Although sometimes it is easy to forget, the NBA is a business. Teams are constantly trying to jockey for position in the playoff race and can make moves that are not too popular.
Player loyalty has been a hot topic for discussion these last few years, with high-profile players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James taking matters into their own hands and leaving the teams that raised them for places with a brighter future. This has caused many to claim that the players in the NBA are disloyal and care only about themselves, but is that such a bad thing?
Toronto Raptors' superstar, DeMar DeRozan was traded to the San Antonio Spurs. This comes only two years after Derozan resigned with Toronto after being heavily pursued by the LA Lakers – his hometown – in free agency. He claimed to know he was always going to be a Raptor, and built his family their, as well as building a strong relationship with fellow all-star guard Kyle Lowry. He was loyal to a fault, believing that Toronto would never trade him as he was the cornerstone that their last few years of success was built upon.
Now he is a Spur against his will, traded for what will probably amount to a rented year of Kawhi Leonard and an aging Danny Green.
NBA players being loyal to their teams and then getting stabbed in the back is not something new. Take a look at these 5 other loyal players who were traded against their will:
A more recent example of loyalty being overrated, Griffin’s trade to Detroit in 2018 was a comedic experience. Before the season, Griffin was a free agent and agreed to re-sign with the Clippers for a massive 5-year, 171$ million deal after the management compared him resigning to the likes of Gandhi and MLK. They even held a mock jersey retirement ceremony in Staples Arena to convince him to stay, saying he would be a Clipper for life and the best in franchise history.
Just 5 months later and he was traded to Detroit for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Boban Marjanovic. That must be a record for the quickest change of heart in a franchise in the history of the NBA, although Isaiah Thomas getting traded from the Celtics would be a close second.
After bouncing around from team to team in the first few years of his career due to his small stature, Isaiah Thomas seemed to find a home in Boston in the 2014-2015 season. The next few years he became an All-Star and helped revive the Boston franchise, culminating in the 2016-2017 season where he averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists and lead the Boston Celtics to the No. 1 Eastern Conference seed.
He then duked it out in the playoffs, playing through missing teeth and even his sister’s passing to get to the Eastern Conference finals where he succumbed to LeBron and the Cavs. He bled green and thought he would be a Celtic for life. Then he was gone, traded for an unhappy Kyrie Irving to Cleveland.
Boston GM Danny Ainge, famous for his willingness to trade anyone for the greater good of the team, traded IT due to his hip injury he received in the playoffs and because he saw more potential in the younger Irving, getting rid of Boston’s most loyal player since Paul Pierce.
Paul Pierce was drafted by the Celtics and thought he would stay a Celtic for his whole career. He played 15 years for Boston, many of which he was the lone bright spot on an abysmal team. He was loyal through the bad years, and when the Celtics finally traded for fellow All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Pierce led them to their first NBA Championship in 21 years in 2008.
He was an All-Star selection the following 3 years and competed for NBA Championships through all of them. Then Ainge decided it was time to dispose of the old players in a shocking trade to the Brooklyn Nets.
True, the trade – which centered around Pierce and Garnett for a lot of future picks – ended up being the main factor in why the Boston Celtics are the Eastern Conference Powerhouse today, but it showed that Paul Pierce’s loyalty did not mean a lot.
The Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman, Scottie Pippen played 11 seasons for the Chicago Bulls. After being drafted in 1987, he quickly became the No. 2 option behind Michael Jordan, helping to lead the Chicago Bulls to 6 Championships. He was a perennial All-Star and defensive leader on arguably the most dominant team in NBA history.
But then Jordan retired, and Pippen got a little bit older, and he was seen as more valuable as a trade asset than as a member of the team. In 1998 he was traded to the Houston Rockets for, get this, Roy Rodgers and Jake Voskuhl. Those are not exactly household names of even the more intense NBA fan. Pippen did not like this trade and left the Rockets after one year there, in which he only played 50 games.
The Dream was the standard for the standard for class and loyalty in his era of the NBA. After only playing basketball for a few years, he was the No. 1 pick in the 1984 NBA draft – ahead of even Michael Jordan – and lead the Rockets to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995.
A dominant post player and the face of the franchise, Olajuwon was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end and a ballerina with the strength of a bull in the post on offense, using his incredible footwork, unworldly athleticism, and soft touch to average 22.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.2blocks during his time in Houston.
Then before his final season in the NBA, the Rockets decided that his usefulness was up, trading him to the struggling Toronto Raptors for 2 future draft picks. Hakeem’s trade to Toronto showed that even the best – in this case, a unanimous top-15 player of all time – can be thrown away in the name of business in the NBA.