Many NBA players in history have ditched their hometown team and the beloved fan base to go chase a championship with another team. This hurts the fan base and many fans will never forgive the player unless you’re LeBron.
So, let’s look at the Top 10 Biggest NBA Betrayals.
10. Karl Malone
And how can you forget The Mail Man? Karl went ring chasing and left his team, the Utah Jazz, in the dust as he went off to get a ring with Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neil. After 18 solid seasons with the Jazz, Malone wanted the one thing that was missing in his career: a ring. And there’s not a successful conclusion to the story for Malone. He did not win a championship and ended up leaving the Lakers because of injuries and personal issues with Kobe Bryant (surprising?).
This betrayal is probably the least hurtful to all the parties involved because Malone was old and the Jazz were amid trying to rebuild. It was probably helpful to the Jazz organization that Karl decided to move along to Hollywood. The people that were really hurt by this move were the die-hard Jazz fans that would eventually get over it.
9. Carmelo Anthony
Anthony could not have betrayed the Nuggets in a worse fashion than he did. Melo decided it was time for him to leave Denver, which is an understandable stance seeing that the Nuggets were not going to win a championship anytime soon. But, the way that Melo approached the situation could have been handled better in hindsight. Not only did Anthony make as much noise as possible about wanting to leave the Nuggets, he basically forced Denver to trade him. This was tough for Denver because parting with your only superstar on the team is going to be a rough transition for the future. And that statement proved to be correct. Melo did not want to sign an extension and made his intentions clear that he would leave after the season end.
So, Denver cut its losses and decided that getting something for Melo was better than receiving nothing. The fans and the organization felt betrayed by Melo. But what can you do when a superstar find the appeal of a big city, such as Los Angeles or New York, over Denver?
8. Jason Kidd
Oh boy. This one might be too much for Mark Cuban to handle. After the Championship win in 2011, Jason Kidd told Cuban that he would play for two more years and then take over a front office spot. Sounds reasonable, right? Whether it be fate, karma, or God cursing Cuban, Kidd decided to sign with the Knicks in the same afternoon after he already agreed to sign with the Mavs. The real kicker here is that he signed in New York for the same number of years, and for the same exact amount of money (3 years, $9.3 million).
Cuban was beyond mad with Kidd at that point. He was even quoted as saying, “I’m sure I’ll get over it at some point, but as of now, I wouldn’t put J. Kidd’s number in the rafters.” That is a strong statement considering what Kidd meant to the Mavericks organization. Kidd betrayed Mark Cuban more than his teammates in this scenario because whether he meant to or not, Jason really stuck it to the man.
7. DeAndre Jordan
Jordan’s decision to ditch the Mavericks to go back to the Clippers did not have as big of an impact as LeBron’s, but DeAndre betrayed the Mavericks, and he was not even a member of their team! During the 2015 offseason, the Mavericks let Tyson Chandler walk. So, the next train of thought was for them to go after the big dog: DeAndre Jordan. Jordan seemed to enjoy the talks that he had with Mark Cuban and the Mavericks so he verbally agreed to sign a four-year $80 million plus max contract.
The Clippers were frantic to retain Jordan. One night most of Jordan’s teammates came to his house for a meeting to try and convince Jordan to stay in Los Angeles. Even the owner, Steve Ballmer, tried to convince him. And ultimately, it worked. Jordan ended up signing a four-year $88 million max contract with the Clippers. Jordan betrayed Mark Cuban and frankly he was smart to do so. Jordan has a better chance to win a championship with the Clippers anyway. But, Jordan made the 2015 offseason another failed offseason for the Mavericks.
6. Carlos Boozer
Boozer has an interesting history in the NBA. He was a two-time NBA All-Star, never an NBA champion, and certainly will not be a hall-of-famer. So why did I place him on this list? Because the way he betrayed the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2004 offseason was such a spectacular mess it needed to be on this list. Boozer was getting along nicely with LeBron and the two looked as if they would be able to make their way to the finals. Because of this, the Cavs wanted to give Boozer a nice boost in his pay to make him stay. So, the Cavs let Boozer opt out of his contract and become a restricted free agent. The Cavs offered him a six-year $39 million-dollar contract and that was a number that was appealing to both sides. But the Utah Jazz then decided to come in and scoop him up with a six-year $70 million-dollar contract that he agreed to.
