For the past year now, I have pondered over the question: Why do we treat free agents and traded players differently? Sure, the NBA is a business, and the franchises hold all the power, but let’s be real – we, the fans, decide who we get behind, and who we don’t.
Disgraceful attitudes towards player decisions
As a lifelong NBA fan, I have been absolutely disgusted with the abhorrent treatment of Kevin Durant by NBA fans over the past year. Firstly, let me start by saying that I completely understand how emotional the situation is and has been for Oklahoma City Thunder fans since Durant left. I also understand that one of those emotions is anger, and that anger manifests itself in many ugly ways.
Calling Kevin Durant a “snake”, “coward” or “cupcake” is one thing. Everybody gets called nasty things from time to time, and after many years in the spotlight, KD would have likely brushed those off. Name calling and dislike is not the issue. It’s the disgusting personal attacks on KD and his family that have left me at times embarrassed to be an NBA fan.
We, as fans, tend to get preoccupied with the fame, money and influence that our NBA heroes have at their disposal. Due to this, it becomes easy to forget that these players are human beings just like we are. I’m all for trash talk and strong rivalries, as well as the fan involvement in all of that. But, do our NBA teams mean so much to us as fans that we make death threats towards a player like KD, and hurl insults and abuse towards his mother in the bleachers?
It’s pretty clear above that I don’t condone the abusiveness of a small percentage so-called ‘fans’. However, humor me for a moment and let’s assume this treatment is the new standard of spitefulness among NBA aficionados.
Why isn’t the same treatment attributed to NBA franchises?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d be aware that the Boston Celtics traded beloved point guard Isaiah Thomas. Three years ago, ‘IT’ was involved in a trade wouldn’t have been overly newsworthy. Thomas, however, transformed himself, and the Celtics franchise, around in his two-and-a-half seasons there.
This is a man who became a two-time All-Star and scored 33 points in a playoff game the day after his younger sister’s death. There was also the 53 points he produced in a postseason game. And let’s not forget that he led the Celtics to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
To me, trading Thomas should cause far more outrage than Durant leaving the Thunder. But, so far, nobody has batted an eye. Why?
The ‘business’ argument is flawed
The big argument defending the trade is that it was a ‘business move’. I can’t argue with that point. The trade was one of the best business moves we’ve seen in the NBA in a long time. But, so was KD’s move to the Warriors. And like KD’s move to the Warriors, the Thomas trade is likely to yield positive results for all involved parties. Both moves were smart business moves, and both should be treated equally.
Thomas understands the unfairness of the way of thinking that permeates the NBA community about player movement. In his recent The Players’ Tribune article titled ‘This is for Boston’, Thomas referenced the treatment of Durant in contrast to his situation, and how there is a double-standard which plagues NBA players. It’s happened with Durant, and it happened with LeBron James before him.
So, as NBA fans, it’s time to look at player movement fairly across the board. If you feel that free agent decisions are fine no matter where the destination, apply that same logic to trades. The same goes for negative feelings about free agent movements – apply that to trades. Ultimately, if a franchise can make a decision on a player’s future without fan backlash and repercussions, players should have that same right.
It would be amazing to see greater fan support for the decisions players make to improve their careers. Sure, it’s fair and understandable to be upset and even angry when a beloved player decides to skip town. But, let’s not allow those feelings to extend beyond basketball. Like we’ve seen with the KD situation, it’s an ugly look for the NBA community as a whole.
Is Thomas right about the double standard? Comment below!
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