In the age of player empowerment, it’s rare to see a star stick around with a franchise that has been unable to find postseason success. From LeBron James to Kevin DUranr and James Harden, it seems every superstar nowadays is bailing on their club to pursue the easy path to a title.
But for a select few, that includes Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, loyalty trumps the temptation to team up with other stars. In a story on the Athletic, the thought process behind the loyalty of Lillard and Beal was revealed, highlighting what exactly it is that makes the stars stick around with their small-market teams.
“Dame and I, we’ve kind of built a relationship,” Beal said.
It is not uncommon for stars to communicate in the NBA, but the nature of this dialogue between Beal and Lillard, who will both participate in Sunday’s All-Star Game, was special. Beal was not looking to force his way out of Washington. And he was not looking to form a super-team alliance with Lillard.
So when they connected on the phone, Beal had a simple question.
“Why did he stick through it?” Beal remembers asking.
Lillard’s answer was rooted in his core values, which happened to speak to the same qualities that Beal held dear. As they talked, they discovered they were drawn to the community of a city more than the nightlife or weather. They found they valued building something rather than instant gratification. And loyalty was more than just a word, it was feeling.
“He was another guy where people were like, ‘He has to get out of Washington, and he has to do this and he has to do that …’ and I have people say that about me all the time,” Lillard said. “And I think we share that same mentality, where it’s like … No. It’s nothing against people who decide to team up and all that stuff. It’s just, this is the route we choose. This is the route we want to go. This is what means something to us. And I think we connect on that.’’
Loyalty seems to be a value that is losing importance in the sports world. All too often, we’ll see players break away from their clubs in search of greener pastures, and the results vary.
In the case of Lillard and Beal, however, bringing a title to their “home” franchise means something, and they’re not nearly as willing to betray their franchise for the sake of winning an “easy” title.
The city, the people, the principle — those things matter to Dame and Beal, and it’s a virtue that is dying out as time goes by.
As teaming up to wing rings becomes more and more common, it’s really a special and rare treat when we get to see a star stick around in a small market to beat the odds and win a Chip on their own. Of course, the question is, can either Dame of Beal win a Championship with their current clubs?
That much remains to be seen, but their effort and commitment has got to count for something.