The Cavs could not match that offer because of other salary cap considerations, so they had to let Boozer walk. The Cavs owner at the time, Gordon Gund, is quoted as saying, “In the final analysis, I decided to trust Carlos and show him the respect he asked for. He did not show that trust and respect in return.” Boozer rejects that comment from Gund stating that “There was no commitment.” There are still some harsh feelings between Boozer and the Cleveland Cavaliers management.
5. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard betrayed two different teams in two consecutive seasons. First, he betrayed Orlando because of all the rumors that came out about Dwight trying to have his coach, at the time Stan Van Gundy, to be fired. Those kinds of rumors do not look good for a player and especially not the face of the franchise. Then to make matters worse for Howard, he asked to be traded. Dwight could not have screwed himself over any worse than he did. Not only did he make himself look like a fool by asking management to fire the coach that had guided them to their second finals in team history but also asked to be traded.
So, Howard was dealt to the Lakers in a four-team trade. Dwight then left the Lakers a year later because of his apparent beef with Kobe Bryant. There were two major factors for Dwight to leave the Lakers in my opinion: Money and No Kobe Bryant. Dwight makes this list for his blatant betrayal of two teams.
4. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq played center in the league, and he is arguably the best center to ever touch a basketball. Shaq was drafted 1st overall to the Orlando Magic in the 1992 draft. Shaq spent four years in Orlando and brought them to the finals in the ’94-’95 season, but the Magic were swept in four games by the Houston Rockets and the future hall-of-famers, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. So, Shaq decided to leave the Magic after the ’95 season, with good reason.
The Magic were not willing to pay Shaq the money that he deserved and Shaq felt betrayed by the city. But the Magic were then left empty handed because Shaq left in the ’96 offseason and the Magic did not recover until the arrival of Dwight Howard.
3. Clay Bennett
The Oklahoma City Thunder were formerly the Seattle Supersonics. The Supersonics were in located in Seattle for 41 seasons and the owner, Clay Bennett felt like it was time for a change. The great franchise that had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp is now withdrawing themselves from Seattle to move to Oklahoma City. Any team that has an established fan base is bound to receive hatred from the fans if they decided to move to another city. There is no good ending for the fans of Seattle in this.
In the end, it was a business decision for Clay Bennett and he felt it was in the best interest of the team to move. Business or not, this move by Bennett stings if you were a fan of the Supersonics.
2. Kevin Durant
Durant’s decision makes this list because of the reason Durant left Oklahoma. You can compare Durant and LeBron’s departures from their first team and say that they are similar in the sense that they both left to chase rings. But Durant’s seems different because Durant joined Golden State who is already capable of winning a championship without Durant. Miami would not have been able to win a championship without LeBron. Oklahoma is feeling the effects of Durant’s departure and will not make it past the first round of the playoffs if they manage to make the playoffs.
Fans and analysts have called Durant a coward, but I see the move as a positive for Durant. He wants to add a ring to his repertoire and it did not seem as if Oklahoma was heading in the right direction to win a ring, therefore KD thought he would have a better chance of winning in Oakland with Steph.
1. LeBron James
LeBron is the best basketball player in the world right now, and there is no disputing that. But there have been some moves that have tarnished LeBron’s image with some of the league’s fans. The big move was LeBron’s change of scenery from Cleveland to Miami. The reason LeBron left Cleveland was simple: James would not win a championship in Cleveland. So, LeBron hightailed it over to Miami to create the infamous “Big 3” which was composed of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James.
There was a major outcry in Cleveland when LeBron left, for example, some fans burned his jersey. This decision illustrated to fans of the NBA that the business side of the league is just as relevant as the loyalty to a team. Yet, when LeBron decided to return to Cleveland, the fans and the whole city welcomed him back with open arms (partly because they had been lost without him).