NBA offseason: Kyrie Irving and loyalty inside the NBA

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /

The word “loyalty” has been passed around so much this offseason. Moreso, than any other time in NBA history, the word has become has become a dirty word. Loyalty has become a compliment to praise a player who stays with his team, while at the same time an insult to the player, such as Kyrie Irving, who chooses to leave. It’s time to stop vilifying players who take their destinies into their own hands.

It is patently unfair to praise one player, such as Kevin Durant, for taking a pay cut this season so the Golden State Warriors could retain Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, while insulting Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded from what he perceives to be an untenable situation in Cleveland.

Just last offseason, Durant was the most vilified player in all of sports.

Players such as John Wall of the Washington Wizards, are being lauded, in his case because he chose to remain in Washington after his current contract is up in two years, signing a supermax contract.

It is commendable that Wall plans on remaining with the Wizards for his entire NBA career. But loyalty is a two-way street. Wall is in such an enviable position that he loves where he plays, since the Wizards organization has been loyal to him. Wall is actually the only player from the 2010 NBA Draft class that is still with the same team that drafted him.

And although Wall said “It’s crazy that Irving wants to leave a team that went to the Finals three consecutive years,” he also said it best: “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”

Players who have decided to take their own NBA careers into their own hands, such as the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Irving, have been demonized in social media and the media itself. But what about the owners and their front office?

These pros ain’t loyal

What short-term memory some fans appear to have. It wasn’t too long ago that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert finally pulled down his scathing manifesto, only after LeBron James returned to The Land.

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Had James decided to keep his talents in South Beach, the manifesto would still be a beacon of light as to what the owner really thinks about the best player in the NBA.

How James managed to return to the Cavaliers after that letter defies comprehension. I don’t even think there’s a word for it, because his return surely transcends the bounds of loyalty.

Speaking of South Beach, let’s not forget Miami Heat president Pat Riley. Riley “promised” to take care of Dwyane Wade in the future for all those pay cuts Wade took in the past so the team could retain both James and Chris Bosh.

Yet, when time came to pay Wade, Riley gave Wade such an insulting offer, leaving Wade no choice but to refuse.

Thus, James returned to Cleveland because he had promises to keep, while Wade left Miami because promises weren’t kept.

Loyalty starts at the top

But what about other NBA owners, along with their front office, who not only aren’t loyal to their players, but also try to diminish their trade value at the same time? Why shouldn’t Irving take his destiny into his own hands?

Take, for example, former President Phil Jackson, who threw so much mud at Carmelo Anthony’s name, while Knicks’ owner James Dolan looked on. Yet, Anthony took the high road, choosing not to get down in the mud.

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Jackson did everything he could to force Anthony out of New York, just because Anthony no longer wanted to go to Triangle Camp this summer.

Now that Anthony is willing to leave New York, which is what Jackson wanted all along, it now appears that they’re holding Anthony hostage. Anthony has made it clear that he wants to be in Houston, so what’s the problem, New York?

We have all seen the video of James yelling at Irving, whether it’s on the court or on the bench, in the middle of nationally televised games. Honestly, the teammate that James should be yelling at is “zero-points-having-in-two-games-in-the-Finals,” Tristan Thompson. But that’s a topic for another discussion.

If James yells at Irving and taps Irving’s shoulder while doing so, to get whatever point across, then who knows how James talks to him in the locker room when the cameras aren’t around.

Until you have travelled three steps in Irving’s Nikes, we should withhold judgment until the full story comes out.

These players left a team, not the game

Hall-of-Famer Ray Allen was vilified after he gave Boston a championship, and later decided to also take his talents to South Beach. Why vilify him now?

Why didn’t fans defending Allen against Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge, who reportedly had Allen in trade discussions every season?

How can these players who put their sweat and tears onto the court be your superhero one day, and then your supervillain the next?  Could it be, that it is we the fans, who also aren’t loyal?

Although, Kyrie Irving is currently on the cover, these players’ lives aren’t 2K. Durant is not a snake because he chose to play in the Bay. James is not the anti-hero because he went to Miami. So please, don’t make Irving into the next supervillain.

The next time someone decides to burn a jersey, maybe give it to a child who is less fortunate.

Next: 2017 NBA free agency tracker - Grades for every deal so far

Because all NBA players are human, and they hold steadfast to the one rule not found in any NBA playbook, but rather the rule that everyone should abide by: “First to thine own self be true.