With Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 offseason, there’s no doubt that Durant’s legacy has been a popular topic of debate. Fans either completely support his decision to hop on the Bay Area bandwagon, or are entirely against it. Speaking of controversial offseason moves, Lebron James’ “The Decision,” the hour-long nationally televised special that revealed James’ signing with Miami, was another event that sparked heated debates throughout the sports world. Though there are no actual recorded statistics or polls of what fans thought of both of these players’ decisions, it’d be naive to deny that the most popular argument goes against the players. Negative reactions seem to be expressed more often, as opposed to reactions that praise the two superstars for their respective decisions.
Surely, players like Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick have defended Durant, tweeting, “Players should have freedom to decide where they want to play. Period.” However, these comments aren’t the type to become viral. Hall-of-Famer Larry Bird also put in his two cents on SiriusXM NBA Radio when asked about Durant, saying, “I know back in the day, I couldn’t imagine going to the Lakers and playing with Magic Johnson. I’d rather try to beat him.”
One can obviously interpret what Bird said in whichever fashion they please, as well as make the argument that Bird being a more well-known player is the reason why his statement received more attention than Redick’s. However, the fact of the matter is that critical comments putting NBA players’ legacy under fire, as well as setting former players’ jerseys on actual fire, tend to to be the reactions that make headlines in the media.
All of this was the result of James and Durant exercising their free-agent right to sign with the team they wanted to play for. But when Celtics’ executive Danny Ainge traded for Ray Allen and initiated the largest NBA trade for one player in Kevin Garnett, Celtics management was heavily commended. What difference does it make if players form these so-called “super teams” through trades as opposed to signing with them? The answer is the general misconception of players never requesting to be traded to different teams.
Dwight Howard pushed hard to be traded to the Lakers and form a potential championship-caliber team back in 2012. Although their aspirations were never achieved, Howard didn’t face as much public scrutiny as James and Durant did since his intentions to move to LA were masked by the four-team deal that took place.
It seems that these trades tend to completely disregard the players as individuals who can make their own decisions. Surely, there are countless instances in which players have no control of what team they’re playing for. But assuming a player has no input when joining two other all-stars in a supposed better environment just seems naive. Whether one believes that super teams have been more prevalent at the turn of the century or not, it’s safe to assume that management is glorified when forming these teams through trades, while free agents are heavily criticized for doing the same.