, he’s selfish,” or, “Oh, he’s a coward.” Suddenly, just for doing business on his end, and doing right by himself, he was portrayed as this bad guy.”
And now we can all come back to the man that forced the league to face one of their biggest challenges in recent memory: Kevin Durant.
He left a situation, which he felt was not the best in order to achieve his ultimate goal of winning a championship, and used what little power he had to better position himself for the future. Was it tough? Of Course. Will he miss the people of Oklahoma City and those who helped him in that facet of his life? No Doubt. But HOW is it different than a team trading a player?
Numerous people called him out with cries of “coward” and “traitor”, claiming it wasn’t right what he was doing to the team that drafted him years ago. But Colin Cowherd made an excellent point in pointing out that players and teams both have decisions to make, and not everyone is going to like the decision, but ultimately everyone has to respect and really understand why that party, whether it be team or player, decided it was time for a change.
Kevin Durant’s decision was his choice and his choice only. There came a time when his “contract” was up and he had every right to choose where he wanted to go, regardless of what kind of money he could get if he stayed with his team. Both these cases are a warning to players and teams alike.
To the players: You have power. You have decisions to make. If you feel you can get something from a different organization that your current one cannot offer, leave and don’t look back. At the end of the day, people are going to have to accept your decision because there’s nothing they can do about it.
To the teams, GM’s and Owners: The world is beginning to understand the double standard that you have been playing for years since the game changed. Understand that there will now be backlash, with numerous noteworthy players such as Ray Allen and Isaiah Thomas speaking out about trades just like this.
A real reaction from a very real professional in Isaiah Thomas, who should rock you to your very core:
“At the same time, though, people gotta understand. Like, even with all of this being said … man … it still hurt. It still hurt bad. And I hope people can understand that when I say it hurt, it isn’t directed at anyone. I’m not saying I was hurt by anyone, or wronged by anyone, or betrayed. I’m just saying, man, I’m only human.
And so when I say this hurts, man — just know that it isn’t because of anything anyone else did. It’s only because of something I did.
I fell in love with Boston.”